If you haven’t done so already, you are about to come up with a sales forecast for next year. Then, you will likely do quarterly adjustments. So, how come your forecasts are always so inaccurate?
The biggest single reason for this problem is lack of a well-defined sales process.
If you do not have a well-defined sales process and steadfastly follow it, projects will progress at a variety of different speeds and have inconsistent outcomes. So what do you need?
First, you need to generate leads. You can wait for your website, your marketing or other external forces to generate leads. But at the end of the day, it is up to you to make the calls, send emails, and network effectively. Your persistence, diligence and accountability are the only ways to ensure you will have sufficient opportunities to meet next period’s number. The old axiom “plan your work and work you plan” comes to mind.
Second, you need a method to qualify those leads. Develop a few targeted questions, to identify where the opportunity falls within your sales process. You want to know if the opportunity meets basic criteria for a successful project. Can you win it, can you meet customer expectations and will it be profitable. Get these answers and you have a real prospect.
Too often we see salespeople finding it necessary to create ever growing forecasts. So, when they don’t have enough opportunities in their funnel, they hang on to those that are ill qualified just so they have SOMETHING to talk about at the next sales meeting. It’s no wonder they miss their numbers and sales forecasts are so inaccurate.
Next, those qualified leads need to meticulously follow a sales process. It can be tedious and you may become impatient. Think of it as driving to a new prospect without GPS. You need to know where you are and turn by turn directions to arrive on time. At each stage of your process you confirm your progress and continue your journey. Ignoring each step will lead to wasted time and effort.
For example, at the time of your initial prospect meeting, have you taken the time to uncover the prospect’s buying process? Do you know ALL the players in the decision process, is a formal cost/benefit analysis required before purchase, do you know the competition? Lacking defined steps, bedlam ensues. Jumping ahead in the process will make your CRM inaccurate and in turn, make your forecast inaccurate.
Lack of lead generation, opportunity qualification and a defined sales process with Go/No Go steps along the way, all but guarantees inaccurate sales forecasts.