Sales forecasting is a vital part of any sales strategy. It can make or mar the entire business process when done improperly. Top sales managers do not focus on accuracy of data but the delivery of properly structured data that allows easy comparison with industry standards and meaningful deductions that can be utilised later in future. Here are top things they do to achieve this.
Proper maintenance of CRM Data
Top sales managers place emphasis on ensuring that accurate data is provided on all deals and opportunities. This is achieved by maintaining a dashboard that makes it easy to distinguish between good and poor data per team or per sales rep. Deals with close dates in the past and deals with close dates that have been changed a few times are some pieces of data that can be pruned. To ensure proper maintenance of data and with the understanding of the value of accurate data, many organisations link compensation to data hygiene, ensuring that sales leaders are held accountable for the quality of data.
Non-Reliance on Instincts
In sales forecasting, there is no room for reliance on gut feelings and instincts. Top sales managers know that historical data, prospect behaviours and factual information are the only metrics that ensure accurate sales forecasting. When sales forecasts are based on instincts, it signifies an ineffective data tracking system.
Top sales managers understand the fact that the marketplace and customer behaviour are constantly changing. This is why they make adjustments and refinements regularly in order to account for fluctuations relevant to their industry.
Focus on Prospect Related Sales Patterns
Top sales managers focus on key patterns and routines that they have recognised during sales. They focus on details like marketing tactics that have delivered the most results with prospects, stages of the sales cycle that have obvious strong or weak points, and more. Such details allow them to better understand the sales pattern and ensure better forecasting.
Emphasis on Past Sales History
In sales, the past is generally a good predictor of the likely events in future. Top sales managers find data from previous years and previous sales with a CRM and interpret it for forecasting purposes. Past history loses relevance of the business underwent wholesale changes in the meantime such as product or service changes, changes in target market, changes in pricing and more without substantial data to use.
“Top sales managers know that the best way to ensure efficiency is to maintain a consistent approach with sales forecasting. This is important especially when there are new sales people and new sales facets to incorporate regularly and makes it easier to compute an accurate pipeline forecast”- Quotable.com by Salesforce.
If your sales forecast features comparing last year’s sales with this year’s sales in order to make an inference for the future, it has to remain the basis of your forecasts regardless of any changes to the overall sales process. Consistency with the use of a specific model is the only way to ensure standardisation of the format and makes reviews easy, on a year to year basis.
Use of the Right Tools for Management and Forecasting
Top sales managers use a common set of tools for pipeline forecasting and management. This is because any break downs compromises the integrity of the data and leads to time wastage on the discussion of the validity of the numbers. For example, the sales team may not update data in the CRM system if they are forced to utilise the finance forecasting tool.
It is, therefore, vital to use the CRM as the main focus of records for pipeline data, avoiding spreadsheets completely. Use of several spreadsheets in a complex business environment, leads to the build-up of inaccurate data. It is also important to note that the maintenance of the complex sheets required for accurate sales forecasts is not cost and time efficient. This is why top sales managers use pipeline analytics tool that can readily show what has changed and offer insight to deal and pipeline risk for both finance and sales teams.
Sales forecasts are only as useful as the data and the analytical strong points that went into the forecast process. These tips features tried and tested methods that help top sales managers point organisations in the right direction.