The #1 Key to Making Sales Forecasts Accurate Again

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 @ 15:10 PM


What is they key to accurate sales forecasts?  Sure, it's all of the things I've written about before, like sales process, uncovering compelling reasons to buy, selling value, thoroughly qualifying, etc.  But haven't you witnessed more than enough opportunities where all of that was completed at an acceptable level and the business still failed to close?  Don't too many of those well qualified opportunities become delayed closes or losses?  So what is it?  What is the one thing that will accurately predict whether or not an opportunity is strong enough to pursue with everything you've got?

It's the scorecard.

For the past year we have been insistent on including a sales scorecard as one or more steps of the sales process.  You might recall that I wrote about scorecards once before, although in that article it was more about how excited I was that Membrain included a scorecard building functionality in its CRM application.  This time, I want to emphasize how important it is to build a scorecard and not just any scorecard, but one that is predictive enough to make your forecasts accurate!

So how can you build the perfect scorecard?

It's a somewhat complicated process where you must follow these steps:

  1. identify potential criteria that might be predictive
  2. narrow it down to 5-6 criteria that should be predictive
  3. for each criteria, create 3-4 conditions
  4. weight the criteria in order of predictive value
  5. assign points to each of the conditions
  6. make sure that if someone meets the ideal condition for each criteria the maximum number of points is equal to 100
  7. test the scorecard on several opportunities that were won and make sure that the score would have predicted a win.
  8. test the scorecard on several opportunities that were lost and make sure that the score would have predicted a loss.
  9. if your first attempt was not predictive, make some changes and retest, finally setting a cut-off score
  10. install your scorecard as a step in at least two stages of the sales process - expect the score to change over time

With some variations,This example should apply to every company:

Criteria - Level of Decision Maker Reached - Value 15 points


C Suite  15 points
VP 10 points
Manager 5 points
User 0 points

Can you come up with 4-5 more criteria that are always predictive of a sale in your business, with your customers, and against your competition?

Finally, you need to have the discipline to not follow up when a score falls below your cutoff, and to follow up with even more firepower when the score suggests you can win the business.  Discipline is more difficult than building the scorecard!

Last chance to register for my presentation of the 6 Hidden Weaknesses That Impact Sales Results on Tuesday, October 25 at 11 AM Eastern.  Register here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, accurate sales forecast, scorecard, predictive pipeline

Key Sales Strategies for December

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 01, 2014 @ 07:12 AM


Copyright mreco99 / 123RF Stock Photo

It's hard to believe that it's December already.  It seems like only yesterday that I made my annual reposting of one of my most popular articles of all time - a terrific holiday article that is worth a read even if you read it each of the previous 4 Decembers.

Top 3 Lessons from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker

Does that resonate for you in December?  All year long?  Every day?

So let's discuss December sales strategies.  What can you do to assure that December (a short month with only 17 business days) as well as the 4th quarter and the year finish - all have a strong finish?

You won't like my answer at all, but it's the truth.  

Not. Much.  

About the only thing you can do in December that will benefit the month of December, the quarter and the year is to make sure that the truly closable, qualified, and forecasted opportunities actually close.  If you pull out all the stops, but do it with opportunities that are not truly closable (in December), you run the risk of alienating your prospects.  This is where it is so important to know the difference between what you consider closable, and what your prospects consider closable.  How do you know?  At some point, they told you that you will get this done in December and you have a meeting or call scheduled to do just that.  If that hasn't occurred, then in all likelihood, you are guessing that you can close these opportunities in December.

Some companies need to spend their money this month or they risk losing it.  Do you know which of your opportunities are in that situation?  Those companies will buy from somebody this month - do you know whether or not it will be from you?  Again, you would know because you would have learned that as you qualified them, not because you have a good feeling about it - a guess by any other name.

There are some things that you can do this month, that will have a tremendous impact....on next year....

Most salespeople spend their December days trying to close deals, sending cards, delivering wine, chocolate, fruit baskets, nuts, pretzels and special gifts.  While important, minimal time should be devoted to those things.  Instead, salespeople should be filling their pipelines, scheduling January meetings, and assuring that the 1st quarter of next year is strong.

How can you get prospects on the phone in December?  This is a great month to use a service like ConnectAndSell, which provides up to 8x the conversations that reps get by dialing on their own.  Instead of wasting all of their time dialing and not connecting with anyone, salespeople actually spend their entire calling session speaking with their prospects.  It's very efficient, powerful and useful!  And when you find out how helpful it is in December, you'll want to use it year-round for pipeline building.  Whether it's inside or outside salespeople that do the calling, maximizing your call time in December will be the one thing that will guarantee a strong start to next year.  

