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AI for Pipeline Management

 & Sales Forecasting


119 S. Main Street 

St. Charles MO 63301

Foundation of an Accurate 

Sales Forecast 

How AI is Changing the Game

Content in this guidebook was generated by SiriusDecisions™ and TopOPPS via 

the webinar, Time to End the Forecast Games. 


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(877) 737-7976


This guidebook was generated after the webinar, Time to 

End the Forecast Games, with Dana Thierren from SiriusDecisions



April 18, 2018. We reviewed the foundation of an accurate sales forecast 
and how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the forecasting game. In 
this guidebook, we discuss in detail the foundation of an accurate sales 
forecast as developed by the team at SiriusDecisions and then illustrate 
how artificial intelligence changes how sales teams operate on a daily 

We’ll explore the four pillars that support a traditional sales forecast, the 
challenges inherent to each and then explain how AI can fundamentally 
improve the operation of sales organizations, generating better 
outcomes for sales representatives and sales leadership. Let’s get 

The Foundations of an 
Accurate Sales Forecast


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Opportunity Amount

The Foundations of an Accurate Sales Forecast

Forecasting uses tools and processes to provide forward-looking sales projections, 
creating a sense of urgency to drive time-bound results. The traditional forecasting 
model includes four foundational elements: 

Opportunity Amount

Sales Stage

Closed Date

Forecast Category

Each of these elements plays a critical role in forecasting and is required to build an 
accurate forecast. As we review each one, the subjective nature of current 
forecasting becomes clear. Last year was one of the most exciting years for sales 
technologies because we can now eliminate some of the subjectivity and begin 
forecasting based on complete data in the CRM and actual sales results. 

The opportunity amount is defined as the value of 
each opportunity record that provides the basis of the 
forecast amount. 

There are a variety of products and services that need 
to be captured accurately in the opportunity amount 
to ensure an accurate forecast. These include: 

Perpetual products (licenses, hardware, 

Subscription based products (term 
subscriptions, usage-based subscriptions, 
outcome-based subscriptions)

Splits, defined as when multiple quote carrying team 
members are involved in a single opportunity, also 
need to be accurately captured to ensure the correct 
quota allotment for all team members.

An organization with multiple revenue streams must 
partner with their finance team to ensure the 
opportunity amount is being captured and reported 
accurately to ensure an accurate forecast.


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Sales Stage

Closed Date

Closed Date is the anticipated date for a final 
buying decision.

The Closed Date is a key element that sales 
leaders routinely inspect to determine if the 
opportunity is going to close on the date 
recorded in the CRM or even if it will close at all.

Because the Closed Date can sometimes be 
based on when a rep feels the opportunity will 
close, Closed Date is a difficult variable to 
accurately quantify.

Sales stage is the opportunity’s location in the sales 
process that aligns with the buyer’s journey. We’ll 
talk a bit more about the buyer journey on the next 

Based on research by SiriusDecisions, the most 
common number of sales stages is six. While many 
companies may have more process stages, it is 
important that these processes not be 
overcomplicated. Too many processes can 
sometimes lead to a difficult and confusing 
assignment process and may not accurately mirror 
the buyer journey.  Key to successful sales stage 
assignment is consistency and agreement upon the 
criteria that determine where an opportunity 
should be assigned in the buying journey

The identification of a successful sales stage 
process allows the organization to accurately 
predict how long it actually takes to close an 


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Forecast Category

Forecast category is the salesperson’s 
confidence indicator of the buyer’s likelihood to 
make an affirmative purchasing decision by the 
closed date. 

Forecast Categories are traditionally those that 
come included in the CRM: pipeline omit, best 
case, commit and closed. Limiting the number 
of Forecast Categories will ensure that reps 
clearly understand where deals should be 
classified and help to build a more accurate 

These four elements help sales 
organizations build forecasts. 

Now that a sales leader has the 
information, the art and guesswork 
of forecasting begins. Leaders rely 
on rep intuition, previous 
performance  and experience with 
sometimes a little hope thrown in 
to create a forecast to share with 
the organization.  

