Achieving Predictable Sales Forecasting Results

History

Over the years of both doing direct selling and managing sales teams, I began to analyze why sales forecasting was so unreliable. Why could we not get to a high degree of accuracy month over month? It occurred to me that if we did not have a well-defined sales process we could not get a reliable sales forecast. I asked myself, so when do I say a deal is going to close? I realized that it was when I felt it was going to close.
And my sales teams acted the same way. I began to examine what was critical to predict when a sales opportunity was going to close with a high degree of accuracy. My research and my evaluation of the activities
I was doing helped me come up with a model that can drive a very high degree of predictability. 

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4 Key Principles to YOUR Sales Process

Over the years of both doing direct selling and managing sales teams, I began to analyze why sales forecasting was so unreliable. Why could we not get to a high degree of accuracy month over month? It occurred to me that we did not have a well defined sales process to help us in our sales forecasting. I asked myself, "so when do I say a deal is going to close?" I realized that it was when I felt it was going to close. And my sales teams acted the same way. I began to examine what was critical to predict when a sales opportunity was going to close with a high degree of accuracy. My research and my evaluation of the activities I was doing helped me come up with a model that can drive a very high degree of predictability.

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CRM: What's It REALLY Mean?

I recently had the good fortune of meeting with a group of colleagues to discuss what the heck a CRM really is. We came up with a few acronyms:

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3 Financial Impacts of a Predictable Sales Forecast

Question: How do you know your CRM and sales forecasting tools are working? How do you know when you have a predictable business model and have hopped off that roller coaster

Answer: Your month-end financial statements tell you so.

That’s right – you’ve cleaned your data, segmented and prioritized your contacts and assigned them sales stages. You’re using a CRM and you are generating reports. Now – take a look at your month-end financial statements. Here’s the payoff from all of your hard work:

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Refine and Rejoice: Celebrating Data

Yes, I said "celebrate data." It CAN happen!

My last blog discussed how you can create a smoother sales pipeline (aka sales forecast) by pulling the trigger on a CRM. As you'll recall, it is a process! Revisit our blog series to review this process in detail. Here's a quick recap: In order to step off the sales roller coaster (yes, you CAN do it!), you must create a smoother sales pipeline. To do this, follow these three important steps:

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Pull the Trigger on CRM

My past several blogs have focused on how to remove the roller coaster-effect from your sales forecast. Yes, it can be done - but you must focus on cleaning data, segmenting data, and creating well-defined sales stages.

As we know, it is important to work out the above processes before jumping into a software tool. Start with clean, segmented data and solid sales stages. Then - identify information fields (e.g., list source) and values (e.g., Big Conference 2014)  that are important for your organization. Play with the concepts: tweak and test! Once you have a design in place, you are ready to PULL THE TRIGGER. It's time to turn your design into a real-time sales report. This will require software.

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Divide and Conquer: Segment that Data!

As we know, a sales forecast can feel like a roller coaster ride. You can smooth out this ride with three simple steps:

  1. organize your data,
  2. segment your data, and
  3. create sales stages that match the way you go to market - thereby producing an accurate, meaningful sales pipeline.

My last blog addressed data organization: getting all of your data in one place (I highly recommend an Excel spreadsheet), cleaning it up and designating potential clients within your list.

This blog addresses the next critical step - grouping contacts in “like” categories. These categories will vary, depending on your organization’s needs. Potential segments include industry, geography, client status or even an internal rating. Or, a company may use all of the above!

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Data, Data Everywhere

My last blog discussed the problems that can arise from an inconsistent sales pipeline. I equate it to riding a roller coaster. When sales are going up, all is great! But when sales are going down, you lose your stomach. So, how do we create a consistent sales forecast? There are several steps involved, but it's not as difficult as you may think. Start with basic data segmentation and sales stages.

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This blog exists to educate manufacturers, engineers and technical minds on the wonders of inbound marketing, sales enablement and more.

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