Sales forecasting is a complex and time-sensitive endeavor for every sales leader. However, it doesn’t have to be. The root of the issue is that the majority of sales organizations continue to roll up their forecasts using static spreadsheets.
In fact, during our recent webinar, “Nail Your Sales Forecast”, more than 50% of respondents said they rely on Excel and reps subjectively emailing their numbers to set their guidance each month and quarter.
Your spreadsheet is failing you.
Aside from being prone to human error (which is obvious), there are four key reasons spreadsheets are failing sales organizations. We find that they are:
- Too time-intensive for reps. As reps race every day to hit their target numbers, they have three priorities: conversations with customers, demos and outreach. If you expect them to input data into a spreadsheet, you will get the bare minimum in return. As a result, you are unlikely to have the data you need to identify the opportunities and risks necessary to accurately adjust your forecast.
- Prone to human bias. Traditional forecasting methods are too reliant on self-reporting. When you place the burden on reps to use their own judgment, you welcome inconsistency into your forecasts. Reps aiming to hit their numbers for the month frequently omit data (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) because there is too much going on to keep tabs on. This is likely to result in overly optimistic or pessimistic forecasts.
- Lacking invaluable data. Only 10% of your activity data is captured, meaning only 1 in 10 meetings, phone calls and emails are visible when you produce your forecast. Yes, even activity capture measures such as auto-logging via an email alias still miss out on the majority of critical activity data. Analysis shows that activity is one of the most accurate indicators of deal outcomes. So if you aren’t getting complete activity records, you can’t forecast confidently.
- Missing actionable insights. The datasets you pull from spreadsheets are only numbers, no matter how accurate they are. They cannot show you what steps were missed or where deals went wrong. Even when you forecast correctly, there is virtually no way to tell what worked, what didn’t and what to improve upon. Forecasting in spreadsheets keeps you in the dark when it comes to executional improvements. In other words, it doesn’t help you make better decisions.
This brings us to the root of forecasting problems: low-quality data.
A good forecast is grounded in quality-rich data.
In order to effectively manage pipeline, sales leaders must know the true health of deals. They have long turned to their CRM for this data, but only 25% of sales managers actually trust the data in their CRM — putting them at a massive disadvantage.
It’s impossible to monitor every deal in real time, but by automating the process through Activity Capture, you can gain insight into every step reps have taken to move their opportunities forward — and be alerted to missed steps that could put the deal at risk.
With a complete set of activity data, you can answer key questions regarding a deal’s health, such as:
- When was the last productive engagement?
- Is the Champion actually participating or just a name in a field?
- Is there a meeting on the calendar in the next 30 days?
- How many contacts are there on this opportunity? If your rep is single-threaded, that’s an obvious missed step.
- Is the rep keeping to its timeline?
- Have there been too many meetings? Let’s face it, some reps have happy ears and continue to spend time on accounts that clearly won’t close.
- Which competitors are involved? Should you even be competing with them?
- Is your rep actually following your chosen sales process (e.g., MEDDICC, Challenger, Sandler, Force, etc.)?
The domino effect of sales forecasting.
Your sales forecast signals the growth of your business. It informs every decision from hiring to go-to-market spending to product innovation. Knowing how many calls were made or how many emails were sent is not enough for a CRO to walk confidently into a board meeting. No matter how accurate, data is useless if it can’t help you improve execution and hit your next target.
Sales forecasts are critical to every business but more important is knowing how and why you arrived at that number — and what to do next. Don’t look at your forecast as the end game. Look at it as a data point to drive incremental process improvements and optimize the sales process for your entire revenue production engine. Spreadsheets can’t accomplish this for you. It’s time to take a more dynamic approach to forecasting.