Sales forecasting is always a challenge, but your company can improve the accuracy of its plans by thinking beyond a simple formula of taking last year’s numbers and adding a percentage. If you’re ready to start making better predictions for the coming year, make sure your budget and quota plans utilize these factors.
“Budgets and Quotas are meant to be collaborated on between the EVP team and the managers that are expected to motivate employees to accomplish the end goal! Gaining “buy in” is critical to the success of the plan. You have managers leading the field on purpose, and the “good ones” think for themselves. Listening is how great leaders help to move the mountain; motivation helps everyone hit the stretch goals. Keep your employees on the offensive and avoid putting them on the defensive!” says Sharon Tsao, CMO, Contemporary Staffing Solutions.
Track Historic Trends
The numbers you forecast must be based on hard data and the results you’ve achieved over time. They cannot simply be pulled out of thin air. Prior results are a good indicator of future trends. You must consider factors like:
- Customer data: Number of customers acquired per year, sales cycle time, retention rate, attrition rate, growth rate, growth potential.
- Product data: Products that failed to meet expectations, products that exceeded expectations, roll out times.
- Pricing data: How your prices compare in the market, factors that influenced pricing, outside forces that caused pricing changes.
- Promotions: Past successful promotions, brand strength, budgetary needs, past budgetary projections that hit or missed the mark.
- Place: Which distribution channels are most successful, previous years’ budget alignment.
Every business, no matter what industry you’re in, experiences seasonal cycles. Those cycles are driven by:
- External forces: holidays, industry conferences, buying seasons like back-to-school and Christmas.
- Internal factors: promotions, product changes, product launches, sale/discount periods.
Make sure to study seasonal trends closely, as it’s not always obvious where your cycles fall. Many companies think they know their trends, but after digging into the data, they uncover trends they didn’t see before.
Anticipate Market Trends and Changes
Do your best to look ahead and use industry and national data to determine the factors that could impact your market. Consider things like:
- Product demand shifts over time
- Consumer buying behavior shifts over time
- Potential regulatory or compliance changes
Align Your Forecast With The Company’s Strategic Plan
Make sure that you’re using the company’s actual strategic plan for the year and closely examine these factors:
- Product additions
- Product deletions
- Product changes
- Customer alignment
- Marketing strategy
- Marketing budget
- Alignment between marketing strategy and sales targets
- Pricing changes
Studying and documenting all of these factors ensures that you’re considering both internal and external forces that will impact your sales forecasts. Failing to consider something simple like a state election that could shift the regulatory environment could derail your entire forecast. Digging deep ensures that you’re thinking beyond your four walls and will yield stronger, more accurate projections.
Strong People Make Strong Forecasts
“Anticipate the revenue stream that is about to fall off; talk to those on the front line about the accounts they are expecting to invoice and then gain clarity around pipelines being forecasted and stay close to that team to help them understand the numbers and what story the numbers tell!” Says Tom Verratti, CFO, Contemporary Staffing Solutions.
If you are looking for new ways to attract and retain expert sales, marketing and management professionals to your organization this year, the expert recruiters at CSS can help. Contact us today to learn more about the ways we can help you build a team of professionals who can help you plan, meet and exceed your goals.