There is also an emotional component to December.  Many of us will be on well-earned breaks, staycations, vacations and trips between Christmas and New Years.  There are four possible outcomes for December: 

  1. You closed the forecasted business and built a strong pipeline for next year.
  2. You closed the forecasted business, but failed to build a strong pipeline for next year.
  3. You failed to close the forecasted business, but built a strong pipeline for next year.
  4. You failed to close the forecasted business and failed to build a strong pipeline for next year.

The outomce you end the year with will determine your mental state for not only your time off, but for when you return.   How would you like to be feeling?  Would you like to kick back and relax during your vacation or sulk around, beating yourself up for blowing it?  How would you like to feel when you return on January 2?  Do you want to be energized or still feeling the effects of screwing it up in December?

Close what you can close today, but your emphasis in December must be on building for the near future.

Top performing companies have higher win rates, shorter sales cycles and stronger revenue growth.  Learn what they do differently by downloading my newest White Paper, The Modern Science Behind Sales Force Excellence.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, Closing Sales, accurate sales forecast

What it Takes to Make Your Sales Pipeline Accurate & Predictive

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 05, 2011 @ 14:08 PM

Yesterday, while speaking in DC, I asked my usual questions, but the response to one of the questions left me scratching my head.  It wasn't a new question; as a matter of fact, I've been asking it for years.  And, as you can see below, I've been writing about the pipeline in various ways for years:

Bigger Sales Pipelines - The Dangerous Truth

Sure Fire Way to Know Which Sales Opportunities are the Best Sales Opportunities

How Targeting Improves Win Rates and Shortens Sales Cycles

First Steps to Generating More New Sales Opportunities Today

The $225,000 Mistake That Most Salespeople Make

Top 10 Reasons For Inaccurate Forecasts

Tighter Sales Metrics at New Year Leads to Improved Success

Make Your Salespeople Focus on This to Grow the Business

Should You Restage Your Sales Pipeline

Getting Reluctant Salespeople to Fill Their Empty Pipelines

Controversial "Best Time" For Salespeople To Fill Their Pipeline

Should You Restage Your Sales Pipeline

Can Too Many Opportunities be a Negative for Salespeople

Do Your Salespeople Really Understand Pipeline Requirements

Sales Confidence - How to Ask Any Tough Question Anytime

Sales Systems and Processes - 8th of the 10 Kurlan Sales Management Functions

Happy Ears or an Empty Sales Pipeline

Sales Pipeline - How to Make it Accurate and Predictive

Improve Sales Performance with More Effective Pipeline Management

Sales Pipeline Can Provide Sight for Blind Executives

Filling the Sales Pipeline - Who's to Blame

More on the Pipeline

Pay Attention to the Pipeline

Fix Your Mediocre Pipeline for Accurate Sales Forecasts

Earthquakes Hold the Key to Accurate Sales Forecasts

Achieve More Accurate Forecasts and Sales Results Today

Be Still My Pipeline

How to Transform Your Sales Pipeline Today


The Bearded Lady, My Shaving Pattern and Your Sales Pipeline


Sales Pipeline Data Shows That Most Late Stage Opportunities Just Aren't

Speed Limits, the Flow of Traffic, and Sales Pipelines

A Tale of 3 Squirrels and Their Human Counterparts in Sales

Companies Rush to Get This One Thing in Place for their Sales Teams Before January

 This wasn't 0 out of 10 or 20 people.  This was 0 out of 100+ Senior Executives!  And it's the same response which I've always received wherever and whenever I've spoken to a non-client group.

You would think that with the acceptance of CRM, companies would be much further along in getting their pipelines accurate and predictive, but they aren't.  Pipelines still fail to be properly staged.  Criteria for each stage is not well-established and salespeople aren't meeting the criteria.  Salespeople are still doing a miserable job at qualifying - the stage that uncovers most of the criteria for the variables which impact accuracy and predictability:  How much will they spend, when will they spend it, and how sure are we that we will get it?  Until your salespeople consistently get accurate information on those three variables, you will not have a pipeline on which you can rely.  

Unfortunately, the problems which salespeople have with qualifying are symptoms of the problems from earlier in the sales process.  They aren't doing a great job establishing relationships, so their prospects don't trust them enough to share.  They aren't doing a great job asking the kinds of questions which uncover compelling reasons to buy, so prospects don't have the urgency to move faster, nor do they have the incentive to provide answers to qualifying questions.

These issues disappear after 6-8 months in organizations where we provide training and coaching, but in most organizations, this is an ongoing challenge.

This is something you can fix and if it was an accounting, operational, manufacturing, IT or an executive malfunction, it would have already been fixed.  But sales seems to get a free pass and mediocrity appears to still be acceptable.  How sad.


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales pipeline, visual pipeline, accurate sales forecast, predictive sales pipeline

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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