Being responsible for a sales team comes with tons of pressure. You not only have to set revenue goals for your company, but you also must be able to predict which deals will go through (and when) and which ones won’t. In fact, Salesforce forecasting is notoriously inaccurate. On average, only 1 in 4 deals close as predicted.
Luckily, there are many methods you can use to improve your Salesforce forecasting accuracy. Take a look at what these sales ops experts have to say about achieving a more accurate, efficient sales forecast.
1. KIRSTY CHARLTON OF SIGNAL AI
Kirsty Charlton, Head of Sales Operations at Signal AI, explains how forecasting accuracy is important for deal control, deal management, and relationship management. It’s important to accurately predict when a deal is going to go through, even if you fall short of that goal.
Many reps do what’s called overforecasting, which forecasts deals earlier than they should. Kirsty says, “Underpromising, overdelivering is better than overpromising and underdelivering”. If you can visualize the funnel and prepare for a certain action, you can better control the outcome of the sale.
For example, if you forecast that within three months, you’re not going to have any pipeline, you can focus on top of the funnel. This can give you more control over moving the deal through the stages and accurately predicting when they come in. It can also give you awareness of deals that aren’t going to come in. This way, you can get out of the pipeline early on once forecasting has determined the deal isn’t the right fit for your company or the customer.
2. ALEX WILLIAMS OF ROXHILL MEDIA
At Roxhill Media, Alex Williams, Head of Corporate Strategy and Development, relies on both qualitative and quantitative analysis when it comes to sales forecasting. He explains that you need a large dataset in order to generate accurate patterns and to effectively analyze them.
A bigger data set will give you better, more established results. Just looking at the dashboard and viewing the numbers doesn’t really give you an accurate snapshot of what’s going on.
Alex also mentions that during sales forecasting, many sales managers want to present a better outcome and are overoptimistic. For a more accurate and comprehensive picture of the quantitative measures, sales and marketing teams need to meet on a regular basis.
The sales team at Roxhill Media sets a general rule where in the next three months, they need to apply a 75% likelihood of a deal coming in, which has proven quite accurate. Sure, there may be a shift in timeline, but as you monitor the numbers, you can track the progress of the sale as the months draw closer to you.
3. RORY BROWN OF KLUSTER INTELLIGENCE
Rory Brown, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer at Kluster Intelligence, weighs in on his company’s smart reporting toolkit for Salesforce. He explains that the tool is designed to take the data that was entered into the system and manipulate it by displaying it in different ways.
This is to help you understand how to forecast more accurately, forecast further ahead, and create revenue more consistently. By gaining visibility and getting a better understanding of how your business works, you can increase the quality of your reporting.
As a result, you can improve the accuracy of your Salesforce forecasting.
4. JUSTIN KERSEY OF MERRILL CORPORATION
Justin Kersey is the VP of Sales at Merrill Corporation based in the UK. While he doesn’t have direct sales experience, he does have extensive knowledge of sales operations. Justin talks about his company’s short sales cycle, which means they have short-term sales forecasting.
So instead of looking at what’s in their pipeline to predict the outcome of their sales, they look at historical averages in their industry (M&A). So for example, if a certain month has this number of deals, they have an idea of what they’re going to get out of that space based on their market share or anticipated market share.
5. JEFFREY SERLIN OF INTERCOM
Jeffrey Serlin, VP of Sales Operations of Intercom, has 21 years of experience with sales operations. He talks about sales forecasting being both an art and a science. He explains that as you use multiple methodologies and algorithms, you can get a better sense of where you’re going to head in terms of sales.
Jeffrey touches on doing math and analytics which shows him where they’re starting the quarter in terms of open pipeline historically, what they’ve created within the quarter, and close.
His finance team also does a high-level forecast. So does his sales reps and sales managers. This totals four different ways to understand where their company may end up in terms of sales.
When different methods converge, you feel a lot more confident that the forecasting is accurate and you’re taking the appropriate action. But when the methods give very different results, you have to dig in to understand why. He sums it up by saying, the more ways you can forecast – using different assumptions and methodologies – the better you are at forecasting because you get to see where that target number is and then, see how they all fit together.
6. MATTHEW CERA OF CUBE19
Matthew Cerra is the Head of Sales at cube19. He has extensive knowledge and experience in sales operations, including sales operations KPI’s. At cube19, Matthew has his sales team take a look at their forecast and explain why they think certain deals will go through. He gets them to start with the ones they feel strongly about, identify the risk in the deals, and figure out how to mitigate those risks.
He also talks about how they look at the time and stage of a deal. He gives the example: If a deal has been sitting in presentation for 50 days, he asks the sales rep, “What makes you think the lead is going to engage with you now”? This is to get the sales rep to rethink their forecasting and change their course of action.
7. DANTE HAWKINS OF SPRINGBOT
Dante Hawkins, Director of Sales at Springbot, discusses his company’s use of Salesforce forecasting. Using Reporting Snapshots in Salesforce, you can capture what a report looks like at a certain date and time. It also allows you to see month-to-month how forecasts change. Sales reps are able to see how well they’re forecasting, which gives them an idea of what aspects they need to improve.
They also use a BI tool that combines different reports and crunches numbers. Then they meet with sales leadership and go over the forecast in terms of what they’re seeing, what they’re expecting, and how they can help.
8. CORNELIA KLOSE OF MAILJET
Cornelia Klose is the Global Sales Operations Manager at Mailjet. She talks about KPI’s to track forecasts and forecast accuracy. She acknowledges that as humans, we make mistakes in terms of sales forecasting. She admits that her company’s forecasting was once “awful, awful, awful”. They realized the reason for that was because they had this forecast accuracy for months, enough for the quarter. They’re now extending it to give the sales more freedom.
Interestingly, Cornelia isn’t a fan of tracking pipeline conversion. She believes that it’s a finance KPI and she doesn’t forecast based on a number. To her, it’s either you win or you don’t win in sales.
9. ANTHONY IANNARINO
Anthony Iannarino, an international speaker, author, and sales leader at Iannarino says, “The only way to improve the sales forecast is to review each opportunity.” This means that the sales manager should test the opportunity to make sure it’s really an opportunity.
He advises sales managers to verify that the opportunity is progressing in line with your company’s sales process. And while no one likes to look at threats that might kill the deal, an accurate sales forecast takes into account what might go wrong.
10. VICTOR ANTONIO
Victor Antonio at Sellinger Group has worked with many companies to help their sales force become motivated and value-driven. He believes that every step of the sales process should be weighted and reweighted as the sale progresses. For example, after the first meeting or initial presentation, the forecast should have a 25% win probability. As you move through the sales process, you should increase the probability of winning. So if you’ve met with a client, presented, and the client agrees to do a product field trial, then the probability of winning goes up to about 65%.
Victor argues that by setting a high standard of what goes into the forecast, you can greatly reduce the margin of error (i.e. lost deal or no decision). That means that all deals shouldn’t go into the forecast unless it passes an 80% probability of winning. He goes on to say that a pipeline doesn’t equal a forecast. Many sales managers include deals with lower than expected probabilities of winning, which may be why only 46% of forecasted deals are won – because they shouldn’t have been included in the first place!
And there we are, 10 expert Salesforce forecasting tips that will help you forecast more accurately.
Whilst we have you, Ebsta have built a product that can increase your forecasting accuracy in Salesforce. Ebsta’s Engagement Score allows you to understand true engagement between your reps and their prospects. Allowing you to predict the likelihood that a deal would close… and that’s just one of the examples.
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