Sales Forecasts—Don’t Confuse Efforts with Results

 

Posted By Lewis Miller | Nov 14, 2012

 

*Second part in a series on sales forecasts*

I recently attended an investor conference in Boston and as usual many of the questions asked of the presenting companies’ executives had to do with their sales forecasts—their level of confidence in them and if they thought their projections were conservative or aggressive.

Creating an accurate sales forecast is not an easy thing to do.

One reason is that sales managers often do not know what rep activity leads to results. They may even assume much of a rep’s activity is important when in fact reps are putting forth efforts that have a low probability of advancing deals or producing results.

 

Sales results are easily marked and tracked with quotas. But it is equally important to track whether sales reps and teams are performing the right activities “effort” to get to the desired “result” which is at or above quota.  

Recently we interviewed a Fortune 500 company with over 5000 sales people. Their sales collateral delivery mechanism was comprised of over 700 websites managed by product management and marketing. As you can imagine, it was hard for sellers to know where to go to find the most relevant content for the varying sales situations they were in.

As a result of this content/collateral confusion, when reps did find something useful, they immediately downloaded it to their personal drives for future use. When they could not find something useful, they networked with their peers to get something close to what they needed or worse case, created it themselves. All of these are highly non-productive and horrible practices for many reasons including sales effectiveness and messaging accuracy.

It is almost impossible to know what efforts are working without a system in place that automatically captures real activity throughout the sales process. This system also needs to exploit a CRM system’s underlying reporting engine to uncover insights and identify:

  • What efforts top sales reps are making that win deals
  • Which activities deliver the best results

As sales managers better understand what rep activity works well they will be able to guide sales reps and focus on the right opportunities in the pipeline. Conversations with sales reps will become more productive as they are based in measurable activity and will allow for greater confidence in the information communicated.  

The right effort should produce the desired result more times than not. Otherwise, for many sales forecasts, guessing will remain the norm. 

Do you have a better way for understanding what efforts lead to results?

We’d love to hear your experiences. Let us know in the comments.

In the meantime, happy selling and winning.

-Lewie

 

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