Most New Year’s resolutions fail because we are focused on the goal rather than the process. The same might be said for sales forecasting, which can deviate greatly from reality if left unchecked.
To make this an incredible year for your sales team, here are a couple of resolutions to shake up your sales forecasting process in 2016.
1. Keep records of previous years’ forecasts.
You can’t really say how you are going unless you have something to compare to. This is true not only for results, but forecasting as well. So on top of keeping track of how well you did, keep records of where you thought you would be.
Once you have a benchmark against which to judge your forecasts, ask questions. If this year’s forecasts are especially heroic or glum, why? What’s different this year? Is this too good to be true?
2. Keep updating your forecasts
No matter how prescient your forecasts may be, they are a product of the time they were made. As you progress through the year, and your targets creep up, outside events will influence actual performance.
Update your forecasts to take into account for the new reality — is your customer base expanding or contracting, are buyers positive or pessimistic, has a competitive product emerged, have you got new data to make new predictions? There are plenty of reasons why you should reassess.
3. Make your forecasts visible.
Forecasts are only useful if they are communicated, and your team understands where they are and what they are working towards. Once your forecasts are set, make them visible to the sales team.
Put your targets up on the wall, a software dashboard, or someplace else where your team will see them all the time. Similarly, you should celebrate your wins in a visible way, to show you are making progress.
4. Keep it simple.
Your forecasts need to be understandable to be effective. Your sales team aren’t statisticians and not everyone responds well to spreadsheets. Instead, there are numerous programs designed to make the process easier — including the ability to refine and update along the way.
If computer programs aren’t your thing, nothing beats a good chart. Bar and trend charts communicate a lot of information and capture the imagination far easier than numbers alone.
5. Make the entire sales team own the forecast.
When the entire team knows the goal, make them own it collectively. If one person drops the ball then someone else needs to pick it up. As in sports, the ultimate score is the team’s responsibility.
Your team is also a valuable resource when making and updating your predictions. From their place on the front line, they naturally have a different perspective than management. Setting aside time to go over forecasts with your team can be invaluable to a more accurate forecast.