Every VP of sales is under immense pressure to hit his or her numbers consistently; it’s the X factor that drives every decision they make. For sales leaders at start-ups and other new businesses, the issue is magnified due to the lack of company-specific historical metrics that help decide what numbers to target. Lacking data from quarters and years past makes this a difficult task, but there are still several reliable strategies for constructing an accurate forecast in their absence.
When your goal is to make an accurate prediction of the future, but you don’t have any context from the past to rely on, you only have one place to turn: the present. The more data you gather during this phase, the better positioned you will be to arrive at a sales forecast number that is ambitious, yet achievable. But you have to be just as concerned about the quality of the data as you are about the breadth.
This is a time to be both as comprehensive and as brutally honest as possible. Every possible line item, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, needs to be added to your data pool. If your unit has had trouble controlling costs in a certain area, now is not the time to assume you will fix it in the next quarter, and therefore avoid incorporating it. When collected and analyzed properly, current sales and financial data tell a powerful story. Listen to it and learn accordingly.
Although you don’t have specific historical metrics from your company to inform your projections, you can learn from past market performance and take some cues about external forces that may affect your future performance. Global economic developments, changing political situations, and regulatory issues can all significantly affect historical trends. It’s important to always view this data in context in order to avoid becoming bogged down in the past at the expense of the future.