Forecasts in most organizations are inaccurate. (Like I needed to tell you that!) Establishing a common set of customer-management strategies is an essential step toward improving forecast accuracy. This standardizes the way the sales team assesses opportunities.
Less Forecasting, More Selling
Of course, if you ask a sales professional to compile a forecast manually, you invite them to make judgments and adjustments. Some do this with the best of intentions. Others just can’t help themselves. Automating the forecasting process can address this problem at the frontline sales level. When you automate the process, your sales professionals don’t need to be involved. Less time compiling forecasts means more time selling.
Your frontline sales managers will continue with regular funnel reviews – these discussions are vital coaching opportunities. However, rolling up the forecast for senior management is a task better left in the hands of sales operations.
But here’s the catch. Your sales management team needs to learn to keep their hands off the forecast, too.
I don’t know any senior-level management team that doesn’t have at least some political maneuvering occurring. Then there’s always an individual’s tolerance for conflict with their manager. When managers let these two factors govern their behaviors, it’s hard for them not to adjust the sales forecast to either make themselves look better or to avoid getting called out.
Can’t Fix It If You Don’t Know It’s Broken
Why is it vital to keep sales management from touching the forecast? When management makes adjustments, not only does the forecast bear little resemblance to what’s going on in the field; you’ve also lost your key indicator of sales-process compliance.
Accuracy of the forecast is one of the best ways to tell if your sales teams are following your prescribed sales strategy. When your automated forecasts are inaccurate, chances are good that your sales professionals are “doing their own thing.” When forecasts are accurate, you know the team is managing opportunities the same way and it’s easier to coach them to higher performance.
Additionally, whether a forecast is good or bad, accurate forecasts are essential for decision making. If you don’t have a general idea of incoming revenues for the quarter, you don’t know whether you can make investments or need to knuckle down on budgets.
Once again, let your sales team manage opportunities and your systems do the forecasting. And management should be managing the business, not the forecasts.