How many people will you need to hire this year? The answer probably depends on the sales forecasting you’ve done. What about getting new equipment or opening up an additional office location? If your sales forecast looks good, it might be a possibility. Will 2017 be the year your company does a big, splashy launch for its next product? Not unless your sales projections work out as planned.
Companies might do sales forecasting annually, quarterly, monthly or even weekly. Whatever the frequency, though, forecasting sales becomes the bellwether for almost everything else that happens in an organization. When you have a realistic sense of what kind of revenue will come in, for instance, you can develop a budget, an operational plan and begin executing your strategy.
When sales forecasting goes wrong, however, it can mean cost-cutting, layoffs or even worse. Salesforce’s Sales Cloud provides a CRM solution that acts as a platform for starting this journey. But once you and your sales team embark on that journey, don’t forget to think about the following factors along the way:
It’s only natural to begin thinking about sales strategies by looking at what your customers have bought in the past. That’s the most essential CRM data you can have. There’s a risk, though, in looking too narrowly at what’s been going on in your own company, your own sector or even your local community.
As you create a sales forecasting template, think about how you can examine macroeconomic trends that could have a direct impact on your company’s performance. This could include changes in gross domestic product (GDP), fluctuations in currencies where you do business, or changes in the average wage for particular skill sets.
You don’t have to ask reps to suddenly become economists, of course. Much of the data will be widely available via news outlets, content from industry associations or from public sector sources. Ask your team whether, based on those macro trends, there is a “micro effect” for customers overall, or for particular customers. If the adverse effects can’t be completely mitigated, you can at least make sure they don’t get missed and skew the forecast in a damaging way.
It would be easy to do sales forecasting if yours was the only company where customers could turn for a particular set of products and services. Even if your marketing efforts have set you apart, customers likely consider a few different suppliers when they’re deciding on a purchase. That’s why you need to ensure Sales Cloud is made even stronger with competitive intelligence.
The most obvious issue is when competitors change pricing on products and services similar to your own, for example, or offer bundles and packages that make what they’re selling potentially more attractive. Even novel-sounding new features added to a rival’s product could make it more difficult for your company to meet its sales target. Reps are your ear to the ground for some of these details, so take advantage of their insight.
Of course, not all competitive intelligence will be negative. A competitor might have pulled a product from the market due to a flaw, for instance, or have lost a star performer, which led to weaker sales. Make sure you’re not missing any opportunity to pull ahead.
We take e-commerce for granted today, but in the early years of the dot-com boom many companies underestimated the extent to which people might prefer to purchase something online versus walking into a physical location. More recently, companies like Uber and AirBNB disrupted entire industries by offering customers an easy way to hail cabs or rent accommodation using an app.
You may think you know how to forecast sales, but it’s incredibly easy to overlook the way technology can completely alter the touch points where you’ll engage with customers or conduct transactions in the future. If you’re not exploring the impact of mobility, for instance, it may be time to discuss it with the sales team today. Even things that seem slated for the distant future, like virtual reality or artificial intelligence could present sales opportunities and/or challenges. Use the data in CRM to shed some light on how customers tend to think and behave so you’ll be better prepared for the major shifts.
No one likes to lose good people, but it happens. Besides organizing a goodbye lunch or signing a card, though, changes in the sales team must also be reflected in sales projections. The time it takes to hire, training a new team member and other costs should all be weighed in terms of what it will mean for finding opportunities, nurturing prospects and closing deals.
Many companies also make routine changes to the territory assigned to various reps, and this should be part of the sales forecast template too. Some changes may have long-term benefits but short-term trade-offs when it comes revenue growth. Again, your CRM data can provide a sales forecast example of what may or may not happen when territory changes are made.
Finally, forecasting sales should always be grounded in how you’re working to make your team more productive, efficient and successful in terms of winning more business. our company may look a lot different if it leverages mobile apps to empower reps on the road. Developing a stronger brand or driving greater demand via tools like Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud could also help the team reach or even exceed their quotas.
The fastest-growing companies treat their sales forecasting methods as an ongoing work-in-progress. The more you continue to refine it, the more accurate it will be — and the quicker your company will grow.
Take your sales game to the next level with the tips in our free ebook, “4 Steps to Transforming Your Sales Process.”