How to Improve Sales Forecasting with AI

Most companies miss the mark when it comes to sales forecasting —  in more ways than you think. The chronic inaccuracy of sales forecasting is well-documented by SiriusDecisions, noting that nearly 80% of sales organizations miss their mark by more than 10%. In most cases, it comes down to three primary causes: 1) flawed forecast roll-up processes 2) Poor sales execution 3) Lack of accountability. Fortunately all of these can be addressed with AI-Driven Sales Forecasting

Reframing the Value of Forecasting

Forecasting will never be a perfect science. But despite all the variables, AI and machine learning are helping sales leaders improve accuracy—and go beyond the actual number to also improve execution. 

Forecasting is essential to how businesses run. It enables your company to set a budget, make headcount decisions, fund marketing and product investments, determine expansion timelines and much more. So while hitting your number is aligned with reporting to the Board, accuracy impacts much more than that.

Your Forecasting Approach May Be Limiting Your Potential

If you’re still rolling out forecasts using spreadsheets, emails or verbal commits, you’re adding to the problem. Not only do these approaches waste time and rely on gut feel—in most cases, teams just input directly over previous forecasts, meaning there is little to no tracking of historical data. That means no ability to validate accuracy on the backend and learn from what worked or did not. 

Do you know at what point your forecast was on the right trajectory or not? Can you tell what change made the impact? Or why that change was made? If not, you’re missing valuable data that could benefit your team for many quarters to come. 

Empowering Sales Managers to Coach

As a sales leader, you are responsible for rolling up the final team forecast. In talking with sales leaders, the frustration is consistent: hours are put into forecasting and all they are left with is a top-line number. A number that does not provide meaningful insights, nor improve execution. 

So we took a very different approach—bottom’s up. 

We believe the forecast should be one of many data points used to guide reps on what step to take next to move those deals forward, along with the real-time data and machine learning scores we just discussed. 

So we used your forecast to help identify the strategy you need to coach—helping sales managers with increasing spans of control—know exactly where to prioritize their time and how to execute on each deal. These tools include: 

  • Pipeline Review Dashboards make it easy to focus on the top 10 deals most likely to close and the top 5 deals with the biggest upside. Now funnel meetings turn from inspection to coaching. 
  • Dynamic Guided Selling Actions offer in-the-moment guidance to reps and managers on the sales process and best practices. 
  • Forecasting Insights drill in deep and show how your forecast is changing by week, month or any period.

Driving Sales Rep Accountability through Data

Enhancing Accountability with Activity Capture

For sales leaders to hold reps accountable, you need a single source of the truth. Activity Capture ensures that every activity with a prospect or customer (e.g. emails, calls, demos, etc.) is accounted for, so you know exactly where each deal stands and can more accurately gauge the effort needed to close. It’s not enough to just capture rep activity, you also want to capture others involved in a deal cycle—SEs, executive sponsors, finance, support.

By automating activity capture, you open up more time for reps to sell and leave nothing to chance. It’s a win-win for you and your reps as you seek to improve both data volume and data accuracy.

Enhancing Accountability with Analytics and AI

Even by ensuring the completeness of your data, you still only possess the raw data behind each deal. You can analyze each deal individually, but they each need context from the entire pipeline to tell you the whole story.

With deeper analysis into metrics like a rep’s win-rate and sales cycle length, you can generate AI-based metrics like our Confidence to Close score to serve as an additional validating factor for rep forecasts.

Better Forecasting Takes a Better Approach

InsightSquared’s AI-Driven Sales Forecasting supports the complete forecasting workflow, meaning you can finally say goodbye to Excel forecasting and hello to collaborative, customizable and accurate. 

Finally understand your number, and more importantly, exactly what it takes to meet—or even exceed—expectations.

To demo AI-Sales Forecasting, visit here.

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