These organizations are twice as likely as all others to use a sales process that replaces “gut” feelings with predictive analytics according to sales effectiveness experts. 35% of these world-class organizations do not publish a forecast. Compare this with your organization. How often do you update/publish your forecast?
Users today expect instant on-line access to information for everything from online banking to airline reservations. Yet most sales organizations still physically publish a monthly sales forecast, an effort that burns up precious resources to calculate and communicate the message. 35% of world-class organizations now produce forecast data that is always available on-demand in real-time. Not everyone is there yet, but the trend is clear. It is possible and our world-class clients are striving to get there.
Trusted forecasts mean success and advancement for sales leaders. Missed forecasts are the most unacceptable of failures; it does not take very many to guarantee dismissal. Why are so many sales organizations lagging the inevitable movement towards real-time forecasts, even though they have already made the investment in capable CRM systems? They lack these 4 essential building blocks:
- Process & Probability: The first step is to clearly define the stages of the buying/selling process and assign a weighted “probability of close” to each stage of the funnel. Our clients who have adopted stage-centric sales processes have improved their performance metrics across the board – from higher lead conversions to increased sales productivity per employee. Predictive analytics require a process with defined stages and probabilities.
- Exit Criteria: Understanding the correct stage of each opportunity is critical. This not only demands that the exit criteria for each stage are unmistakably clear, but that deals are properly assessed in the early stages when coaching can make the biggest impact. It is also important to recognize and honestly track deals that move backward in the sales process. A common vocabulary that is reinforced with training and coaching is essential.
- Cross-Functional Demand: Finance, marketing, customer service and the supply chain rely on the monthly forecast. But their decisions suffer from information that is out of date. Sales organizations that provide real-time access to forecast information not only benefit from more informed decision making, but the value of quality CRM data is reinforced across the entire enterprise. The forecast becomes a corporate asset, not simply a monthly sales management tool.
- Performance Management: Sales managers provide more effective coaching to their sales reps when they have visibility to the pipeline. More importantly, the sales reps themselves stay focused on the right opportunities and use the predicted results to inspire and fine-tune their own performance. A culture of performance depends on a constant flow of metrics to measure achievement.
Next Steps: The next step forward depends on the maturity of your sales operation. Moving from the middle of the pack to world-class requires a different set of initiatives than moving from the bottom to the middle. Realistic expectations and a plan specific for your unique organization are the keys. The SBI Sales Management Maturity Model (SM3) is one way to build the foundation for the next move upward in capability.
Key take-aways: Are you wasting time and money publishing monthly forecasts when your whole enterprise could have real-time access for the same amount of effort? I’m interested to hear what barriers are preventing you from real-time forecasting. Many of our world-class clients have already leveraged their investment in technology and sales process, taking the next logical step forward. When will you?