Short, medium, and long-term changes to sales forecasts?
Four months ago sales forecasts were clouded to the point that businesses were left flying without any clear navigation to help steer them.
Predictable revenue streams and indicators were not behaving as they would, which in turn, meant sales leaders couldn’t make strategic moves against risks and opportunity with confidence.
Businesses have weathered that storm and whilst we’re still feeling the economic aftershocks of Coronavirus and subdued buyer confidence – we are beginning to see the wood through the trees.
But, what have the impacts of COVID-19 been and how can businesses futureproof their short, medium, and long-term sales forecasts?
The short-term reaction to sales forecasts:
Cashflow is the lifeblood of businesses and COVID-19 put a stranglehold on revenue streams and outlooks that forced them into survival-casting.
That meant safeguarding revenue operations against:
- Net new business pausing
- Customer churn increasing
- Customer payments delaying
- And sustainable fixed outgoings continuing along an unknown timeline
With the absence of a timeline for these pillars resettling and the indicators that constructed our previous forecasts simply not moving in the same way – businesses have to react.
- Sales leaders have to pause, survey the immediate situation, and make decisions around what is vital and non-vital for business survival.
- Strip back operations and consider what the essential staff, tech, vendors, and assets are that could help cost-saving.
- Secure a sustainable sales vehicle that can operate and collaborate remotely.
- Stop looking at lag indicators and focus solely on nurturing relationships through this period.
- Revisit and redefine your targets and metrics so that a culture of achievement can continue.
- Enable the buyer’s decision by repositioning your value proposition against what customers need right now and by lowering the commercial barriers.
- Incentivize the later stage opportunities with manageable financial models that won’t damage your long-term payment structure. Longer contracts with a lower entry for example, or, freemium models.
- Shorten the feedback loops across your company to daily, weekly, and monthly reviews.
- Look at how current customers see you as essential and restructure your value proposition and sales outreach around that.
- Redirect sales reps away from new business to bolster customer support and ring-fence existing revenue.
The medium-term thinking to sales forecasts:
As the initial impact of COVID-19 settles, sales leaders will have the chance to step back from firefighting and recalibrate.
Many might feel that we’re approaching this point as offices and borders start to open, vacancies are added, and the shoots of economic recovery start to show.
This is a time to look at what was stripped back and have an honest review of what’s required moving forward.
Running operations remotely has identified a lot of waste – and opportunity – for how businesses can optimize their processes, operations, and sales visibility across both a physical and remote workforce.
- Have an honest discussion of whether your furloughed staff are returning and the skill gaps you will need to progress in your new business and with your new buyer.
- Sectors and businesses have not been affected equally. Segment your customer base to identify risk, support, and scale points to focus on.
- Buying committees have been reshuffled and will need remapping.
- Sale stages are not moving in the same way, so support your lead indicators with engagement scoring, relationship analytics, and sentiment analysis.
- Revisit the buyer relationships that you’ve nurtured and measure their engagement and buyer appetite.
- Keep the measurement runway short and remain agile in your feedback loops.
The roots of every accurate sales forecast are bedded in the quality of the data that feeds them.
COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of having a centralized, visible, integrated, and single source of truth that reps and leaders can work from collaboratively, whilst working remotely.
The sales forecasts we draw from this data needs to be immediate, intuitive, open, and accurate.
- Act on what you learned was wrong with your processes, tech, and org structure.
- Invest in technology that can automate the process, integrate your customer data, and improve your forecast accuracy.
- Create a culture of data-driven awareness from onboarding to exit.
- Hire revenue ops and sales ops specialists to facilitate and refine this journey for you.
Every individual is responsible for data and forecasting. Build a process that reflects that accountability at rep, team, sector, and company level.