Webinar recap: Taking a navigational approach to sales forecasting

Anaplan recently co-hosted a webinar with ZS Associates and the Sales Management Association (SMA), titled, “Making more than the number: A navigational approach to sales forecasting.” Sales forecasting is an essential part of the sales process, but many sales managers struggle to do it the right way.

Many companies are trying to find ways to be more accurate with—and maximize the value of—their sales forecasts. A quick poll of our webinar audience found that only 30 percent of sales managers said their sales forecasts were on target 76-99 percent of the time, while nearly 25 percent said that their sales forecasts were on target less than 50 percent of the time. Without accurate sales forecasting, organizations struggle to assign sales team resources, anticipate their upcoming sales pipeline, and otherwise manage their teams for optimal efficiency and bigger sales results.

That’s why it’s important to take a “navigational approach” to sales forecasting. Sales forecasting is more than just predicting a number; it’s about changing the way your overall sales operations work.

Our webinar covered several of the key benefits and offered strategic insights for how your company can create a more navigational approach to sales forecasting.

Use good sales forecasting tools.

Many companies still use spreadsheets and lack a formal process for sales forecasting. Ventana Research found that 59 percent of companies surveyed said spreadsheets make it difficult to manage the sales forecast process. The reason: by manually managing multiple spreadsheets, opportunities get missed. Sales people spend too much time focusing on the wrong opportunities, and there’s no accountability for tracking and following up on the right business leads. In the past, many sales organizations might have looked at sales forecasting as a chore that had little relation to reality. But with today’s best-in-class sales forecasting tools and solutions, it’s more possible than ever before to harness the power of sales forecasting to add value and drive sales results going forward.

Look at your overall model for sales forecasting.

Many companies use sales forecasting tools or processes, but it’s also important to make sure that your sales forecasting is really adding value and driving your overall preparation for your sales cycle. Sixty-one percent of companies surveyed by Ventana say that their top complaint about the sales forecasting process is that “models are hard to build and maintain.” A good sales forecast gives you one line of sight into what’s happening in the business.

Better sales forecasting gives better transparency.

A navigational sales forecasting process also helps you see the specific areas that need improvement and delivers better transparency into key sales metrics. It shines a light onto your overall sales operations and helps you get better data for things like average deal size, average sales cycle length, and conversion rates between stages of the sales process.

Integrate sales forecasting into overall decision-making.

Sales forecasting is not a separate action from the rest of your sales operation—it needs to be included in overall strategic planning and decision-making. Sales forecasting affects everything from assigning quotas to managing regional sales teams to apportioning incentive-based compensation. Also, sales forecasting should not be something that is just handed down from on high—when sales reps collaborate on sales forecasting, it can improve sales effectiveness by helping the sales team identify the right targets and activities to change behaviors and generate better sales performance. With the right approach, sales forecasting can become a more strategic project that drives sales effectiveness.

Are you ready to learn more? Check out the full webinar, “Making more than the number: A navigational approach to sales forecasting.” It’s full of great data and insights that can help your sales team take your results to the next level.

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