Salesforce Forecasting Overview: What Is It And How Do You Do It?​​​​​​​

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With accurate forecasting in Salesforce, you'll not only have a clearer sense of what your sales revenues will be, but also be able to spot potential issues earlier so you can take action to fix them.

Salesforce forecasting is important to your business and the more accurate your forecast is, the more important and impactful it becomes. Among the best ways to conduct accurate sales forecasting is by using customizable forecasting in Salesforce. Before looking at how Salesforce customizable forecasting works, however, it’s a good idea to review what sales forecasting is and the ways in which it can help your business.

WHAT IS SALES FORECASTING?

Stated simply, sales forecasting overview will help your business get a better grasp on how much you’ll make from sales over a defined time period. For that reason, it helps people throughout your business, from managers to directors to C-suite executives.

HubSpot provides a useful definition of what sales forecasting is:

“A sales forecast predicts what a salesperson, team, or company will sell weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. Managers use reps’ sales forecasts to estimate business their team will close. Directors use team forecasts to anticipate department sales. The VP of Sales uses department forecasts to project organization sales. These reports are typically shared with company leadership, along with board members and/or stockholders.”

WHY IS ACCURATE SALES FORECASTING IMPORTANT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

Of course, every business is different, with different objectives and challenges. For that reason, sales forecasting will impact each in different ways. That said, the ability to accurately forecast sales helps the lion’s share of companies in several key ways, including the following 3:

  1. You’ll identify potential problems: an accurate sales forecast will help you understand what’s working and what isn’t in your business. For example, you might discover that your sales team is consistently falling short of its quotas (about 57% of sales reps don’t meet their sales quotas, according to Forbes), giving you the opportunity to find out why and correct the situation. For example, Ebsta’s Team product enables sales managers and operations teams to easily see which deals are at risk of not closing due to low engagement, find out how here.

  2. You’ll be able to make smarter business decisions: among the several things your sales forecast will predict is new sales opportunities. If your forecast tells you that these opportunities are likely to increase substantially in the next quarter and that you’ll need to bring on new sales reps you can begin the hiring process early to ensure you can meet the increased demand. A sales forecast that tells you sales opportunities will decrease on the other hand will tell you to halt any current hiring initiatives, as well as to ramp up marketing and invest in enhanced sales training.

  3. You’ll effectively motivate your sales team: a robust sales forecast can serve as a powerful motivational tool. For example, you could regularly update a quarterly sales forecast to let your sales team know if they’re on target to make quotas. If you discover through your forecast that one or more of your sales reps is falling behind, you could meet with them or have them partner with a sales rep who’s doing especially well and can give help them with smart sales strategies. 

WHAT DOES YOUR BUSINESS NEED TO CREATE AN ACCURATE SALES FORECAST?

Any business can create a sales forecast, but creating an accurate one requires certain key elements. For example, if your business doesn’t have a smart system to give your sales representatives realistic sales targets, the accuracy of your forecast will necessarily be diminished. 

At minimum, to ensure the accuracy of your sales forecast, your business should have the following 5 elements:

  1. Sales quotas for both sales reps and sales teams: you can’t achieve sales objectives without first defining what those goals are. Your business needs clearly defined quotas for individual sales reps and sales teams to complete an accurate sales forecast.

  2. A well-defined sales process: it’s not enough to have a rough outline of how you manage sales opportunities. Your sales forecast will be more accurate if your business has a clear description of roles and responsibilities for everyone who participates in the sales process (such as sales, marketing and procurement). You also need a thorough understanding of your target customers, including things like how they buy your products and how they leverage digital content as part of the buying process.

  3. A clear understanding and description of the sales funnel: that means knowing what constitutes both a lead and a marketing qualified lead (MQL), as well as what your lead generation goals are and the ways you nurture those leads. For example, knowing what percent of new leads convert to customers will help you more accurately determine how many sales you’re likely to close.

  4. Robust customer relationship management (CRM) software: CRM software that’s been customized for your business will give you and your sales reps the data you need to more accurately project sales opportunities and closes.

