What is Sales Forecasting?
Let’s address the reality right away: any sales forecast is only a prediction. This is certainly true with office technology dealers. Even those who put time and effort into predicting sales patterns are going to have situations where the forecast proves true and where it proves to be false. So, if a sales forecast is inherently unreliable, is forecasting even worth it? If so, what is the best way to go about it?
In the office technology channel, these predictions, or sales forecasts as they are referred to, are deemed necessary, and are, in fact, highly valuable if done well.
Aviso.com describes sales forecasting as “the process of predicting how much revenue a company, team, or person will generate within a specific time frame.” In other words, using sales data that is currently available, teams can forecast future profits, which can lead to valuable insights and result in better management and ultimately higher revenue.
The Benefits of Forecasting
Looking only a few days or weeks down the road is short sighted in business. Management should prioritize a mindset of future growth and take advantage of any tools available to project sales trajectories. The ability to accurately forecast upcoming sales and revenue is the basis for a sound business plan. “Sales forecasts help set benchmarks for future trends and allow leaders to course correct early” – Aviso
If you know the direction your business is going, you can allocate available resources the most effectively. Optimizing cash flow is easier when a sales forecast accurately provides margins. Decisions to spend, hire, invest in inventory, or conserve funds are informed by sound data.
Sales forecasting also provides managers with a way to evaluate the performance of their sales teams. This can provide the foundation for substantive evaluations and encourage employees to set realistic and achievable goals that align with sales metrics.
But what steps are copier dealerships taking to forecast completely and accurately in a timely manner?
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More Information = Better Forecasting
This fact shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: the more information that is available to inform a sales forecast, the more accurate and useful the forecast will be. Dealerships should strive to exploit all possible sources of data to inform their forecasts and develop a pipeline management strategy.
Gone are the days when a simple spreadsheet was an adequate tool to keep track of sales data. Many parameters can and should be measured, but they must be formatted in a way that supports analysis. Numbers do not mean anything until they are interpreted through the lens of optimizing your business!
What are some of the metrics that can and should be collected? A good place to start is to outline the steps of your sales process. As a sale moves through the pipeline, here are a few things to consider:
- Source of leads – Where did this opportunity come from? Customer referral? A service technician? Something else? This data can help sales and marketing find and press your most effective sources for more sales.
- The ongoing status of each lead – What actions have been taken? Is this lead being worked on, is it a closed sale? A simple set of Lead Statuses can help clarify how far along opportunities are, and completed statuses like Lost, Sale and Discarded can help bin these completed opportunities for data analysis.
- Expected deal closure dates – Just as the name suggests, when does the sales rep think this opportunity will result in a closed deal?
- Competitive equipment information – What sort of equipment are we, as a company, trying to displace? Knowing the competition can help the sales team recommend the best replacement solution.
- Potential revenue and gross profit value – How much does the company and sales rep stand to make if this lead results in a closed deal?
- Probability of success for each individual sale – Quantifying a probability that each lead will result in a closed deal is an extremely useful metric for understanding your forecast vs your pipeline as well as helping to bring the most likely to close opportunities into focus.
The SalesChain platform is designed specifically for the office technology industry and provides simple, intuitive ways to record and track all the above details and more!
More Information = Better Reports
Having a central system of data as well as the tools to process that data supports the ability to generate quality forecasting reports in a timely manner. SalesChain provides high quality forecasting tools which can generate accurate and complete reports of what sales representatives are pricing in the system. Monetary values of leads, proposals and orders are automatically aggregated into a comprehensive forecasting report, based on the expected close date. These reports are searchable by a large number of categories, to help filter large data sets down to manageable sizes for analysis by all users.
Better Reports = Targeted Action
Using tools that gather data on every deal in a central location is essential for forecasting and financial reporting. Here at SalesChain we often say that quality data is actionable data! SalesChain’s forecasting and business intelligence tools aim not only to display useful financial and pipeline information but also to let users act on it.
- Easily insert notes and tasks in bulk into accounts associated with deals.
- Assign those tasks to the proper sales representative.
- Perform a search for deals lost in the last 30 days and assign a follow up task.
- Set calendar and email reminders for competitive equipment lease expirations.
- Create custom dashboards, to lay out forecast data in a readily accessible format.
- Easily cross reference and compare sales representative’s activity, leasing activity, and service activity.
- Generate detailed audit reports to inform team meetings and management decisions.
Dealers Are Doing All of the Above When They Forecast with SalesChain
Businesses need to manage revenue by managing sales data. Forecasting is the tool that makes this possible and SalesChain has an outstanding tool designed by experts specifically for the office technology industry. It offers eight different forecasting screens that users can choose from, to fine tune their view of the order pipeline and generate precise financial predictions based on quality data. “The ability to forecast sales (accurately) is pivotal in enabling a company’s leadership to future-proof its strategic vision and run its day-to-day operations effectively.” – Aviso