In this article we will focus on commercial forecasting, i.e. we will look at unsigned orders and contracts. Sales forecasts are never easy. However, in uncertain times it’s no exaggeration to speak about “unpredictability”. This is certainly true if the following factors are combined:
- Project and/or recurring sales
- Direct and indirect sales, co-selling and working with agents
- Complexity of the deal (product mix, size,…)
- Buying cycle variety: number of people involved – buying experience,…
- Length of the selling cycle
- Experience of salespeople and their management
- Composition of the territory, regions and product mix per salesperson
- Market share, brand awareness and competitive strengths
A brief survey during our webinar has made it clear that when making their forecasts, enterprises mainly struggle with delays in making decisions and the reliability of data. This leads to all kinds of complex processes, Excel worksheets outside the scope of the CRM and uncertainties.
Fortunately, there are ways to drastically reduce this unpredictability and at the same time enable management to undertake action in time and proactively. This is even more important in uncertain times.
An “agile forecast” is best composed of:
- 3 parallel scenarios that allow an analysis of the frictions as well as timely decisions. These scenarios are typical: the worst possible result, the most realistic outcome and the scenario that is feasible with some luck.
- No targets and forecasts on the basis of the calendar year or the fiscal year. It’s preferable to work with a rolling forecast of four quarters. In other words, a new quarter is added after every quarter.
The combination of proper visibility and accuracy and the continuous improvement of the quality of your sales require a number of conditions or criteria to be met:
- The same mechanism should be used, from the individual salesperson up to management level
- There must be a constant visibility of 4 quarters
- Several parallel scenarios (as mentioned above)
- Use buying phases as a process rather than the salesperson’s selling phases. This is crucial as a solution for the continued delay in the decision-making process. More information can be found in the blog and the webinar about (CTA to blog 2)
- The criteria for the calculation of the scenarios must be based on verifiable customer information. A typical example: Has the budget been approved and is it available?
A forecast made in this manner has major permanent advantages:
- Better use of the selling time and support
- Maximum visibility, and the possibility to make adjustments in time…
- Less complexity thanks to the uniform process and way of working throughout the company and the avoidance of parallel work in CRM and Excel worksheets
- Continuous process that significantly simplifies the annual planning, while avoiding the complex quarterly business reviews (QBR).
- Uniform system that makes consolidation possible in spite of high diversity
The coaching and developing of sales talent is a major secondary effect of this way of working. Good salespeople will use this system for self-coaching and thus achieve even better results.
View the complete webinar for more detailed examples of this way of working.
Dealing with an unpredictable forecast
How to handle supporting, monitoring and coaching commercial employees
Quickly adding scenario’s in your reporting for better founded corporate decisions
Enable management to implement changes