When sales forecasting, oftentimes people rely on things they simply shouldn't, including their gut, bad data, or an incorrect timeline.
This can lead to assumptions, misinformation, and unmet expectations down the line. So how do you ensure your sales forecase isn't based on incorrect information?
Here are five reasons your forecast may be wrong and how to avoid going down that path.
1. You Relied on Your Gut
Never ever mistake the smile upon my face as agreement to the words coming out of your mouth. There's no telling what I may be thinking.
There are plenty of reasons I may be smiling while you're talking. One of the most common misconceptions people make is a smile means agreement, acceptance, understanding, mutual understanding, approval, or endorsement.
If I could teach any new sales rep anything it would be, “Don’t trust your gut!” There are likely other reasons for that smile.
- They read a leadership article citing all the reasons leaders should smile more
- Smiling boosts confidence
- To make a difficult task easier
- Their mind wandered off to their impending vacation
- It’s good manners
Emotional or “gut feelings” are not the way to forecast. As Bob Nicols stated, buyers have four compartments of information they evaluate: product, price, support, and the company. Customers aren’t buying a smiling face. They are buying what they are trying to accomplish as an organization.
2. You Relied on Bad Data
I hate to tell you this, but most of the data in your CRM is missing, inaccurate, not what you need, or out of date.
Most salespeople don’t want to enter information into Salesforce.com or other any other CRM. And truthfully, why would they? It’s cumbersome. They’d rather spend time in front of customers than behind a computer screen. You’re probably not holding them accountable for the information being entered or not entered.
3. You Relied on a Dirty Pipeline
When was the last time you summoned forth your sales team, threw down the gauntlet, and challenged the sacred cow we call a pipeline?
Have you really looked at the stuff in there? How long has that opportunity been in the pipeline? When was the last time the opportunity was touched? Do your salespeople know what information is needed to make it a valid lead? Do you know? Do the leads in your pipeline match your ideal customer profile? Do you have an ideal customer profile? Do your salespeople know the buying criteria of each? If not, it’s time to do some housecleaning.
4. You Relied on the Wrong Dates
One of the most common mistakes sales managers make in forecasting is telling the sales team how many sales have to be made by a specific date.
Just because your organization has a date, it doesn’t mean your clients have to have the same date. That’s a little like telling a baby the date and time down to the minute what time it will be born, how much it will weigh, and how long it will be, etc. Like babies, organizations make their decisions based upon their own needs, not yours.
5. You Relied on False Information
You may have relied on false information based upon survival rather than accuracy.
Did you actually ask your salespeople how many sales they were going to make? You did, didn’t you? Salespeople are not willing to risk their job security by openly admitting they are going to perform below expectation, and most likely neither are you.
Forecasts become a mixture of hope and fear. Even some of the most successful sales reps would prefer to avoid the embarrassment of an upcoming off-month and make up a forecast. In some cases, sales people will fill their CRM with activity that isn’t real just to keep you off their back.
I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit I have also behaved in that manner. Every week, I had a sales manager wanting a report saying what deals I was closing the following week. Seriously? I’m the girl who doesn’t believe anything is solid until the ink has dried and the client has taken possession. I didn’t have a crystal ball, and I couldn’t read minds, but sure, let me make a number up for you.
Unfortunately, sales managers often use these kinds of criteria for sales forecasting. You may as well go to Las Vegas and play the craps table. Seriously, you have better odds at a craps table in Vegas than you do forming an accurate sales forecast.
There are better methods to increase your odds of an accurate sales forecast that don’t involve “gut feelings” or “instinct.” One way is to start using your Salesforce CRM as a tool for progress instead of repository for bad data.
Bob Sanders has more than 25 years experience in sales, sales management, and marketing. Bob has served as President and CEO of AXIOM Sales Force Development from 2006 to 2018. His passion about sales behavior and coaching helps develop people into their best selves. Since Bob joined AXIOM as a partner in the fall of 1993, he's helped dozens of companies around the world generate hundreds of millions in additional revenue. Bob holds a degree in Marketing from Miami University. He has been a keynote speaker at numerous corporate events and industry conferences. He is a founding underwriter and frequent contributor to the Sales Management Association. He co-authored AXIOM's “Selling Sciences Program™” workbook and audio program, and is a contributor on "A Journey to Sales Transformation". When Bob is not advocating on behalf of buyers and sellers worldwide, he is an avid cyclist, father, and husband.