The Big Lie about Forecasting

The Big Lie about Forecasting

I was with a customer last week that is using CRM for “accurate forecasting.”  Let me say, before I go any further, that I believe that CRM can help with forecasting.  In fact I believe it can “greatly improve” forecasting.  However, I do not believe there is any such thing as “accurate forecasting.”  Let me explain:

First, for those of you who know me, I believe words mean things.  Therefore , my first approach to understanding is to look up definitions.  So a simple Google search for the definition of the word “Accurate,” and you receive the following:

ac·cu·rate

/ˈakyərit/

1. (of information, measurements, statistics, etc.) correct in all details; exact.

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Using CRM to Eliminate the Dreaded Forecasting Meeting

It’s that time of year.  It probably should have happened last month, or even two months ago, but your company, like all the others has been postponing the dreaded annual forecasting meeting.  If you operate on a calendar budget, there have been meetings scheduled and canceled and rescheduled and canceled and now rescheduled again with the red exclamation mark next to them for the meeting that must happen.  2013 Forecast and Budget Planning (horror music playing in the background).

  It’s the meeting where most commonly the senior finance staff generated a number the company has to hit next year to keep everyone employed and the stakeholders or owners happy.  Now, sales must lock themselves in a room and figure out how they are going to achieve this number.  Is that as backwards as it sounds?  Indeed it is.


What typically happens is senior finance staff looks at sales reports (post sale data) from previous years, adds an arbitrary percentage increase and then says, find it.  “We don’t care where, we don’t care how, find it.”  Aligning that arbitrary increase to top performing accounts makes the budgeting process for the next year more efficient, but rarely is it accurate.  Is there a way to eliminate this senseless charade?  There is.


Use your CRM to demonstrate what would be required in time and resources to achieve the stated increase in new accounts and increased sales on existing accounts.  With CRM you will have pre-sale data that conveys actual effort to closed sales.  How long is a sales cycle? How many sales have to be in the pipeline, by when, to achieve the magic number that has been provided? Is it even possible? If not, what is required to make it possible? How many new product presentations were given to existing customers last year to drive increased sales? How many more will be required to achieve the new target? Has that number of new products been scheduled for creation and distribution? How many incoming leads were created last year through marketing efforts? How many of those leads generated new accounts and orders?  How many will be required to achieve the new target?


Locking sales management in a room with an arbitrary sales percentage increase and asking them to put their heads on the butcher block for their share of that number is NOT logical forecasting.  Use CRM software to measure pre-sale activity and base sales growth on the resources required to support that growth.  Everyone wants to succeed. Everyone in the company wants to increase sales.  With pre-sale reporting provided by CRM software everyone in the company can align resources to the new sales targets and everyone can work together to achieve success!

CRM Software Selection – Which Product Do I Choose?

I have read that visual learners represent 65% of the population.  I believe myself to be one of them.  I process information much faster when I can read it myself or better yet read and view associated graphics.  I imagine that this attraction to visual stimuli extends to many areas including my fashion choices, my home décor choices, the car I drive and the type of technology I use.  I’ll admit, I have to like what I see.  I won’t dig deeper to learn more if the criteria for my initial visual assessment (which we mostly make up as we go along) isn’t met.  Apparently 65% of the population is the same way. That means a lot of us make product selections this way, whether we realize it or not.

So, when choosing a CRM software are we drawn to the one that has the most visual sizzle at the time we are reviewing product demo’s?  If we are using our default product selection criteria, whether we realize it or not, we probably are.  Remember that with most things in the world of technology, sizzle is mobile.  What was most visually appealing today could be outdated or even obsolete tomorrow.  In making this very important long term software selection decision for your organization, the visual learners on the decision making team need to leave that inherent trait in their office when they come to a demonstration.  It’s not about which solution has the most sizzle, it’s about which one meets your organization’s needs.

How then, do we assess organizational needs for CRM software alignment?  It’s about process and culture.  It is necessary to align your organizational processes and culture with your technology and to select a CRM solution that provides that ability.  The technology itself represents the smallest part of the decision making process for a successful CRM implementation. 

