Sales Forecasting – How many calories are in that Pepto Bismal®?

In the world of sales, what’s the best way to start a fight?

Easy! Walk into a sales person’s office and ask about their forecast. That’s because forecasts are an Equal Opportunity cause of ulcers.

No matter where you are on the org-chart, forecasting always raises the blood pressure of everyone in the room.

As Sales Managers, nothing makes the blood come spurting out of our ears faster than the vague answers we always seem to get, regardless of how specific we make the question(s).

The funny thing (we might as well laugh), is that the Sales Manager who  wants to strangle a Sales Rep for giving mushy answers, will walk into their manager’s office and give the same mushy answers (with a couple of semantic changes to give the impression of substance) to the same, specific, questions.

What’s also worth a chuckle, are all of those things that makes the Sales Manager start chugging Pepto Bismol:

  • Sales Reps ‘massaging’ forecasts (in sales we ‘massage’ things, we don’t tell fibs);
  • Discounting the deal size (without attracting unwelcomed attention to it);
  • Or ‘factoring’ the forecast (up or down, depending on what you wish the number was).

These are the same things that the Sales Manager will do when talking to the Director…and the Director when talking to the Vice President…who does it when talking to the President or the Board of Directors….onward and upward!

So let’s be fair; there is plenty of blame to go around. Management needs to wear a lot of this.

Forecasting is a critical part of the business of selling; it HAS to start at the very top of the organization.  The senior manager involved in the forecast session has to give real consideration as to how to structure an effective forecast review.

Too many Sales Managers turn forecast reviews into brow beating sessions, and they quickly deteriorate into ‘sales operations’ beat downs (why isn’t the report  filled in properly? why didn’t you put all the info into the system?).

Those things are important. But, the objectives of a forecast review should be to determine what business is coming in? When is it coming? And most importantly, what can we do to ensure that it will come in?

The secret to making forecast sessions more effective is to turn them into a tool that HELPS your sales team. Make it an opportunity for people to collaborate and find ways to make deals happen. This can be done simply by:

  • Have fact-based discussions about the mechanics and the merits of the deal.
  • If the answer to a question starts with “I think”, then recognize that this is an exposure and it requires a discussion with the prospect (there is no ‘think’, Yoda).
  • Look for the reasons that will cause the deal to not close, and then come up with the plan to address those reasons.

If done properly, forecast reviews are excellent learning and skills development session.

Sales Reps – Know Your Facts. If you don’t have the answers, don’t fake it.

Sales Managers – Don’t squash the Sales Rep, help them and come up with a plan to go get the answers.

If you aren’t happy with your current forecasting, why not give this a try?

At the very least it might help cut down on the calories you’re taking in with all that Pepto Bismal.

– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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George Brown

Insight written by George Brown

Senior Vice President at Rand Group

A thought leader and pioneer in the areas of cloud computing, sales and marketing, George is a highly regarded subject matter expert and leader with over 30 years’ experience in strategically propelling businesses forward.

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