Why do so many firms have issues with sales forecasting? Predictable sales forecasting shouldn’t be so hard. But we constantly see sales managers moving deals from one quarter to the next, keeping deals in the pipeline for an exorbitant number of days, and asking the sales person where they “believe” the deal is in their sales pipeline. Add to this the sales managers’ penchant for forcing deals
into a quarter because the firm needs the deal – as if their priority is more important than the buyer’s. How does this make forecasting predictable?
Predictable sales forecasting is not
hard; it’s actually quite simple. Identify clear actions that identify what the buyer is doing in all stages of their buying cycle, and assess your forecasting based upon what the buyer is doing or not doing as it relates to your deal.
Now, you can continue to move a deal out to another quarter, or forecast a deal that will not close within your timeframe, or force a deal to close and leave money on the table, or – I could think of so many things. But if we spend our time asking our sales people where the buyer is in their buying process based on specific key activities/actions of the buyer
, then our forecasts would get more accurate.
As a consultant who provides processes, tools and methodologies to help my clients achieve more predictable sales forecasting, it pains me to see sales managers struggle with forecasting when the process can be so much easier. All you have to do is follow these four steps:
- Identify your sales stages
- Pinpoint the key activities that the selling organization needs to complete in each stage based on what your top performers are doing
- Determine clear outcomes to verify where the buyer is in their buying process in each stage
- Establish the key coaching questions that sales managers should ask their reps along the sales process to help validate their reps’ responses and challenge them to understand where the buyer is in their buying process
Voila! You have a more predictable sales forecast. And I guarantee your sales forecasting will get easier every time.
Janice Mars, principal and founder of SalesLatitude, is a senior business and sales executive with more 30 years of experience helping companies build successful sales teams. She has parlayed that experience to help her clients to improve their sales processes, accurately forecast revenues, ensure focus on winnable opportunities, and attain consistent results.
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