Sales Team Forcasting - Hit or Miss?

by Eileen Nonemaker

Eileenís long, successful career in sales and sales management makes her an easy choice for those leaders and managers who are responsible for generating revenue and achieving corporate goals and have no time to waste getting there. Clients appreciate her ability to help them quickly select, assess, train and develop their sales teams whether they are selling products or services. New teams get brought up to speed quickly and experienced teams develop what is necessary to perform at the next level. Through goal setting, skill refinement and the development of accurate forecasting skills, she has helped both individuals and teams develop strong success strategies. Utilizing her formal training as a business coach and consultant to supplement her natural ability to connect with people, Eileen gains the trust and respect needed to interact with both leadership and team members. When coaching individual clients, Eileen becomes a 'lady on a mission' to help them succeed. Eileen is able to help them stay focused on their objectives and establish goals that take them to that next level in their personal and/or business lives. Her coaching typically involves teaching people how to set measurable goals, how to look at goals objectively and how to re-evaluate them periodically to stay on track. Eileenís goal as a coach is to help her clients find the right balance between career and family so they have the best of both worlds.

One of the most difficult and tricky skills to teach sales people is revenue forecasting. Business owners and managers rely on these numbers for planning, spending, growth and compensation, etc.

When forecasting is too low, we may hold back on expansion plans or purchases that would help the organization and take it to the next level. When forecasting is too high, we may spend more that we should, finding cash flow and AP issues down the road.

Every business is different, some are seasonal, some have monthly repeat business - as in publishing - and others forecast on annual revenues, the most difficult of all. Having had sales management experience in all three, I have summarized the skills of my best sales "forecasting" team members, as follows:

  • Excellent time management skills - They are able to focus their energies on what is needed today, but they can also see the big picture and work months in advance. They are able to keep the sales funnel full, with an ongoing, accurate evaluation of sales probabilities.
  • Excellent customer service skills - They know how to keep in touch with clients to discuss future business opportunities and stay in touch on an ongoing basis to find out what may have changed since last contact. They know how to ask the probing, yet open ended questions that can make the difference between assuming revenue, when it will never be there, as well offering creative opportunities that can increase revenue.
  • A great sense of reality - These folks don't kid themselves. They read clients well; know when to walk away from time wasters and when to hang in there. They know the difference between what revenue they "want" to generate and what "can be" generated. There are no rose colored glasses on these folks.

It is great when one can hire sales associates who come with all of these skills, but that is not always the case. The good news is that these are skills that can be learned and although it may take some time and patience, the rewards are immeasurable.