Still struggling with forecasting sales for 2022?

Sales has traditionally been an intuition-driven profession: “What’s in your pipeline?  What do you think is going to close?” But these days, that approach puts companies and organizations at a major competitive disadvantage.

In this data-driven era, sales leaders need to make decisions in response to real-world market changes, up-to-date assessments of the marketplace, accurate summaries of customer preferences and company-wide data trends. Relying on opinion, or “gut feel,” means losing ground in that marketplace, particularly when it comes to forecasting sales and revenue. If, after a month into the New Year, your company is still “trying to hit a moving target,” here are some thoughts:

As the cost of acquiring new customers continues to rise, sales teams are challenged with forecasting more effectively, which often means selling more efficiently. This is what customer relationship management software like HubSpot are designed to do. These tools make data-driven forecasting easier by collecting and using specific metrics to inform all sales decisions, such as:

  • Deal creation.
  • Sales activities (e.g., phone calls, email outreach, in-person meetings, etc.).
  • Average revenue per sale.
  • Average length of sales cycle.
  • Percentage of revenue from new business.
  • Percentage of representatives achieving quota.
  • Sales leads by source.
  • Cost of selling as a percentage of revenue generated.

Using this kind of data can help you, and your reps, create more accurate forecasts, improve productivity and save precious resources wasted in pursuing customers who aren’t a good fit for your product or service. Implementing a data-driven approach can streamline your sales process in a way that maximizes revenue and business impact — and gives the company’s senior leadership a more accurate picture of what kind of revenue is forthcoming.

For most organizations, however, this transition from intuitive to data-driven processes does not happen overnight. When moving to a hybrid sales process, it is important to understand that your team can’t just flip a switch and make the change permanent.

To adopt this kind of data-driven selling process, your sales team needs to be aware of what you want them to do. They need the knowledge of how to do it. And they need a safe place to apply that knowledge, to practice, fail and learn. They will need to learn to use new tools, develop new skills and begin to form new habits, all of which takes time and repetition. Your job, as the leader, is to create those opportunities and coach your team through the learning process.

First, consider your team’s attitude. What are their current beliefs around data-driven selling? Do you have a young, tech-savvy team who are already embracing the latest technology or do you have a veteran team with old habits who would prefer everything written out by hand? It is important to understand your team’s emotional state and reasons to adopt the new process.

Second, it is important to look at their behavior. It’s one thing to say we are ready to change but another to take consistent actions (like using a new CRM) that make change a reality. Outline the goals, change adoption plans and action items for each individual member of the team.

Finally, consider their technique. Are they using the correct strategies and tactics? Do they know how to use the tools available to them? Review the precall plan, ride-along and debrief sales calls to ensure they know how to execute the skills they’ve been taught.

Attitude, behavior and technique combine to form the elements of Sandler’s “success triangle.” They are your keys to pointing them toward resources like HubSpot’s CRM, unlocking the performance code for your team and generating meaningful data that connects to data-driven sales forecasts each month, each quarter and throughout the year — as opposed to hunches and best guesses.

Jim Marshall is owner, and president, of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or [email protected].

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