I was in a meeting the other day with a potential customer and the decision maker said something to me that really put managing a sales pipeline and forecast accuracy in perspective. An accurate sales pipeline and forecast requires that sales reps are working on the right opportunities, in the right stage of the seller/buyer process, with a customer validated close date and an accurate deal value. It’s what I call the Four Rights to Accurate Sales Forecasting.
The decision maker and the influencers in the room fully understood the four rights, but they commented that getting to the four rights requires some heavy lifting. Together, we netted it out to needing to work on three things – making sure that their sales process is optimized, that their sales reps and managers are following the process and that there is some technology to help bring it all together.
The group immediately started in on talking about technology. The decision maker then said something that really put it into perspective. He said “If we don’t fix our process first and ensure that our people are held accountable to the process, then all we are doing is accelerating the time to inaccuracy by focusing on technology first.”
By gosh, he’s right. The simple thing to do would be to go out and buy a nice shiny BI tool, sales forecasting solution or custom build something in your CRM system. But all that would do is speed up the reporting of inaccuracy. Why? Because if the process is broken and the people are not accountable to the process, you will not have the four rights and your data will be inaccurate.
The moral of the story is to make sure that before you engage in any sales pipeline or forecasting improvement project, work on process and people first and then find the right technology to help you manage and report your business. Don’t be an accelerator of inaccuracy.