The most important thing that many struggle with during forecasting is the planning aspect.
Forecasting is often just seen as a "thumb suck" or "making up numbers" to keep management happy, when in fact it can be a really useful tool.
A sales rep taking a moment to think about where their future numbers are going to come from is a very worthwhile exercise, as it helps them move forward on a “lighted path” rather than guess their way through darkness.
These stop-and-reflect moments where you look at current spend, and at additional spend that is likely to occur for the period, lead to precise actions being taken to ensure the forecast number is achieved.
How are they going to meet the target, otherwise?
Reps need a harbour to steer the ship toward, instead of aimlessly sailing and hoping. Forecasting gives them a clearer idea of where they’re going to land for the period.
The real benefit to building a forecast is the opportunity it gives us to do something proactive before the deadline becomes reality and we miss our target! For example, if you build a forecast on the first day of the month, and it predicts you will fall short by 10%, you then have the entire month to influence that.
This helps reps keep their cool, too; nothing will put a client’s guard up like a desperate salesperson sweating to make quota at the last minute.
Forecasting when performed in relation to a target takes on a new meaning for many reps. Rather than a thumb-sucking exercise for management, they see it as building a plan around the numbers. Instead of the road to hit those numbers being obscure, or those numbers seeming randomly picked from a hat, they can begin mapping out their plan of attack early.
3 things to try:
1) Make a commitment to building a forecast for the current period, and just start. The forecasting process is something that improves as you practice it. Communicate your intent and the benefits of doing it to the team, too.
2) Build up a forecast at the customer level. This is a simple task that can be done on an Excel sheet. Look at what a customer’s sales are for the period so far, then estimate what additional sales they are likely to have this period. Be conservative with this in the beginning. Repeat this exercise for all your key customers to see where you are likely to land for the period.
3) Review and adjust the forecast through the period. A forecast is a live number and changes as new information comes to hand. Make it a habit to review the forecast on a weekly basis and this will keep everyone forward-looking, helping them to stay creative and proactive with how to hit their numbers.