Now, let’s dive into the importance 
of aligning your sales process to the 
forecast and how AI and 
automation are changing 
forecasting forever. 

It also may not be advisable to ask sales reps for probabilities. Probabilities are 
best used by Sales Operations leaders when putting together the overall 
forecast and are able to make assumptions about the pipeline overall. Accurate 
Forecast Categories will yield better results for probability determination at the 
leadership level. 

The Foundations of an Accurate 
Sales Forecast


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The SiriusDecisions Attribute Based Sales Process

Before we move on to the impact artificial intelligence and automation are 
having on sales organizations, we wanted to discuss the Attribute Based Sales 
Process developed by SiriusDecisions and how it helps sales organizations 
develop an accurate forecast. 

Organizations that focus closely on the data signals available to them based on 
behaviors exhibited by prospects and customers are able to correctly define 
the length of the sales cycle as well as the underlying stages that make up the 
buyer journey. Aligning the sales process to the buying process gives both sales 
and marketing teams a clear understanding of what defines each stage in the 
process and the appropriate prospect message.  This understanding combined 
with the automated activity matching provided by an AI platform will improve 
forecast accuracy. 

A strong sales process positions sales teams for success. For additional 
information, check out the Sales Process Evaluation Guidebook developed by 
the TopOPPS team available 



Copyright 2018, SiriusDecisions, Inc. – Reproduced with permission. All other rights reserved.


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You’ve optimized your sales process, executed all four foundational elements 
of the forecast to ensure all the steps were covered and now your forecast will 
be on target, right? Unfortunately, developing an accurate forecast remains 
problematic largely because of the game all sales reps and managers are 
forced to play. 

There are three main drivers of forecast inaccuracies:

What causes an inaccurate forecast?


Insufficient Data in the CRM


Mass updates vs. 1 opp at a time (turn to 


Reps delay entry 


Reps fail to enter any information


Inconsistent process


Stages and milestones are not consistent 
across the organization


Commits and upside are not updated


Gut estimate on planning


Conversion rates of booked meetings, 
Qualified Leads, Qualified Opps are all 
inaccurate without sufficient data in the CRM


Analyzing cohorts with win rates is also 
off-target due to data gaps and 


According to recent surveys of sales 
organizations, less than 37% of sales reps 
actually use the CRM. 


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How do automation and AI improve 



Notes, Meetings, Emails, Calls, Contacts, 
Roles, etc.

Automated interpretation and clarification of 
context on notes and emails for scoring 
opportunities and leads


Some sales enablement tools and platforms are now able to capture rep 
activities and will automatically update the Opportunity in the CRM with this 
information. These real-time updates increase the amount of data available to 
reps, managers and leaders, improving decision-making and surfacing top 
opportunities for immediate attention. 

The second element of Information and Qualification is sentiment analysis. 
Central to any pipeline management and forecasting tool is the programming 
necessary to interpret the value of the increased data in the CRM. As you’ll see 
later, the TopOPPS platform uses a proprietary HealthScore to assess key 
opportunity metrics including likelihood to close to accurately analyze 

Platforms that execute pipeline analysis and forecasting also use this data to 
power their algorithms.

Happily, automation of CRM updates is well received by sales reps. By using 
technology to automate repetitive data capture, reps are freed to work on the 
deals and tasks that will drive the business forward. 


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Automated and prompted with guided 

Consistent sales process, automated 
updates and insights result in accurate 




Focus on the right prospects and 

Data is accurate and consistent to 
analyze – the forecast recalculates daily


As reviewed earlier, ensuring that all reps and managers understand the steps 
of the process and consistently use the same definitions can be challenging. 
Sales enablement solutions automate and prompt the defined steps of the 
sales process, ensuring that all stages are defined and measured using the 
same criteria across the organization. 