  5. Accountability: accuracy and accountability are closely related. For example, if you hold sales reps who consistently miss their quotas fully accountable, they’re more likely to change their behavior and improve their performance. If you don’t, you’re probably going to lose sales opportunities. The more clearly you define your company’s system of accountability, the more accurate your sales forecasts will be.

WHAT IS CUSTOMIZABLE FORECASTING IN SALESFORCE?

It’s important to note that, although still a robust, flexible and accurate tool for sales forecasting, Salesforce Customizable Forecasting will retire in the summer of 2020. At that point, customers enable Collaborative Forecasting in Salesforce (see below for a description of collaborative forecasting).

As Salesforce explains it, customizable forecasting is among the best ways to predict the amount of revenue your business will generate from sales and how many of your products or services your company can sell. Among its strengths is the ability to forecast sales based on date ranges you select, whether those are monthly, quarterly or something more useful to you. You can also base your forecasts on revenue, quantity or both.

HOW DO YOU CREATE A FORECAST IN SALESFORCE?

Salesforce makes creating customizable reports relatively simple and straightforward, but you will need to follow each step in the process diligently. The first step is to go to the Quick Finds box and enter and select Forecasts (Customizable). Then, click Edit Forecast setting for your company. This will customize the default settings for your business, determining things like what types of data will be displayed in your forecast, date start and range and whether data can be shared.

After you’ve defined your settings, click on Batch submit forecasts for your users. Here, you’ll choose your forecast period and select the users that have forecasts you’d like to submit.

Finally, click Set up the forecasting hierarchy for your company. Before setting up your forecasting hierarchy, you need to make sure that all appropriate users are included. If some aren’t but should be, you’ll need to go to Enable Users for Customizable Forecasting to add them. 

WHAT IS PIPELINE FORECASTING?

Pipeline forecasting is sometimes confused with pipeline management, but they’re not the same thing. Whereas pipeline management has to do with assessing the effectiveness of your pipeline and improving the odds of closing sales, pipeline forecasting is about estimating sales performance based on key data.

Said differently, while pipeline management will help sales reps close more deals and attain sales quotas, pipeline forecasting has no appreciable impact on sales performance. Pipeline forecasting, however, is nevertheless important as it can help your business more accurately estimate sales volume and, based on those estimations, make more effective business decisions.

WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE FORECASTING IN SALESFORCE?

As noted above, Salesforce Customizable Forecasting will end next summer. At that time, customers who use customizable forecasting can migrate to Salesforce Collaborative Forecasting but what is that, and how does it differ from Customizable Forecasting?

As Salesforce explains the change and the benefits of Collaborative over Customizable Forecasting, the former builds upon the strengths of the latter to provide updated and more robust functionality. To take advantage of its more advanced features, customers will need to effectively enable Collaborative Forecasting. This will entail first identifying all impacted users (you can do this by simply running a standard user report).

You will also need to export all forecasting data out of Customizable Forecasting before it’s retired next summer. To do that, follow the directions in the Configure Collaborative Forecasts help topic (this will include steps such as defining forecast settings, enabling users, enabling partner portal users, setting up your forecast hierarchy, defining your company’s forecast range and customizing your forecast categories).

The key takeaway is that Collaborative Forecasting includes all the principal functionalities of Customizable Forecasting but adds several capabilities which are new. For example, users will be able to adjust forecasts and view sales opportunities that make those forecasts.

CONCLUSION

As noted above, accurate sales forecasting is critically important not only to the performance and productivity of your sales team, but also to the health and success of your business.

With accurate sales forecasting, you’ll not only have a clearer sense of what your sales revenues will be, but also be able to spot potential issues earlier so you can take action to fix them, make more prudent business decisions and effectively motivate your sales representatives. Especially when analyzing engagement with key stakeholders within an opportunity with a tool like Ebsta Team.

Salesforce Customizable Forecasting and soon its heir, Collaborative Forecasting and both outstanding solutions to achieve accuracy in your sales forecasting and, as a result, help your business grow.

Tom Hunt

Tom Hunt

Tom Hunt is Ebsta's Head of Marketing, he is passionate about sales tech, puppies and efficient teams.
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