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Sales Forecasting Is Not A Sunday Night “Discipline”…

January 30th, 2013

It really doesn’t matter what industry you might be used to working in as a Finance professional, there always seems to be a common set of “battles” that are waged within a company. I use the term battle very loosely, but I’m really referring to the persistent collection of information by Finance so as to further our efforts and reporting capabilities.

Since there’s really not a Finance clock that dictates when I need to update my Forecast, I’ve always rolled with the timing that has been set by the Sales department. After all, the update of a Sales Forecast is their meeting and not mine. I just happen to be along for the ride. As I have always approached a Forecast, I have constantly preached the approach of being intimately involved in the business and not allowing the Forecast to be a spreadsheet exercise based on some narrowly assigned variable calculations. It needs to be based on the “beat of the street”…if you will, the heartbeat of what is actually happening. Don’t get me wrong, many times, the Forecast is a top down number that has to…or must…be achieved for the Company. However, there is the area where the two need to meet. Whether that’s in the middle of the Quarter or the end, promises have to be delivered on and results achieved.

Fast forward to the Sales Forecast meeting. I LOVE this meeting! This is where the rubber meets the road every week and you hear about all the fantastic things going on…or perhaps you don’t. For me, this is not the place to be surprised. This is the meeting, where if there is an issue, it has already been tabled in advance, and the meeting might be used to rally the troops for a solution, or in a worst case, a revision of the Forecast. I strive for not allowing the latter. I have always strived, and typically accomplished, an extremely low level of variability to a Forecast.  However, this can only be accomplished if you have good information. Information that is filtered to you on a daily basis. Information, that when constantly streaming from your Sales team, is an affirmation of the Forecast in place, or a signal to potentially make adjustments in future Quarters. With this approach in mind, forecasting is not just a Sunday night exercise for the Sales team or Finance. It’s a collaborative exercise that needs to happen daily. For me, discussing the sales pipeline is like watching my heartrate or wattage output on a training ride. It’s an indicator of whether performance is sub-par or if you’re coming in hot and need to bring in additional support.

You can’t gauge your progress with a once per week check-in. You can’t measure the discipline that is truly in place when there is only a once per week check-in. You can’t truly measure the passion of your team with a once per week check-in. This should also not be misinterpreted as extreme micro management either. At its most basic level, this is just as simple as constant communication between a Sales team and the Finance group. What’s your cadence?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

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