Is Your Sales Forecast Giving You A False Sense of Security?
How many people in your sales department would enthusiastically endorse your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system? When I talk with CEOs and Vice Presidents of Sales I rarely hear “enthusiasm” in their voice or see it in their face when discussing their CRM system. Instead, I see a resigned look of frustration. Or worse, a false sense of security (“You should see the charts and reports I can produce!”). It gets worse when you talk with sales managers and sales people, the people who actually need to enter the data and keep all the information up to date.
CRMs are part of the landscape and are key to driving accurate sales forecasts. And when properly implemented, rolled out, modified based on field input, and managed on a continual basis, CRMs can be powerfully useful. We have clients who have come close to this type of installation. Two of our clients that utilize Salesforce.com immediately come to mind. We also have a client with a Membrain installation and another client with a GetBase.com installation that come close. We use GetBase.com for our sales team, in part because we love the simplicity of the design and its similarity to our preferred project management tool, Asana.
However, these are the exceptions! We more commonly see examples of failed CRM installations. Let’s be specific. To us signs of a failed CRM installation include:
Inconsistent and incomplete data
Unclear process (no definition of milestones in the sales process)
Old, out-of-date data
Overly optimistic data
Opportunities consistently languish in the pipeline (no movement or very slow movement)
Opportunities that should be eliminated are kept in the pipeline/forecast
Limited clarity around next steps and customer commitments
A false sense of security among the leadership team (followed by “surprise” shortfalls)
And while there are many other signs to list, this should give you a general sense of what to watch for at your company when reviewing sales reports from your CRM.
During your next leadership meeting make the decision that 2015 will be the year that you can actually trust your sales forecast. Review the checklist above as a starting point, then go further to discuss specific issues and challenges you see in your company’s use of sales forecasts and your CRM. You should also have your sales managers facilitate a discussion at their next sales meeting to identify the most common reasons for sales that were projected to close falling apart and not occurring. The output from that discussion will provide a great framework for on-going coaching topics as you move forward.