Ultimately most CRM software provide sales, marketing and service modules. Typically the “out of the box” solution will meet about 75-80% of your needs.  It is the balance of that alignment that becomes critical to a successful implementation.  It is imperative to align yourself with a CRM business partner that can not only develop the solution to meet all of your organizational needs but that provides a strategy for managing user adoption.  A CRM business partner will work with you in achieving the result you had for implementing CRM software, not just sell you licenses to a CRM software.

Ultimately, it’s not about the product that you choose.  It’s about the CRM Business Partner that you choose.  If you implement CRM correctly, the partner you select will still be working with you many years from now and will understand your business as intimately as you click on this link do.  Choose wisely.  

Your Invitation to the Customer Relationship Management Party!

If there’s one thing that’s true about CRM, it’s that it’s a collaboration of people.  It’s about sharing information and having visibility to the contribution that others are making.  In many ways it’s about community.

   It’s a forum for like minded people (your co-workers) to communicate and work together toward a common goal.  It’s about having a single location for all customer facing information….a location that everyone needs to know about and frequent regularly!  Following is a series of articles inviting you to learn more about how CRM software may impact your organization on both a strategic and tactical level.  Consider it an invitation to achieving the level of understanding about CRM that will make it worth celebrating!  Join the party!

 

Why:

CRM Enablement to a Better Night’s Rest
CRM is Better Than Water Cooler Chit Chat

When:

Culture Part I– The Top Down Directive
Culture Part II – The CRM Champions
CRM Implementation – Part I – Process Evaluation
CRM Implementation – Part II – Automation

Who:

Be a Miraculous Marketer
Using CRM to Prioritize Contacts, Leads, Prospects and Customers! More Importantly….Know the Difference!

Where:

CRM is NOT homework!
CRM Software Reporting – Hang Your Report Card on the Refrigerator!

RSVP:

Choosing a CRM Business Partner
Resolv – What We Believe


Thank you for joining me and please visit our seminars webpage and register for an upcoming seminar or webinar.  Check back on this page periodically to see future blogs and articles pertaining to user focused CRM.  The invitation to this party is a standing invitation, and one that you are free to forward to anyone who you feel might like to learn more about what CRM could mean for their company.

Kym Riedel

Resolv, Inc

bactrimsale.com

CRM Software Reporting – Hang Your Report Card on the Refrigerator!

I may be dating myself, but I remember the days when meeting with a client meant a long lunch and talking about family and vacations.  Your rapport with that client was their number one reason for choosing to do business with you going forward.  Yes, there was the occasional problem, and when that occurred, you created a plan to fix the problem and you explained how and why that problem wouldn’t happen again.  You left most meetings feeling good, and with a good understanding of where you stood with that buyer or decision maker based on your relationship with them.  It was that easy.

  If they liked you and trusted you, you were relatively competitive in your respective industry; the likelihood of losing market share to a competitor was pretty slim.  Loyalty was the most important factor in a business relationship.

Rapport and loyalty still remain major factors, however the criteria that buyers and decision makers use to make purchase decisions has become a little less subjective over the last decade and will become even less subjective in the future.  After all, business is business and knowledge is power.  I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t meet your buyer for lunch, or that you shouldn’t know the name of their children or where they plan on going for vacation this summer.  Bonding will always be critical.  However, every bit as critical are quantifiable success factors.

Those quantifiable success factors are now captured in vendor report cards.  Sometimes buyers will produce that document based on their criteria from their information, or sometimes they want you to produce that document, based on their criteria but with your information.  If they are the ones producing the document, the last thing you would ever want is to be surprised by the contents!  It is essential to be aware of your critical success factors with each key account such as turns and gross margin, whether sales are up or down on each product, what promotions were successful and why,  how co-op marketing dollars have been allocated and the success of the related marketing campaigns.  If you’re not utilizing vendor report cards with your key accounts, you should be!

 
It is imperative that you can demonstrate to your clients where the strengths and weaknesses in your business relationship are.  Provide clients with a snap shot of your business relationship as detailed above and include a summary about past visits.  Detail future planned visits as well as future product launches and promotions.  Provide them with the complete picture so they are not only basing their future purchase decisions from the tried and true foundation of trust, but from the safe and comfortable foundation of confidence in your knowledge, ability and professional skills.

