In our quest to help you become the best account manager you can be, so far we have covered the following, which can be found by clicking on the link:
Now we move on to Section 3 – How to forecast!!
Forecasting is absolutely vital to your success. WHY?
There are a number of stakeholders involved, including yourself, so plenty rests on accurate forecasting. If you can imagine, if a Sales floor relies on 90 sales people and each of them are off their forecast, this will effect the sales manager’s forecast, the sales director’s forecast, the VP’s forecast… you get the picture!
THE MENTAL SIDE AND THE PROCESS SIDE OF FORECASTING
From my experience, there are 2 sides to this skill.
The process side and the mental side.
The process relates to how you go about doing the actual forecast, how your score it, how you measure it, how you qualify it etc. The Mental side is a whole different ball game. It refers to fear and honesty and what you want to believe is real or not.
The Mental Side
As sales people we all want to be successful. This begins from the call, to the pitch, to the forecast and ultimately, the results. In my opinion there are 3 hurdles to overcome from the mental side of forecasting.
- The FIRST is to be honest to yourself. So many sales people know that an opportunity is not going to come in, or know that it is high risk yet still commit to the deal. You must be honest to yourself rather than use it as leverage for your ego, for buying some time or to make the numbers look good.
- SECONDLY do not be afraid of forecasting or afraid of asking your client difficult & uncomfortable questions. It is not a magic formula, an accurate science or a crystal ball. You simply need to learn the best process that works for you and use it. But do ask uncomfortable questions so you get a true picture of your deal. BUILD RAPPORT with your contacts and keep the conversations alive all the way through the process. Things can change overnight.
- THIRDLY, deliver news early. If you know there is a high risk or you have actually lost or slipped a deal, deliver this news to your superior as early as possible. The worst thing a sales leader needs is the last minute news when little can be done, especially when the news could have been delivered earlier.
The Process Side
There are many methods for forecasting. You should work with your sales leader to adopt a methodology that you can all use so as to have consistency all the way through the “forecasting chain”.
These methods range from qualitative approaches such as intuition and verbal conversation through to more sophisticated and accurate quantitative methods such as, S.C.O.T.S.M.A.N OR MILLER HEIMAN or even historical & time-based methods.
However, there are always basics and information which you will need to be accurate in your forecast. This would include but not be limited to the following:
- What is the opportunity, solution or need and what is it about?
- Who are you up against?
- How do you stack up against the solution required?
- How do you stack up against the competition?
- Are you speaking to all the stakeholders?
- What is commonly known as BIDS – buyers, influencers and decision makers?
- What are the risks?
- Where is my solution for you today Mr client?
- This is a continual conversation
- What is the next action needed?
- Is there sign off and authorisation for the project?
- What are the consequences of the project not going ahead?
- What is the “CHRISTMAS EVE”?
- IE: in terms of timelines, Christmas eve is the “compelling timeline” for buying Christmas presents. What is the “Christmas eve” for the project?
The art of conversation, rapport and consistent communication is vital to the ability to forecast and hopefully win your opportunity.
QUALIFY IN/QUALIFY OUT
However, forecasting is not just about winning deals. It is also a great way to “QUALIFY OUT” and save you time, energy and resources.
When I first started out in recruitment, after 9 weeks of the process I received an offer for my candidate. However, due to my “mental side” not being good enough, and just hearing what I wanted to hear, I missed the “authority sign off”. Had I qualified it early in the conversation I would have saved 9 weeks. Now, I “QUALIFY IN OR QUALIFY OUT” very early in the process and this is absolutely key to forecasting and my allocation of time.
In my opinion, the emotional side of forecasting is much more difficult than the process side. You can easily learn, develop and execute on the process side. It does not mean you will win everything but you will have so much more clarity.
The area you need to become exceptional at is the emotional & mental side of forecasting. Asking uncomfortable questions, being honest to yourself, delivering good or bad news early and always being in touch with the BID’s.