5 Steps To Eradicating Spreadsheets From Your Sales Forecast.

Accurate forecasting is a marathon and not a race.  It’s not something that is achieved by simply plugging in a great software application and then hoping that people use it.  To eradicate the use of spreadsheets you need technology, strong process and rigor (people using the technology and following the process).

So how do you eradicate spreadsheets?  Follow these 5 steps.

Step 1. Install or build a simple forecasting process into your CRM system.  This is not  reporting.  Reporting does not solve forecasting rigor.  This is an actual worksheet where sales reps can add opportunities to a forecast and commit opportunities to specific scenarios.   This is areal-time forecasting platform that automatically rolls up to the most senior level of sales.  The average time it should take a sales rep to develop or update a forecast should be less than 15 minutes.

Step 2.  Train sales people to use the worksheet.  This should literally take 10 minutes.  Part of this training should include accountability.  All forecasting and all reviews are now to happen in the worksheet – right inside of your CRM  system.  There is no excuse for not having an updated forecast.

Step 3.  Train managers on how to use the worksheet for forecast reviews.  A great forecast worksheet should lend itself to “one-click” access to each sales rep’s forecast.  Saving managers countless hours a week begging reps for forecasts and compiling spreadsheets.

Step 4.  Measure everything.  Trending and monitoring forecast accuracy is key to improving performance. Knowing the volume, velocity, win rates, loss rates, opportunity data accuracy (close dates, value, activity, stage) and use this information to trend out into the future is what you need to predict future performance.   

Step 5.  Continually tweak the system using your key performance indicators.  Ensuring that opportunities are in the right stages, with the right close dates, with the right values and the right data will significantly reduce opportunity risk and that is what you need to drove accurate forecasts.  To do this, you will have to consistently monitor and coach your reps.  Why?  Because sales rep behaviors change all the time.

Savvy sales executives know that near the end of every sales period, a frenzy of “almost” deals will be advertised as closeable with extra discounting or executive participation. Which opportunities are worth the time? How do you know when to discontinue them or engage them more deeply. The faster managers know which deals to support, the better the chance those deals will get signed. Picture a world where you know you have the right opportunities in the right stages, with the right close dates and the right values. When managers get all of those “rights” right, decisions have already been made. They already know who to engage and who not to. Issue solved. That’s the future of forecasting.