Shut Up And Do Your Forecast

By September 2, 2010Process Thinking

The best of the sales managers and executives I’ve had the pleasure to work with tend to demand very few things. They expect a lot in terms of results, but are generally reluctant to lay out a long list of specific requirements. The single most common demand of the top-notch sales leader? A monthly forecast.

Sales reps who have never done a forecast absolutely hate the idea. Those who have gotten used to submitting a monthly forecast are typically amazed that they ever got anything accomplished without it.

Let’s back up for second… I have yet to find a rep who did not agree that a “ToDo” related to a major current account or major new opportunity belongs at or very near the top of the priority list. Basic time management dictates that this is so. Living in react mode, responding to the requests/demands of the last person spoken to, is a guaranteed path to low productivity and poor overall performance.

In other words, a rep’s first cut at setting the priority of his or her action items must be based upon the expected revenue/profit from the opportunity related to each action item. The amount and timing of expected revenue/profit is determined by the dollar value of the opportunity, the odds to close the deal and the projected close date. (This is really simple and really obvious, isn’t it?)

Now a definition… A forecast is a list of opportunities with their dollar values, their odds to close and their projected close dates.

Now a few simple questions… How is it possible to make an intelligent choice of action item priorities without an up-to-date forecast? Can a rep claim to be following even the most fundamental tenets of time management without an up-to-date forecast? How out-of-date can a rep afford to have the forecast be?

Here are the three main objections to preparing and submitting a thoughtful, accurate forecast every month with appropriate responses:

  • I’m too busy selling – Selling what to whom? Are you busy with tasks directly related to your largest, nearest-term opportunities? Show me your “ToDo” list and explain how the items listed contribute to closing one or more of your top 10 opportunities… Shut up and do your forecast.
  • Doing this paperwork reduces my selling time – How long does it take you to update your forecast each month? Is it more than 20 minutes? It is!!!??? That means the quality of your forecast is really, really poor and therefore your time management is based on fiction and fantasy… Shut up and do your forecast.
  • You can’t forecast what’s going to happen in my territory – You can’t? What happens in your territory is due to chance only? There’s nothing you can do to make things happen? If you want, I’ll assign your territory to someone else… Shut up and do your forecast.

Perhaps you’re finding the tone of this post to be a bit blunt. I suppose it’s because I’m just so tired of repeating the iron-clad logic behind such a simple, powerful principle.

Without a good monthly forecast, good time management is impossible.

Am I wrong? How can on-time submission of monthly forecasts from every sales rep on your team not be #1 on your short list of demands? Can you really expect focus on the top, near-term opportunities if you don’t even know what the top, near-term opportunities are?

Think about it…

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Paul Lanigan says:

    Great article. Would love to see a part 2 “managers grow a backbone, hold your people accountable and stop accepting excuses”

  • The basic premise of your blog is “spot on”. Time management and expected ROI are wildly important.

    Here is the kicker. How many times is the sales forecast influenced by what you sales manager expects to see?

    If it’s too low or not growing fast enough or overly ambitious then you get pressure to make it more “reasonable”. And that ruins everything.

    Dan

    p.s. I’m not disagreeing with your post, just adding perspective. 🙂

    • Dan,

      Kicker indeed! Management expectations are certainly a legitimate influencing component for a forecast, but not the only or most significant one. In my view, the forecast follows directly from specific opportunities identified and described in the CRM system. If I have potential value, odds to close and projected close date for each opportunity I’m working, developing a forecast is quite easy AND based on what I’m actually working to achieve – NOT some pipe dream.

      Any “pressure” to make the forecast more reasonable needs to be focused on the number, size and quality of opportunities in the funnel. Merely increasing or decreasing the forecast itself is a really bad practice that screws up the works and sends wrong signals to all involved.

      Todd

  • […] comment on one of my recent posts about forecasting really got me thinking.  Here’s the comment, “Managers, grow a backbone.  Hold your people […]

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