Sales tales: make your sales forecast about action

Stephen Allott
Aug 7 · 4 min read

Today’s tale: are you going to make your number? It’s the answer!

By Stephen Allott, Venture Partner, Seedcamp

“Are you going to make your number”

Answer that question accurately and you know you are on top of your business. Discovering the answer to that question is how you get on top of your business. Efficiently. Making your number is the heart of sales management.

Sales forecasting is now the hot topic around the Seedcamp portfolio. I’ve been teaching the portfolio how to run their weekly sales forecast meetings. And it’s been a game changer.

Our portfolio companies all have Hubspot, Pipedrive or something similar. But they come to my Sales Engine workshop wanting to know how to drive their key deals to closure. So I run a weekly sales meeting with each portfolio company to go through their sales forecast. And the penny has now dropped.

  • Driving towards a quarterly target is the mechanism for driving progress
  • Creating the forecast of whether you will hit the number is the important step, not looking at the prediction
  • Scrubbing each deal to forecast its likelihood is how you create a closing plan

The sales forecast is how you drive the business. Not how you watch it.

Here are the 3 steps to drive sales.

1.. Hold a weekly one hour sales call with the Founder, the sales team, customer success and product management

Start the meeting by asking why would you want to do a sales forecast? The answer is that it’s about action not prediction or observation. It’s about picking which actions to take next. Having this clear goal helps shape the best way to create the forecast and the format to have it in.

The reasons to have a sales forecast and to hold the forecast meeting include:

  • Finding out if you are on track to miss your quarterly number. If not you need to do something
  • Identifying the priority deals for the quarter on which to spend your time
  • Developing an action plan to close those deals
  • Spotting which reps are failing and why
  • Spotting what else might be going wrong

Automating the forecasting process means you won’t discover these things because you won’t go through the discovery process.

2. Create a shared Google sheet in the meeting exactly in this format. Listen to your reps describe each deal and then you, the boss, make your own estimate of the probability. Don’t take a mechanical probability figure based on the sales stage, a common CRM feature.

Will you make your number? The Factored value total of 270 is a good guide. Suppose your target is 200, then you are in good shape.

Which deals should you focus on? The top 4 most likely deals could make 220 beating your number. And your job is simplified. Route One to success is close just those 4 deals (Liverpool, Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea).

Do the detailed action plans on those 4 deals (Liverpool, Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea) as a priority. Keep working the others as backup.

Look at things from a rep point of view. Each rep has one deal on the top 4 list, so each can focus easily. David has the swing deal of Leicester with upside of 90k.

3. Fill in the Next Step for each deal and you can move to action.

Rinse and repeat each week. Keep a copy of last week’s forecast so you can see progress.

Why does this work so elegantly?

  1. It’s quarterly, not monthly or annually. A quarter is a good interval for many businesses because you can try things and get a response in a quarter. Months are often too short. And a fire drill closing push is too many to have an impact.
  2. It avoids close month ambiguity. Focus on this quarter.
  3. Its forward looking rather than reporting results
  4. Manager assigned probability forces scrutiny and ensures consistency rather than having each rep make their guesses or use a number derived from sales stage.
  5. It’s clear and avoids all that data in your CRM.
  6. It drives action
  7. It’s quick to assemble.

Don’t get bogged down in your CRM.

Don’t get distracted by forecast format debates.

Make your forecast and make your sales meetings about action.

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