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Sunny, with a Chance of Profit: Making the Most of Your Sales Forecasts

Another day at the office lies ahead. You turn off the alarm, drink your morning coffee, have a quick bite, and you’re on your way. But wait! There’s one last thing you have to check, before facing traffic: the weather forecast. It impacts your entire day – from the route you’ll take to work to the time you’ll get home. Having a sense of what to expect gives you a sense of comfort and control.
sales forecasting

The same is true at work. Forecasts impact multiple aspects of your company’s life. Regular reporting helps you understand past successes while guiding you to future victories. Today, with the rise of a digital generation of sales professionals, sales analytics and planning systems are making it easier than ever to access and use forecasts to empower decision-making.

But what exactly makes a good forecast? Many managers seem to believe that static reports highlight and predict larger sales patterns. More often than not, however, differently formatted data tables, spreadsheets, and charts take lots of time to normalize, eating up administrative resources before they give you a streamlined perspective on your company’s inner workings.

Treating these components as unrelated, separate, bits of information will hinder the accuracy of your sales analytics, which, in turn, affects the sales department’s and, by extension, the entire company’s performance. Ineffective sales forecasts lead to territory plans that fail to provide good coverage, unrealistic quotas, and sales compensation plans that don’t drive top performance.

To ensure predictability all over the pipeline and maximize the efficiency of the sales process, it’s imperative you establish the best metrics for your forecasts, as accuracy is crucial. However, settling on impactful metrics is not the only thing you should do. It’s also important that your forecasting goals are clear to you; only this way can you also know which deals deserve better resource allocation, which activities your sales team should focus on, and what processes need to change to optimize the sales team’s performance.

If things are starting to sound complicated, the reason might be that they are – but only if you’re using the wrong forecasting and sales analytics service. According to a recent Ventana Research study, over four-fifths of sales organizations (86%) want to make sales analytics and forecasting simpler as well as more actionable, “usable,” and better automated. Furthermore, according to the same study, only 28% of companies are satisfied with the capabilities of their current software.

If you’re considering investing in a sales performance management platform that includes robust analytics capabilities, which can be used to improve your forecasting process, take the following tips into account as you evaluate providers:

Check the Quality of Your Data

Before trying to integrate your existing reports into a complete forecast, make sure you have access to clean data. In some sales enterprises, managers tend to spend large chunks of time reviewing the quality of their data, manually formatting it for analysis, and preparing reports and charts. You should avoid creating forecasts based on estimates and scattered sales information, as this can also impact the performance of your provider.

Ensure a Rigorous Analytics Process

According to the Ventana report mentioned above, only about one-third of sales organizations (35%) can calculate and use analytics within one day. The technology you invest in should be robust enough to provide fast, easy access to large varieties of data from a large variety of sources. It should also be capable of automatically carrying out any data-related task, including advanced analysis. And it should make gaining insights through visualizations and dashboard reports easy.

Don’t Let Outdated Technology Impede Analytics

Spreadsheets are personal productivity instruments, not business tools. They’re great for organizing your own work, but they don’t come in handy when trying to organize the entire department’s. The same goes for older or restrictive systems that impede large teams from collaborating. Spreadsheets may also prevent finding out in real time what information is getting updated and by whom. To make analytics work, you have to be able to understand the data behind it, and instruments such as the ones described above can make this task difficult.

Focus on Collaboration

Since sales is a team sport, collaboration across all of Sales is critical. Availability is an important step towards this goal, since the entire team has to be involved in the data collection and analytics process. Secure collaboration allows data to be shared among users, and for reps and managers to work together to create model scenarios that foster more accurate and effective sales forecasts.

Emphasize Efficiency

If traditional data reports and forecasting might not meet all the needs of your enterprise, go with a provider that integrates predictive analytics into their solution. Predictive analytics offers you insight into the actions that led to past successes, helping you effectively strategize for the future. In other words, such analytics can help you focus on the outcome, and not on the process itself.

As long as you know your needs and goals, choosing the SPM provider and platform that fills the sales analytics needs of your company should be straightforward. Go with the solution that offers the perfect blend of data science, enterprise planning, advanced analytics and process automation, and, unlike the weather forecast, your sales predictions will always be accurate.

Guide to Using Sales Analytics to Improve Sales Performance

Sales analytics adopters report improved quota attainment, higher customer retention rate, and more deals. Read this guide to discover how to efficiently use sales analytics.

Get it here

Stephan Millard

Product Marketing Director

Stephan Millard is a senior product marketing professional with over twelve years of experience working with both leading HR & sales performance management (SPM) technologies. With experience as both an industry analyst at Ventana Research and leading product marketing for technology companies such as Optymyze, SumTotal, Kronos, and Saba, Stephan has a deep understanding of the benefits of today’s HR and SPM technologies and the challenges these technologies still face.

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