visa

Sales Forecasting Is More Than Pretty Dashboards

Authored by Jim Eberlin on December 22, 2014

Inaccurate sales forecasts are a great way to kill the board’s confidence in you.  So, let me tell you a personal narrative having to do with that. Right after getting out of a board meeting once, I found out that my sales forecast was way off.  A few of my bigger deals fell out that really changed the outlook.  It was one of my first board meetings with this particular group of investors, and I was hoping to gain a lot of confidence out of the gate. This did not help.

My dashboards for the sales forecast and analytics looked incredible. I spent a lot of time working on the visualization. However, they lacked real substance.

So, here are three things I now make sure to review. I hope this will help you as well in understanding how to supercharge your sales forecasting and analytics. By doing so you will be able to close more deals, and do so faster.  It also will allow you to have a real handle on which opportunities are going to close in the sales period, which in turn will build confidence within your board and other stakeholders.

1. How are most sales managers/executives forecasting and staying on top of their pipeline today?
2. What’s missing? What are best practices? And why is the process in need of an overhaul?
3. How can current, proven and available technology accelerate deals through the pipeline and predict which will close?

HOW IT’S DONE TODAY

Sales forecasting today is predominantly made by the gut feel. It may seem at times like there’s some science to it, but the marrying of “system generated forecast” from your CRM and the “feelings-based forecast” from your sales reps is still by the gut. The system generated version is taking a percent from each stage, but how did you come up with that?  By your gut?  Do you have empirical data that tells you what it should be? If so, where did that come from?  Also, what if you have a few really big opportunities in that stage, and they fall out?  How does that affect what you forecasted from a weighted percentage?  You can try doing an average amount and multiplying it by the number of deals in that stage then take the percent, but it will still be by the gut. Not to mention most of us can’t come up with an accurate average sales price.

In addition, we forecast by asking the same questions over and over each week in the sales meeting while also spending too many hours in 1on1s. Sales meetings were designed for more value add, instead of rehashing “what deals will close this period?” and “what deals are you working on this week?”  We should already know these things going into the meeting.  Also, these verbal 1on1s need to have this data captured in the CRM so that opportunities can be analyzed based on their attributes, progress, status and qualitative input by the reps.

WHY FORECASTING NEEDS AN OVERHAUL

So what’s missing?  What should we be doing?  We’ve been forecasting this way forever and it’s long overdue for an overhaul.

First we have to engage the sales reps.  We need to have them frequently update the status of opportunities at each interaction. Updates include:

Stages:   the category of status (ex. Qualification, Defining, Negotiating, Contracts, etc.)
Milestones:   the points that have to happen before the deal advances to the next stage
Attributes:   information about the company and opportunity including market, size of company, price, competition, products, etc.
Qualitative Input: sales reps will provide their personal assessment of what’s going on.

This information HAS TO be captured in the CRM on each deal.  Without it we have no empirical data to support our analytics and dashboards.  We need to understand more about our sales cycles, win rates, performance and deals that fit our wheelhouse.  Most companies now do not have current information or status of opportunities within the CRM, nor do they have these opportunity attributes updated.  So forecasts, again, remain by the gut.

So why aren’t sales reps updating all this fresh information on a frequent basis?  Why do we continue to spend hundreds of hours in 1on1s, all the while not capturing this information?  Why do we spend all this non-value added time in the sales meeting discussing from the beginning what deals we are working and what’s happening?

Because the word is just getting out about new and proven technology available to do three things:

1. Easily capture much more detail about opportunities and record it in the CRM (real time)
2. Analyze, score and give insights on next steps to drive an opportunity forward
3. Predict which opportunities will close for the sales period

Sales forecasting technology is available now and is purpose built with predictive and prescriptive analytics, as well as possessing intelligent mobile capabilities. This makes it super simple to update relevant deal information right after it happens.

Current and modern technology HAS TO be leveraged to keep data clean, current and logical. Systems can be used to alert reps of exactly what should be updated and make it super simple for them to do so, especially by leveraging intelligent mobile solutions.  Advanced analytics are then required to score and predict which opportunities will close, while machine learning continues to learn your process and suggest ways to improve.  Ultimately, this allows your sales team to speed up and win more deals.

So keep the pretty, but get rid of the static dashboards. Utilize the best practices and technology described above to always have confidence in meeting your numbers.

Click HERE to learn more about TopOPPS's sales performance and predictability solution.

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