Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices | Rigorous Forecasting Process
Jul 09 2019
Forecasting process was another area highlighted in our recent 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study. Specifically, “We have a rigorous forecasting process which drives forecast accuracy” was one of the Top 12 practices with the most impact on sales performance and productivity metrics.
For this call planning practice, 81% of World-Class segment reported consistently and collectively applying this practice, compared to only 33% of all study participants. Read more about the high-performing World-Class segment that represents only 9% of our study participants here.
Setting up a rigorous forecasting process is a balancing act. (Click to tweet)
It’s not just about having a forecasting process in place. It’s about how mature the process is and the rigor you build around it – how formal and structured it is, the kind of data used (subjective, historical or predictive), how involved the sales managers are – as well as making continual adjustments. It starts with building a strong foundation and accounting for the ability to make refinements to the process as needed.
World-Class organizations do just that: They maintain a balance of structure and consistency with flexibility to make incremental modifications as needed. (Click to tweet)
A rigorous and mature forecasting process is more than having a consistent process in place that leverages some analysis and sales manager input. It also leverages predictive analytics with accuracy metrics that are regularly tracked and measured. According to our 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study, two-thirds of organizations have a forecasting process in place, but only one-fifth of organizations have a formal forecasting process in place.
So if you are among the two-thirds with a forecasting process in place, taking the steps to build more structure and formality around your forecasting process is the right next step.
- Build, monitor and refine. If you already have a forecasting process in place, continual reassessment to monitor that process is a good place to start. Check to see how clear you are on the when, who, what and how. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many ad-hoc forecast reviews can be consolidated and reduced by clearly outlining the schedule with attendees on a regular cadence (weekly, monthly and quarterly). Standard reports or dashboards for forecast reviews also help reduce duplication of efforts and ensure time is spent discussing deal strategies instead of debating over the data. Ongoing monitoring and incremental adjustments to the forecasting process can help improve efficiencies and the quality of reviews. (Click to tweet)
- Leverage data to shift the conversation. Data referenced during forecast reviews can impact the quality of discussions. This not only includes currency of the forecast information in CRM, but it also extends to the value of the data being compiled and reviewed. With advances in AI capabilities available in many of today’s sales dashboard technologies, you can take into account multiple data points to calculate the health or score of an opportunity. These types of predictive analysis capabilities can enhance sales forecast reviews to be multidimensional and shift them from subjective to more data-based discussions. (Click to tweet)
- Align review criteria to the customer’s path. Having a defined set of criteria for forecast reviews helps focus the discussion around what matters. Having one that is aligned to the customer’s path can further change the dynamic of the discussion to a more customer-focused one. Instead of asking, “Do we have a clear business case?” ask, “What is the problem we should solve for the customer, and can we do that?” Instead of confirming whether you have shown the customer your solution’s ROI, confirm whether we know how they measure success and what’s important to them and the individual stakeholders involved in the buying decision. If you haven’t met the customer’s criteria for what a winning deal looks like to them, you still have a lot of work to do. By making the customer the focal point of forecast reviews, you can gain better insight into the probability of winning the deal. (Click to tweet)
- Define the sales managers’ role in the process. Sales managers play a key role in pulling this all together. Once the forecasting process and reports are made available by sales operations, sales managers need to adopt and use the process and reports with their teams. This means consistently adhering to the process, including following the defined cadence and meeting with their teams in a timely manner. It means using the standard reports made available to them in CRM and/or CRM add-on dashboards instead of creating new slides. Partnering with sales enablement, sales operations can pull together a sales manager enablement plan that includes training them on the cadence and technology use expectations as well as equipping them with opportunity and funnel coaching. Sales managers can be the catalyst to put more rigor and structure into the forecasting process which, in turn, drives forecast accuracy and improves sales performance. (Click to tweet)
Building rigor into the forecasting process takes time. It’s not something that can happen overnight. But waiting until all of your ducks are in a row – across people, process and technology – will take too long. Making incremental adjustments and piloting with new AI-based capabilities while continually soliciting feedback from sales managers and salespeople will ensure you are making progress that leads to a more formal and mature forecasting process.
Questions for you:
- How much time are your sales managers and salespeople spending on forecast reviews? Is there an opportunity to consolidate some of the meetings?
- Does your review criteria take the customer’s path into account?
- Are you enabling your sales managers on process and technology use expectations? What about opportunity and funnel coaching?
- How can you build more rigor into your forecasting process?
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