Today’s Sales Forecast: Slightly Cloudy with a Chance of Revenue
The job of the meteorologist has evolved dramatically over the past 20 years. Advancements in predictive technology and new ways to consume the news have changed weather forecasting forever. To miss big on a major storm’s forecast, either for better or for worse, can dramatically impact many facets of our society, from our infrastructure to our safety. The spotlight has never shone more brightly on meteorologists as the visibility and accountability of their work has reached new heights.
The same can be said of those of us in sales. Modern selling professionals have every tool at their disposal to manage sales cycles: email nurturing for prospect tracking, mobile customer relationship management (CRM) for real-time updates and collaboration around opportunities, and configure, price, quote (CPQ) automation to quickly create consistent quoting and pricing for customers.
Despite all of this, sales organizations continue to struggle with variability in their forecasts, variability that can result in production issues, missed individual quotas, or can even affect a company’s stock price.
So how can you ensure that your forecasted blizzard doesn’t turn into flurries overnight?
It comes down to three key things:
Front-line sales managers need to have ongoing conversations around their 30/60/90-day pipeline with their team. At Salesforce, it is a standardized practice for every regional manager and vice president to conduct Monday morning pipeline meetings, in which all account executives (AE) have to publicly announce their forecasts.
It is the job of the front-line manager to ask the right questions about the sales cycles: has budget been approved, are we aligned to power and is this a top priority for the company, do we know exactly how salespeople are making decisions and procuring contracts, have we quantified and qualified the value of the solution, and is there a compelling event driving the time line? If we have solid answers to these tough questions, the confidence in our forecast increases significantly.
2. Mutual Plan
For those of you familiar with Sandler training, the existence of an agreed-upon mutual plan is a necessary component of an accurate forecast. If the salesperson hasn’t identified all of the steps within a prospect’s evaluation process, along with the corresponding process owner and associated time lines, the probability of closing the deal as forecasted becomes very low. Not only do you need to understand this plan, but you need to gain firm agreement from the decision makers on each step of the cycle. This will drive predictability and reduce variability.
The old adage “people buy from people they like” plays an important role in getting deals closed on time. The personalized emails, LinkedIn congratulations, on-site visits, corporate events, dinners, and golf outings give us an opportunity to strengthen our personal and professional relationship with prospects. When it’s time to close the deal, it becomes easier and more natural to request to either move up the close date or adhere to the original time line. Creating this powerful edge allows us to deliver a consistent forecast month over month.
Your path to an accurate forecast becomes a lot less foggy once you apply the correct approach to your sales organization. So here’s to clear skies, lots of sunshine, and a pot of revenue at the end of the rainbow.
Rich Lind is a Regional Vice President of Commercial Sales at Salesforce. In his four years at Salesforce, Lind has served in the Northeast market as an account executive and more recently as a RVP across several market segments. Prior to Salesforce, Lind spent six years at Eli Lilly and Company where he was in sales and sales operations, and two years at CDW as an account manager. Lind holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Boston College. Outside of Salesforce, Lind enjoys spending time with his wife and son, playing guitar and singing, golf, and tennis.
Originally published at www.quotable.com