The most exciting advancement comes in this final explanation of how 
automation and AI improve forecasting. Because the data in the CRM is now 
complete and up-to-date and everyone in the organization is adhering to the 
correct sales process stages and definitions, AI can now interpret 
characteristics of different sales rep styles, recommend next steps on key 
deals, provide insights into the health of the pipeline and accurately forecast 
sales revenue.


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Transitioning From Sales Forecasting to 
Sales Intelligence

“In 2017, providers of artificial intelligence forecasting solutions, in their quest 
to gather more powerful data signals to enhance their algorithms, expanded 
their influence. They simplified opportunity management, activity tracking, 
sales process adherence, and persona and sentiment intelligence gathering for 
marketing, deal review and sales coaching, increasing their accuracy and 
decreasing their measurement effort. 

This is the sales intelligence big bang we’ve all been waiting for!  We are now 
able to gather intelligence seamlessly and automatically which turns CRM Data 
into insights that improve the outcomes for sales people.” 

Dana Therrien, SiriusDecisions


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Why is TopOPPS the AI solution for your 

Current State

TopOPPS AI Forecasting Solution

Insufficient Data 

Lost rep time 
updating CRM

Delayed entry

No entry

Clean data and a 400% increase in 
CRM data

Automated updates

Sentiment analysis

Rep assistant 

Inconsistent Process



Process automation


Guided Winning Strategies

Gut estimate – planning

Pipeline clutter

Lost time digging 
for data

Machine learning insights

A trusted pipeline and forecast

Information brought to the 
surface for immediate action

With decades of experience managing and leading  sales teams and working 
with other companies to help them evolve into leading sales organizations, the 
TopOPPS team has experienced all of the pain points outlined here first hand. 
Our platform was built to improve the life of a sales rep by automating data 
capture and eliminating the need for constant conversations about the status 
of a deal!

The future state provided by the platform and insight into our award-winning 
software on the following pages gives a sample of how TopOPPS solves the 
challenges presented by the forecasting game and a few of the benefits 
provided to our customers. 


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Ensures a Winning & Consistent Sales Process

Adds Context to the Pipeline & Forecast

TopOPPS guides reps to ensure a consistent 

sales process, clean pipeline hygiene and 

helps win more deals – just click on the 

action to approve the change or 

recommendation. Also available in mobile.

We hope you found this guidebook valuable on the foundations of sales 
forecasting and how AI is changing the forecasting game in today’s sales 

organizations. If you’d like to speak with a sales representative, please contact us 

at (877) 737-7976 or send us an email at 

Automatic updates from email and calendar 

meetings [plus sentiment analysis] to show 

momentum of opportunity.


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About TopOPPS

Our mission is to provide more confidence in the 
sales forecast with artificial intelligence that enables 
pipeline visibility, intelligently prescribes a 
consistent sales process, automatically captures 
information about deals, and guides reps with 
winning behaviors to execute and managers with 
insights for meaningful coaching.

Jim Eberlin


Jim is the founder and CEO of TopOPPS.  Prior to TopOPPS, Jim 
founded two Silicon Valley market leaders, Gainsight (#48 on 
Inc. 5000) and Host Analytics (market leader for cloud-based 
finance).  TopOPPS is a sales pipeline management and 
forecast predictability solution that uses artificial intelligence 
to bring clarity to the sales pipeline, accuracy to the forecast, 
and alignment to the sales process.  Jim is a serial 
entrepreneur and has several years experience in the 
software industry.  

Dana Therrien

Service Director, Sales Operations Strategies, SiriusDecisions

Dana is a senior sales operations leader with over 25 years of 
sales and sales operations experience that he has brought to 
SiriusDecisions. He is a forward-thinking leader with a record 
of driving results, increasing sales effectiveness and improving 
sales productivity while supporting global, multi-million dollar 
sales growth. His experience includes cloud, SAAS, managed 
services, managed hosting and traditional product based 
sales. Prior to joining SiriusDecisions, Dana held global sales 
operations roles at Times Warner Cable most recently in Paris.