“Sales forecasting” is commonplace among sales managers, despite the fact that it’s a ridiculously difficult undertaking and the further fact that forecasting accurately is nearly impossible.
It’s typical to end up with forecasted numbers that miss the mark by a sizable margin. Sales managers often find themselves in a familiar situation: running around in a postmortem panic over why their numbers are off. But neglecting to actually get to the bottom of the bad forecast is another classic misstep, the result of which is being in the same forecasting predicament quarter over quarter.
The act of forecasting is an exercise in futility if you fail to identify the culprits behind bad numbers. We’ve spent a lot of time researching and thinking about the topic, and we’re passing our learnings on to you. Read on to find out the root causes of faulty forecasting so you can stop predicting sunshine when there will in fact be rain.
You’re Relying on Bad and Incomplete Data
Your CRM is more riddled with holes than a wool sweater in a moth infestation. Some of your data is missing, or it’s outdated, or it’s simply inaccurate. Holes such as these can lead to skewed forecasts. Remember, what you get out of your CRM depends on what you put into it. The more data points your team inputs into your CRM, the more solid the data will be as far as forecasting. The more data you’ve amassed, the more accurately you’ll be able to forecast.
Direct your team to engage in data input as a best practice. Make sure everyone’s diligent about documenting communication points and populating fields at the account and opportunity stages. This collective effort will draw a data-driven picture of why some deals are successful and others cough their last breath and die. Adhere to this rule: “If it’s not in your CRM, it does not exist.”
You’re Being Blinded by Positivity Fairy Dust
The mantra of this industry could be, “Be optimistic or be obsolete.” Sales is chancy, yet despite what might be repeated setbacks, you must maintain a sunny disposition, staying positive when it comes to growth opportunities and deal closing. That said, you don’t want to go through your sales life being a happy idiot. Engage in that other “ism”—realism. Meaning, don’t clog your pipeline with too many potential deals that are built on wishes and dreams. That magical-thinking “user error” often results in an overinflated, unrealistic forecast. Making the effort to debug your pipeline is time well spent.
You’re Betting on the Wrong Horse
Be careful not to funnel your resources into unpromising deals. Emotion can be the driving force sometimes—“I like that company … I’d love to work with them … they seem cool!” Next thing you know, resources spent on your dream company have not resulted in a deal, and now you’re short on TME (time money energy) that was better spent pursuing more realistic leads. Again, this can be the result of too many deals in the pipeline, and/or the wrong ones getting special treatment while the right ones get ignored. Forget that glam deal you’d love to land. Focus on data management. Or, if you’ve mastered the art of data management already, use what you know about data science to rank and prioritize opportunities for reps, teams, region, or product lines, taking into account things like close probability, momentum, size, and market trends.
As people like to say, “No one has a crystal ball.” True enough, but forecasting can be thoughtful or it can be stab-in-the-dark reckless. When you make thoughtful, intelligent predictions, it’s more likely the clouds will part and you’ll have your day in the sun.