 A Customer Relationship Management software, when integrated with a back office system provides you the tool you need to create that complete quantifiable picture.  The combined information of the quantifiable success factors of a business relationship with the sales, marketing and service aspects create a very powerful tool that when used wisely can set you apart from your competition.  Make the commitment to create a report card that you page could ask your client to hang on their refrigerator!

Kym Riedel

Resolv, Inc.

Forecasting: business management tool, or colossal time waster?

As I consult with companies on forecasting and improving forecasting I am amazed by the complex formulas and difficulty that many organizations add into their forecasting methods. This led me to create a webinar series titled “4 ½ Keys to Improving Forecasting.”

While this post will not completely restate what an hour-long webinar will, I am compelled to write it for those that want a quick glimpse into the world of forecasting. There are several types of forecasting (revenue forecasting, sales revenue forecasting, product forecasting, demand forecasting, etc.) and several methods of forecasting (annual client analysis, quota/sales target, quote extrapolation, opportunity pipeline, and historic); however, this article mainly deals with revenue and sales revenue forecasting. SalesVantage.com has a great article on the types of forecasting and the key to accurate sales forecasting.

Let me start by stating my three basic principles on forecasting:

Principle #1: Don’t let perfect get in the way of better.

      Since forecasting is not an exact science, there is not way to have a perfect forecast. The best you can hope for is a better forecast. The key is to constantly improve on your forecast. A great way to do this is to review your forecast data on a regular basis (I recommend monthly) and review areas where your forecast diverges from actual sales data.

Keep in mind, improving forecasting does not happen overnight. A good forecasting methodology takes months of tweaking to stabilize, and will require a lifetime of tweaking as factors like industry trends, product mix, government regulation, and economy change.

Principle #2: Keep it simple.

        While no one forecasting methodology will work for all businesses, I recommend combining data from at least two sources. Since most companies have access to their historic sales, this should be one of the sources, but keep in mind historic sales do not take into account new products and services and how they will affect future sales. The other source I recommend is the sales opportunity pipeline. An enterprise CRM system like 

SalesLogix

         

or 

    SugarCRM

       can be a big help in this area.

        However, whatever you choose, keep it simple! The forecasting process doesn’t have to be a hyper-complicated process that involves complex mathematical equations and hours of man-hours each month. Keep in mind that most business are not that sophisticated and don’t usually have statisticians on staff.

        Any professional sales person knows that their time is their most valuable asset and you don’t want to implement a process that requires hours a day to keep up-to-date. Your process to manage opportunities and forecasts should be simple and reproducible. You should expect to see similar results from all sales people and you should be able to repeat it over and over again.
        If the process is not unbelievably simple for the major contributors to the data, your forecast numbers will be suspect at best.

        Principle #3: Numbers Lie

            Just because you have a system for tracking opportunities, whether a spreadsheet or a contact management system of some sort, and just because each opportunity has a sales potential number with a probability does not mean that you have a forecast.

        Without common definitions and without constant end-user education your forecast results will vary greatly from salesperson to salesperson. Everyone doing their own thing with different beliefs of what an opportunity is and what makes an opportunity have a 75% chance of closing will drive any forecaster insane! Without education, consistency of action and understanding of definitions across the organization you will end up with is a bunch of numbers, not a forecast.

        Even after you have perfected the process your numbers will be inexact. The trick is knowing where they are wrong and using the forecast to draw a picture of how your business is performing.

        The biggest take-away I hope you would get from this post is that forecasting is not like a Ronco oven. You cannot set it and forget it. Maybe I should have made this the first principle, because it is that important: forecasting is NOT as set it and forget it strategy for businesses! Forecasting is the driving factor providing you with information to make intelligent business decisions. Without it businesses have difficulties in managing inventory, cash flow and planning for growth.

        The good news is that this is an area in which CRM software implementation, along with a solid customer-centric business strategy can be of great use.

        Luke Russell 

        Resolv, Inc.

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