Forecasting to improve sales efficiency

Alan Greenspan once said, “We really can’t forecast all that well, and yet we pretend that we can, but we really can’t” of course he is referring to the financial markets but does this ring a bell with you?

As sales leaders, we are always looking for ways how to improve sales performance. This normally translates as “how to increase sales” which is the headline way we are all judged as sales leaders. If we can increase sales – and do so at a premium price – we should be in good shape and be earning plenty of lovely money.

So why is being better at sales forecasting a way to improve sales performance? As sales people and sales leaders, we should act as “mini CEO’s” in charge of our geographic or vertical territory. It is our job to work in a way that not only focuses on how to increase sales but also how to improve sales and make the overall business run as smoothly as possible. The whole organisation is geared around us and our customers so that it can serve them with rapid delivery and high-quality levels. The business cannot do this if it can’t predict when an order is going to arrive.

Going back to Mr. Greenspan’s quote, forecasting is generally pretty difficult and sometimes morphs from being a science into an art! Well, at Cloud 9 Solutions, we haven’t totally solved your problem but we believe we have an excellent simple tool to help enable you to qualify each opportunity.

So, it’s simple, then is it? We are sorry to say that for forecasting to be accurate, you need to forecast regularly and vigorously. Some companies we work with have regular weekly forecast reviews, for others it may even be daily for large volume opportunities. Its whatever works for you, but we should all work to improve sales forecasting. The key is to have a consistent and accurate methodology so that sales people can communicate the risks and challenges on each opportunity.

Bad news happens, doesn’t it? Sadly, we have all had situations when the unexpected happens. The procurement manager goes off sick, the sales processing system goes down and so it goes on. How do you mitigate these unexpected events? Firstly, during your rigorous discussions with the sales team, as many of those “what if” questions should be asked, this will stimulate your sales team to go and get answers to the difficult questions and create plan B’s to cater for all eventualities. Even with all these safety nets in place, it is inevitable that some deals drop out or slip, that’s a fact of life, so what happens then? Speed is now the key. The quicker you disseminate this information into your organisation the better so they can deal with it. We all love shouting about the good news of an order and conversely, we hate giving out news on what feels like failure. It is important that you have a culture in your sales forecasting that allows your team to speak out at the earliest opportunity rather than hiding it away.

In summary we, at Cloud 9 Solutions, can show you how to improve sales for the whole organisation by rigorous qualification and forecasting. It’s a simple routine that we will help you with.