Untitled presentation (1)

Artificial Intelligence [AI] For Sales Forecasting*

Authored by Ric Ratkowski on October 25, 2018

 

When you hear the phrase “AI for sales forecasting” it feels like the solution is an algorithm to predict “the sales number”.   This is only partially correct. While the ultimate goal is an accurate sales forecast, AI for sales forecasting requires artificial intelligence to be infused throughout the entire sales process.

Dependencies of an Accurate Sales Forecast

The foundation of an accurate sales forecast is a systematically built and realistic sales pipeline.  To achieve this requires:

  • A good understanding of the leads that need to be generated
  • The ratio of leads to opportunities, opportunities to sale
  • A tightly defined sales process for each of the leads and opportunities
  • Understanding the attributes/segmentation of leads and opportunities that drive different sales cycles

The support of a realistic sales pipeline requires two things:  

  1. Opportunity Details Readily Available -  all correspondence, meeting dates/ meeting results, opportunity status update, lead funnel activities, etc.
  2. Good Sales Pipeline Visibility -  an intuitive interface that allows you to visualize the pipeline along different categories and perspectives and provides the ability to drill down to the lowest level email and calendar item to understand qualitatively the nature of the opportunity.

Creating an Accurate Sales Forecast

Creating an accurate sales forecast requires working from the bottom up.  

  1. Collecting  all the detailed information about a lead or opportunity resulting from interactions
  2. Using the information to guide the next steps in the sales process
  3. Accurately reflect the next steps and opportunity status in the sales pipeline. 
  4. Monetizing the sales pipeline, factoring in time drivers from two perspectives:  1)Typical time to close based on sales stage, opportunity attributes and factoring in patterns based on past opportunities that have closed; 2)Typical sales curve over time in the current quarter
SalesProcessFromTheBottomUp

AI for Sales Forecasting

To create an accurate forecast, AI needs to be infused across all the processes that support sales including:

  • In the Marketing Funnel
  • To enhance data collecting  and interpreting detail information from the sales cycle, including emails, meetings, and website interactions
  • In the sales pipeline to provide insights and recommendations into the buyer/seller journey to guide winning strategies
  • To provide insights to support the sales manager/sales rep coaching process
  • Numerically calculating the sales forecast

Lastly, AI for sales would fail if all it did was produce “A” sales number.  There is more to be learned and more value created by having AI identifying the key drivers of sales and allowing the user to “war game” different outcomes by varying the basis and variables driving the AI forecast.  AI for sales would also fail if it wasn’t imbedded into what a sales rep already does as a by-product of their current process. This also makes for a quick and effortless implementation.

Where Do We Go From Here

In the following weeks we will continue this blog theme “AI for Sales” by analyzing each of AI categorizes that support an accurate sales forecast as well as providing examples of how AI can identify key drivers and allow the user to “war game” results.

For a sneak preview of future blog content applied check out the following links:

*  There are many types of sales situations and many different ways to apply AI depending on the situation.  This blog post is focusing on AI for sales in a Business to Business.

  

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Leverage these best practices with automation and AI driven by TopOPPS

Learn how our customers are winning with artificial intelligence in their CRM:

  • Predictive Sales Forecasting
  • Automated Pipeline Management
  • Significantly More Updates from Reps

Watch Videos

More Recent Posts:

February 11, 2020

Introduction to Best Practices for B2B Sales - Data Access

With all the advances in sales technology and analytics, you would expect sales teams to have all the data they need about each sales opportunity to accurately forecast sales.  However, that isn’t the case.  Research by Bohanec, Kljajic Borstnar and Robnik-Sikonja in the study “Integration of machine learning insights into organizational learning, A case of B2B sales forecasting” found that: ...

Sales Rep, Artificial Intelligence, AI for Sales, best practices

January 21, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management

New year, new blog series!   The new blog series will focus on “Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management”.   This covers a big area so this series could take most of 2020 to complete and its frequency will be more often than once a month.    The reason for this blog series is companies continue to rely on human intuition and instinct to produce sales forecasts.  They continue to spend significant time managing, manually reviewing and updating the sales forecast despite advances in sales technology. ...

