How to Set Yourself Up for Accurate Sales Forecasting
Many leaders don’t know how to maximize the information they collect in their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. Too often, I come across leaders who implemented a CRM because they were told they needed one but then are not successful positioning it as the revenue engine it was intended to be.
Instead, they gather piles of activity data but don’t know how to turn it into valuable insights to steer the company. Or worse, they struggle to gain sales adoption which results in a lack of accurate, timely information and them falling victim to the vicious cycle of garbage in, garbage out.
Continue reading to benefit from my decades of sales leadership experience regarding:
- Why it’s worth the effort to get your sales dashboards operating “the right way”
- How to gain sales adoption that results in disciplined CRM data entry and upkeep
- What role the sales leader must play to achieve accurate sales forecasting
I have spent my career building insightful sales dashboards that contain key performance indicators (KPIs) needed to make critical decisions. In addition, I build in predictive metrics to keep a leading indicator pulse on sales activity in the trenches.
This is important to ensure the right sales activities are being executed on a daily basis that attribute to steady progression toward higher level KPI objectives, healthy sales pipeline growth, and accurate sales forecasting.
To learn more about how to establish the right data points for your unique business environment, you’ll find helpful tips in my previous blog, “Improve Your Performance with Predictive Sales Metrics”.
While capturing the “right data” is a critical sales management objective, it’s only part of what it takes to build and operate a high performance sales team.
To achieve high performance, sales leaders must masterfully orchestrate the integration of people, processes, data, and systems.
I’ve covered the sales dashboard or data/systems aspect of the equation, now let’s dig into the people and process side of things.
Reliable Revenue Projections Can Be a Game-Changer
What needs to be accomplished to achieve accurate sales forecasting isn’t an easy feat, but the rewards pay dividends! Reliable revenue projections can be a game-changer by providing real-time insights needed to make informed business decisions at an organizational level.
With accurate data in your sales forecast and opportunity pipeline, the leadership team can confidently and proactively plan to support growth in other areas of the business.
For example, when you see certain products gaining momentum, you can take advantage of promotional inventory buys without risk of your products aging on the shelves and tying up your cashflow or becoming obsolete.
Another common growth obstacle is the pacing of production and knowledge worker staff expansion to align with growth trajectory. When your sales forecast and pipeline are reliable, it takes the guesswork out of determining when the time is right to proactively ramp up staff.
Getting sales forecasting right is a critical objective given its impact on other areas of the business. It provides the necessary runway for various dependent areas to prepare themselves to support growth. It also positions the company to be more price competitive due to less budgetary waste. Being on-target with revenue and turn-rate projections enables a company to operate more profitably.
You Need Sales Team Buy-In To Drive Sales Forecast Accuracy
How do you achieve sales forecast and sales pipeline accuracy? It starts with the integrity of your data. That links back to your sales team’s commitment to providing accurate, complete, and timely information that comes from their day-to-day activities.
The extent of your data integrity is a direct reflection of your sales adoption level toward the strategies and systems you’ve implemented to drive growth.
It’s important to look through multiple lenses when tackling the common problem of sales data integrity, whether it resides in a CRM or within a spreadsheet tracking system.
First, ask yourself “WILL” my salespeople get on board with being transparent in logging their sales activities, and investing more of their time to do so? This boils down to will-do mindset.
Next is “CAN” they accurately project the status of their opportunities? Meaning, are they equipped with the right sales process, tools, and training to effectively navigate their deals to accurately know where they stand? They may have a will-do mindset, but it won’t get them very far if they are not “can do” equipped to execute properly.
The last question needs to be directed to the sales leader. Have you been committed to inspecting what you expect? Have you been a resourceful and accessible sales coach focused on developing the skills, behaviors, and mindset necessary to create a high performance sales team?
Time and again, I find sales departments where each sales rep has their own way of doing things with varying degrees of effectiveness. Commonly I find the sales leader expecting limited or no accountability from the salespeople by not inspecting sales pipeline quality until it’s too late – when revenue targets haven’t been met.
Your CRM should be the one “central depository” for all information related to customer opportunities. You cannot afford for this type of information to only exist in the files or the minds of your sellers. Consider the impact of sales turnover and the difficulty in picking up where the previous rep left off without ample insight into previous and next step activities.
Sellers will quickly adapt to new processes and systems if they believe a new way of doing things will help them be more productive, make more money, and reach next level goals.
Leaders need to explain the objectives of their metrics to their sellers and how tracking key activities creates insights that enable productive performance analysis. These insights should not be positioned as a spotlight on problems. Instead, they need to be leveraged to highlight areas the sales leader will help the salesperson work through.
Salespeople need to see the CRM as a tool that helps them reach their sales goals, not a burden. Done right, the sales dashboard is also a powerful tool for sales reps to self-assess and course correct on their own.
By viewing their performance, sellers can determine which activities are leading to success – and identify gaps in their execution that need improvement.
For example, if sales reps keep losing deals, then something likely needs to be fixed in the discovery phase of the sales process. These breakdowns can go unnoticed without the visibility provided by a CRM dashboard that ties all sales activity data together.
Sales leaders should take the time to review their dashboards with their teams and discuss findings in detail so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to their performance. This will not only help reps understand what’s working and what isn’t, it will also help build confidence in the system and encourage further adoption.
How Can You Build an Accurate Sales Forecast?
Small and mid-sized business leaders don’t always have the time or resources to create the right platform to position their salespeople for success.
It takes the right mix of sales coaching, strategy, proven processes and more for sellers to continue growing their revenue productivity while also being effective at accurately forecasting it.
If you are curious about how long it takes to evolve your sales team to achieve next-level results, I encourage you to read more about my fractional sales leadership approach. It can be a life saver for business owners looking for turn-key help.
Click the links below to learn more through previous blogs I’ve written that provide insight into the workings of my proven model.
If you’d like to discuss the improvement you’re looking for in your business, contact me through any of these methods: (678)-549-8834 or Michael@toplinesolutions.org or book a call through my Scheduling Tool.
I am part of a national group of Senior Sales Leaders who collaborate to share insights like the examples shown in this article. We formed because of our shared passion to help business leaders exponentially grow their revenue.