Eight tips for improving sales forecasting

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Date: 15 September 2021

Aman updates his sales forecast on a tablet device

A key part of successful business management is sales forecasting. It's important to set goals, create cash flow projections, encourage sales teams, practice good resource management, make informed hiring decisions, and craft strategies for growing revenue. 

Importance of accuracy in sales forecasting 

Enhancing the accuracy of sales projections translates to better sales, which results in overall profits for the company. Managers get a better insight into what works and what doesn't in their organisation and can make data-driven decisions. In addition, accurate forecasting reports offer data that helps recognise new opportunities to boost reputation and revenue.

Do you need help to increase the accuracy of your sales forecasting? Then, read these helpful tips. 

1. Keep tabs on your sales forecast 

Spotting potential problems early and making corrections before things get out of hand is possible through monthly or quarterly sales forecast reviews. Sales leaders need to create a system for managing, re-evaluating, and adjusting according to varying conditions. 

Even if your actual sales don't match your forecast, you must attempt to make sense of the disparities. For example, the underlying cause of falling short or exceeding projected revenues might be due to shifts in the competitive landscape, production delays, or a complex tech stack that is slowing your sales team. 

Bring your team together to discuss and brainstorm the reasons for negative or positive variations. It will help to gain clarity for future sales forecasting. Also, timely corrections will be possible. 

2. Use the right tools and software for simplifying the forecasting process 

Most managers and business owners make the mistake of thinking sales forecasting has to be a complicated process involving intricate calculations. However, you don't need an expert statistician's services to produce definitive results.

Modern businesses can make use of apps and software to produce detailed sales forecasting reports quickly and easily. They simply require someone to track the progress of the projections and data.

Using automated forecasting software and utilising sales forecast examples and templates can result in accurate predictions. Moreover, it eliminates human error by automating the forecasting process. There's no room for spreadsheet manipulation. Sales forecast templates can even help identify gaps in your pipeline, and you can customise them to suit the needs of your sales team.

3. Implement a consistent sales forecasting method 

Accuracy in sales forecasting comes with attention, consistency, and time. Broadly, there are qualitative and quantitative methods of sales forecasting. For example, suppose your forecasting is based on historical data (qualitative forecasting method), but you would prefer changing the method to consider the latest pipeline opportunities. In that case, you may change it to the pipeline forecasting method.

Trying various forecasting methods might be worthwhile if you haven't found the one that works best for your company. However, it is also worth noting that changing the method means you're establishing a new baseline, and it might take a while to see new patterns emerging. 

4. Stay alert of false alarms 

Shifts in the marketplace, economic fluctuations, and seasonal highs and lows create short-term false alarms. While keeping an eye on short-term shifts is crucial, don't forget the big picture. Remember, your reports might contain inaccurate data or flaws in your assessment of data. 

So, if you see a large variance from your projections in your quarterly reports, keep calm. Before alerting your team, do your due diligence. There's no need to spread panic due to false alarms. 

5. Avoid unrealistic figures

Business owners having unrealistic expectations is not uncommon. Even though many prefer to remain calm and optimistic outlook in the face of adversity, it's important to understand the company's limits in terms of capabilities, resources, and follow-through records. The possibility of overspending in the future is likely if sales data is inflated due to unrealistically high demand predictions. 

6. Collaborate and get everyone involved 

Sales forecasting is not a one-person job. It's not the sole responsibility of your marketing and sales team. New marketing strategies, employee onboarding and personnel shifts, product innovations, revised buying methods, new industry regulations, and competitive landscape changes impact sales projections. Get company-wide input to ensure all foreseeable variables are considered. What's more, every department in your company takes an active role in meeting the set goals. 

7. Consider past sales data (if possible)

Do you have sales data from the previous year? If so, use it. When drafting a new sales projection, sales numbers from last year makes for a great starting point. Use past sales data as a base and list the factors that could augment sales in the coming year. For instance, are there new market opportunities or new trends relevant to your offerings? If yes, you can boost your sales forecast accordingly. 

Similarly, don't forget to list the factors that could reduce your sales. For example, are there any upcoming regulation changes or new competition in your niche? If so, decrease your sales projection accordingly.

8. Pay attention to demand, not just supply

Don't singularly focus on product supply when it comes to drafting sales projections. Instead, pay attention to the product or service demand. It will provide accurate inventory, and you can prevent an excess or shortage of inventory - saving you money in the long run.

For instance, every month, you provide 300 computers. But, the data shows there will be a demand for 400 computers next month. So, by forecasting in advance, you'll have ample time to order more computers and meet the demand. 

Wrapping up

Accurate sales forecasting starts with your sales process and pipeline. Invest time and effort in understanding each step of the forecasting process and every stage of your pipeline. Make sure you only consider real prospects and data, ask the right questions during team meetings, and don't base your projections on guesswork. 

Last but not least, there isn't any crystal ball to guide you. However, following the tips mentioned above can help you to improve the accuracy of your sales forecast. In addition, by engaging your teams across the company and committing to a realistic approach, you'll set up your team for success. 

Copyright 2021. Article was made possible by site supporter Julie, Gong

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