Sales Pipeline Management, AI for Sales, Guided Selling, best practices

January 21, 2020

Brainshark and TopOPPS Form Partnership to Combine Sales Readiness with AI-Driven Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management

The Integrated Solutions Will Provide Deep Insights into Pipeline Activity and Forecasting - Enabling Targeted Learning that Elevates Sales Performance WALTHAM, Mass. and ST. LOUIS, Jan. 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Brainshark, Inc., the industry's only data-driven sales readiness platform, and TopOPPS, a leading provider of artificial intelligence (AI)-based sales pipeline management and forecast predictability solutions, today announced they have formed a strategic partnership. The partnership – which includes an integration of Brainshark and TopOPPS solutions – will empower sales organizations to deliver "in-the-moment" guidance that improves reps' skills at key points throughout the sales cycle. ...

AI for Sales, Sales Enablement, Guided Selling

December 13, 2019

Sales Superpowers Need 'In-Context' for Sales Engagement

  SiriusDecisions outlines “One Solution for Sales Superpowers”.  [Spoiler alert] - it is sales engagement.   If it is “the one solution” to supercharge your revenue engine, why isn’t it widely used?   Why isn’t it the most popular application in the “sales world”?  We will get back to that, but first lets make sure we are on the same page. Sales Engagement Defined  Sales engagement is defined as interactions that take place between the buyer and seller.  Sales engagement includes four core functions based on SiriusDecisions definition:  calling/dialing, email, calendarizing and reporting. ...

Sales Operations, Sales Tools, Sales Pipeline Management, Strategic Partnerships

November 25, 2019

Strengthening the CFO-CRO Relationship Through the Sales Forecast

  The sales forecast is the linchpin of a company’s future.  If it is right and can be trusted the companies’ operations run smoother and its financial stability is more secure.  Typically this isn't easy.  The sales forecasting process is shared by the Chief Revenue Officer[CRO] and the Chief Financial Officer[CFO].  The challenge is both have different motivations on its accuracy and neither have a complete vision of its drivers or its accuracy.   When the forecasting process is trusted and transparent it relieves stress on both the CRO and the CFO.  This blog reviews how this can be accomplished.  ...

Sales Operations, Sales Tools, Sales Pipeline Management, Strategic Partnerships

October 23, 2019

Where 1 + 1 = 3 in the Sales Application Stack - Sales Enablement

  In my previous blog I outlined 21 different sales technology categories for the Sales Application Stack .  These categories were consolidated from various industry analysts research. That blog highlighted the difference between data integration and application embedding and highlighted the benefits of application embedding and selecting software vendors who have strategic partnerships with other software providers in the CRM application space.   The concepts of application embedding needs to be expanded with the concept of “application in context”.  “Applications in context” is applications working “in context” with applications to solve a series of problems in a consistent and cohesive manner without derailing the users thought process. ...

Sales Operations, Sales Tools, Sales Pipeline Management, Strategic Partnerships

September 20, 2019

The Emperor [CRM] is Naked

  One of the things I like to track are stories I heard in kindergarten that persist through life.  The Emperor’s New Clothes is one of them.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in meetings, listening to what is being discussed and ideas explored and wanted to yell out, “THE EMPEROR IS NAKED”. ...

Sales Operations, Sales Tools, Sales Pipeline Management, Strategic Partnerships

August 16, 2019

AI For Sales - Business Examples

  The last seven blogs provide a business-case approach to infusing AI through the entire sales process.  One of the purposes of this blog series was to demystify AI by using AI for Sales as an  example.  Media tends to portray AI as a magic bullet.  Actual implementations show the less “black box” an AI solution is and the more “glass box” approach, the more utility it provides to the user.  The utility is created by uncovering the key drivers of an outcome and managing those drivers to increase results. ...

Sales Operations, Sales Tools, Sales Pipeline Management, AI for Sales