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How a Strong Data Culture Can Make Your Forecasting More Accurate

A group of sales pros sit at a conference table reviewing data to create Salesforce forecasting.
A powerful data culture that feeds accurate forecasts can help keep your company hitting targets when sales are difficult. [courtneyk / Getty Images]

Consistent sales projections start with open access to data — for everyone from rep to exec. Here’s how to do it.

Sales forecasts are like weather forecasts: you rely on them to plan ahead, but they’re worthless if not backed by data. They’re also notoriously difficult to perfect. Only 45% of sales leaders are confident their organisations have accurate sales forecasts, according to Gartner

That’s why at Salesforce, we’ve created a whole culture around data that allows us to make consistent, accurate forecasts. The entire sales organisation plays a role in maintaining this culture. How can you do the same? Here’s a deep dive into how a data culture can drive success now, fuelled by accurate Salesforce forecasting.

3 tips to increase your forecasting accuracy

Learn how Salesforce fosters a data culture that makes sales projections more precise.

Give everybody access to the data

This isn’t about egalitarian ideals. Everybody in your organisation needs access to the data because everybody — from sales rep to exec — manages metrics that feed a forecast.  

This starts at the opportunity level for the rep. Every rep reviews their sales dashboard so they can map out the best path to close a deal. Then, they dig into the sales process.

Up a level, managers look into individual opportunity and pipeline statuses of their entire teams. They spot snags and delays, and coach reps to move deals along efficiently. 

Finally, leaders review the progress toward sales targets for all teams in weekly executive forecast calls. We visualize data from around the company in a single view. The question at this stage isn’t just, “How are we doing now?” but “How will things look at the end of the quarter and what can derail us?” Identifying possible hurdles to hitting our targets is key to adjusting our strategy to stay on course. When pivots are needed, they’re communicated to managers and reps, who adjust tactics accordingly.

All of this is possible because data access is open across the company — no silos. This means everyone from reps to managers to the C-suite can focus on what’s working and what needs more work. 

Take your data wherever it needs to go

In some extreme cases, sharing your first-party data with partners or suppliers can further enhance your business operations. Australian experience marketplace Big Red Group (BRG) has started exploring ways of informing their network of supplies, to further enhance their own strategies and forecasting.

BRG is mostly supplied by a network of small, family-sized businesses, many of whom haven’t prioritised their own data collection or metrics. So offering them broader access to data and forecasting from a sales CRM has not only improved the quality of services on offer, it’s given BRG a competitive advantage for attracting supplies to their service.

Make everyone accountable for keeping data up to date 

We depend on reps, managers, and leaders to keep pipelines moving and targets on track. With these checks in place, we can ensure accurate Salesforce forecasting, adjusting as needed to address business and market changes.

But this accuracy is only possible if we collectively keep all data up to date. The value of a CRM pins back to sales processes (and corresponding metrics) being mapped and tracked in a single-view platform. In fact, we have a golden rule about this: if it isn’t in our system of record, it doesn’t exist. 

If anyone fails to do their part, forecast reviews are inefficient and inaccurate since they’re based on stale data.

Yan Pu
Salesforce VP, Sales Operations & Strategy

Our process is standardised across teams and is the expectation, not a guideline. Account executives identify, create, and adjust opportunity data. Managers inspect this data, monitor pipeline changes, and add their own feedback and guidance to help close deals. Top executives then investigate trends and redirect resources based on the overall picture. Everyone is encouraged to keep data updated in our system of record because everyone can see and hold each other accountable to it. 

Yes, everybody has a different job description. But as Yan Pu, vice president of sales operations and strategy at Salesforce, notes, everyone works to keep data updated and, as a result, support the accuracy of our forecasts. “If anyone fails to do their part, forecast reviews are inefficient and inaccurate since they’re based on stale data,” she says.

Review data frequently — and be ready to change course 

Staying ahead of change requires us to stay on top of the data. As businesses adapt to uncertainty, so must our sales strategy. But pivoting successfully only works when you review the data regularly and know what’s changing.

At Salesforce, our CEO and COO start each week with a review of week-over-week changes to our sales forecasts. At the same time, managers look at real-time team sales data: how many deals are in each stage and what’s getting stuck. Along the way, reps update and examine their pipeline data with the latest information from live opportunities. Wherever possible, this is managed with the help of automation and artificial intelligence (AI). With comprehensive forecasting tools, for example, managers can quickly see recent changes to opportunity amounts, close dates, opportunity scores, and more. 

In short, everyone is trained to regularly look at what the data is telling us. And because the data is updated regularly — often in real time, with the help of automation — we can change our strategy on a dime and stay on top of fluctuating market conditions.  

A strong data culture is at the heart of Salesforce forecasting

A powerful data culture that feeds accurate forecasts can build accountability, transparency, and efficiency. It’s a formula potent enough to keep your company hitting targets when sales are difficult. The key: making data accessible across your team, staying adaptable, and keeping all employees accountable. 

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Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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