Hub 2014 Recap: Integrated Sales Forecasting
Kevin Josephson, Manager, Deloitte and Denis Giuliani, Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Lexmark, shared the stage to share how Lexmark used Anaplan to improve their sales planning and execution in the HUB 2014 “Sales Forecasting: Detailed Visibility, Real-Time Trends, Instant Cost And Margin Analysis” breakout session.
In implementing Anaplan, Lexmark’s forecasting project had the following objectives:
- Define enterprise-wide processes, key metrics and application portfolio
- Define specific capabilities to be successful in a solution-selling environment
- Change Lexmark’s tools to better align with how we want to engage with customers and partners in a solutions led engagement
Creating a Lightweight, Easy Forecasting Process
Sales forecasting was challenging for all stakeholders prior to deploying Anaplan:
- Sales Reps challenged by managing a manual process, duplicate data entry, and a lack of a closed loop
- Sales Management challenged by an often inaccurate view of pipeline, variation in sales reps’ forecasting abilities, manual processes due to lack of standardized pricing, ineffective demand planning, and dealing with late stage surprises or missing/inaccurate information
- Finance challenged with inaccurate revenue projections, and not being aligned with the Sales and Demand Plan
So, how do you address these issues while creating a lightweight process the sales reps can quickly, easily follow? Requests to complete forecasts were not always answered, or even when completed, had a high variance in accuracy and reliability. That’s why instead of giving Sales another, disconnected process flow to follow or form to fill out, Lexmark wanted to find ways to use the data that Sales was already regularly providing and maintaining to fuel the forecast.
“How do we make it easier for the sales force to actually submit a forecast that’s not as time consuming or manual?” Kevin said was a primary concern when building out the new process. “The way we thought about it is ‘Let’s take the information we were already getting from sales people through their normal activities. They’re always quoting…their customers want that and they have a business reason to do it.’ And we’re going to take that information and get the intelligence out of it to feed a forecast.”
Kevin went on to add they also wanted to integrate the data updates to the opportunities the sales force was managing in the CRM as well, and use that to feed into the forecasting process. The one thing they added to Salesforce to power their model was a rollout schedule, noting what the revenue stream will look like over time, versus just capturing the total lump sum.
Defining an Effective Sales Forecasting Process
Since implementing Anaplan, Lexmark is able to integrate their data and functions to help develop an aligned forecast both Sales and Finance can use. Key to this is their five-step forecasting process:
- Manage Sales Opportunities. Once a sales opportunity is created in Salesforce, opportunities are driven forward by sales rep, and they manage early and late stage opportunity forecast data.
- Sales Review. Anaplan is used to identify opportunities to include in the sales forecast, with sales rep input, and adjust rollout schedule. This stage is critical to ensuring sales force buy-in and accountability.
- Geographic Demand Review. Anaplan used to determine opportunities to add to the demand plan and financial outlook.
- Global Consolidated Forecast. Anaplan used to give sales management a comprehensive global view for global review and sign off.
- Reconcile to Actuals. Anaplan used to compare forecasted data to actuals, and adjust business rules and assumptions to address consistent accuracy challenges.
Lexmark’s journey from initial concept, then through selection of Anaplan, to taking the process live was only 9 months with development taking about half of that time, which was very quick for this type of project within their organization. To work out any kinks before rolling it out to the entire sales organization, they staggered the launch. After seeing proof of concept worked in EMEA, they rolled out to North America, and finally Latin America.
Key Lessons Learned
Any rollout, regardless of how successful, always has learning moments to take away. Kevin and Denis shared theirs:
- Understand data accuracy and challenges going in to identify what data elements may need adjustment in Anaplan.
- Start with getting the process right — and use Anaplan as a catalyst for process improvement.
- Understand your user-base and design UIs/dashboards as pointedly as possible.
- Training, especially for sales, needs to be ongoing and repetitive, and available on-demand.
Lexmark wanted to empower the field sales reps to more effectively do their jobs, and simultaneously make forecasting a non-event. Today, thanks to this forecasting process improvement with Anaplan, reps can see what’s included in their forecast and see in real-time where things have shifted over time, making the forecast a valuable resource instead of another corporate to do list item.
Stay tuned for more highlights from HUB 2014, and check out our archive of conference presentations on SlideShare.