Real-World Sales Forecasts

When you think of your company’s sales forecasting, what comes to mind: Facts of Life or Fantasy Island?

A chronic challenge for sales leaders and company owners is managing the pipeline in a way that allows for believable sales forecasts. Those forecasts might impact many other areas of operations, so it’s important to get them right.

Nearly everyone has some kind of CRM system in place: Salesforce, MicrosoftCRM, ACT! or any number of others. And every one of those systems has forecasting built in, so why is this a problem?

Well, because having a system and getting salespeople to use it are two different things. The same personal qualities that make your sales team so good at selling often make them allergic to typing. They want to be out hunting business, not doing admin work, however important it may be. The “forecast” winds up being in your sales rep’s head. Or in a personal Excel sheet. Or on a Post-It.

So you look for accountability in your weekly or monthly meetings, and what happens? People wing it, often overestimating the value of their pipeline. And by the next meeting you’ve forgotten half the promises made.

How do you as the owner/manager bring some truth into the process? Try a simple whiteboard visual. Call it the “99 percent” or “commits” list. At your meeting, ask each rep to commit to the deals that will close in this calendar month with 99 percent certainty. List them on the board and leave them there if you can, or take a photo if you can’t.

At the next meeting, push for closure on that list. Did they live up to their promise? Win it. Circle it. And begin the process again.

At the end of the month it will be easy to see who has met their commitments, and who was guessing. And the peer pressure of the meeting environment will eliminate the guessing pretty quickly.