A Guaranteed Fix for Inaccurate Sales Forecasts

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

The weather has become quite predictive - if you want to know what it will be like in say, an hour.  Meteorologists are still fairly accurate within 24 hours, but for the most part, especially where I live in New England, they are challenged to get it accurate beyond a day in advance.

Think of that in terms of your pipeline, forecast and budget.  We know that forecasts are notoriously inaccurate, but that's when you're looking at the forecast for the month, quarter or year.  Meteorologists would never be accurate if attempting to predict temperatures, precipitation, cloud cover and storms a month in advance.

Are your expectations completely unrealistic when you attempt to forecast sales for the month or quarter?  For most companies, inaccurate forecasts are the norm and expectations for accuracy are insane.  But that's when companies rely on CRM applications that fall victim to any of the following 10 challenges:

  • It was designed for customer service rather than sales.
  • It has a contact or customer focus rather than an opportunity or sales process focus.
  • It was over-designed with too many features.
  • It is not user friendly.
  • Salespeople hate to enter information into it.
  • It's too easy for salespeople to manipulate the likelihood of closing.
  • Sales Managers do not regularly inspect opportunities for accuracy and appropriate stage.
  • Pipeline is a state of being, not a gap analysis.
  • Pipeline is a report rather than a staged, visual representation of the business.
  • Salespeople don't live in it and it hasn't become an essential part of the sales culture.

There are dozens of CRM applications out there.  While some are very well-known, like Salesforce.com, others are very obscure.  Well-known doesn't mean you should use it at your company - it might not be right for you.  Obscure doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it at your company - it might be perfect.

In the end, regardless of features, if the salespeople don't embrace it, then it will be a failure.  We have so many clients that bought CRM applications that aren't being used as expected, it's embarrassing.  Yet moving to another CRM application seems like throwing money out the window and admitting that your initiative was a failure.

On the other hand, companies think nothing of changing copier brands - even in the middle of a lease, they change banks when terms or relationships make it necessary, executives move in and out of cars every two years, homeowners cycle through crappy landscapers, we upgrade our phones, tablets and laptops every year or two, and we never think twice!  Why is it such a nightmare to move to another CRM application?

Moving is really not that difficult.  The problem is that it cost a lot of money to customize the first application, get everyone trained, and input all of the data.  There is a huge fear that moving to another application will be just as difficult as the first go-round.  But that's more fear than reality.

For example, we moved a client from a popular CRM application to a more useful and appropriate application.  They did spend and waste a fortune on the first one, they did spend months entering data, they did go through a long and drawn out training program for users and it was a monumental failure.  However, moving to the new application was a easy as pie.  It needed almost no customization, had no complicated navigation, and an hour of training had everybody up and running. The data was imported, not entered manually, and the salespeople love it so much they are not only using it, but embracing it.

The best news of all comes in the form of the client's results:  

  • Salespeople are living in CRM!
  • Opportunities cannot be arbitrarily moved forward in the sales process.
  • The likelihood of closing is calculated based on reality, not hope.
  • 100% adoption translates to real time, accurate data in the dashboard.
  • Salespeople see their pipeline stage gaps and proactively respond to them.
  • Forecasts are accurate.
  • Everyone is happy.

It's not that moving to a better CRM application is a new cost or even difficult - it isn't!  It's that for most, walking away from the initial investment of money, time, emotions, commitment and your bad decision is so hard.  But it's not a divorce, it's more like changing banks.  You move away from one that no longer suits your needs and begin working with another that you perceive to be better.

Do you need some help sorting out your CRM situation?  Just shoot me an email and I'll steer you in the right direction.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, salesforce.com, sales forecast

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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