“At the end of the day, I have to give a number. And it’s not one number: it’s made up of my regions and goes down to the reps.”
I heard this straight from the VP of Sales Ops at a Fortune 500 customer at EXCEED, during a session on the importance of sales forecasting. He dispelled two common sales forecasting myths: that the sales forecast consists of a single number, and that sales forecasting is the job of senior management. Executives can — and should — reinforce the importance of a good forecast, but a successful sales forecast process can’t come entirely from the top down. It has to start from the bottom up.
So how do you get your reps to care about the sales forecast?
Why The Forecast Matters For Reps
First, reps may not understand the full impact of your sales forecast and why it matters. Sales forecasting is like a complex game of Tetris; each piece has to fit into the puzzle, and they may not come together immediately. When those pieces are individual deals, reps are closest to the action.
1. Education & Training
Senior management can help break down that knowledge gap. Many of our customers said the commitment to forecasting began with their executive teams, who explained to sales how the forecast would project headcount, operational expenses, resource planning, product development… the list goes on. I couldn’t agree more: when you create that culture from the top down, reps start to see how everything comes together — and how it all comes down to their opportunity rollups. If your reps become invested in the forecast and see it as a source of personal and professional pride, as another EXCEED attendee mentioned, they’ll work harder to keep their commitments.
Another strategy is an age-old truth: money talks. Some organizations tie their reps’ forecast commitments to their compensation. Specifics vary, but these bonus structures depend on where reps ended their quarters in comparison to what they had committed. This strategy may result in an initial adjustment period — and some pushback from reps at first. But those who have implemented these strategies said that as reps adjusted, the incentives motivated the reps and highlighted the importance of forecasting accurately from day one of the quarter.
3. Common Language
If all your reps are looking at different spreadsheets or using different terms to describe their deals, your sales forecast will be dead in the water. If you can get everyone onto a single sales forecasting platform, with a shared, common language, you are much more likely to succeed. Uniting everyone through technology also unites them toward the common goal: hitting quota.
We all know that sales forecasting is hard — and not a job that anyone can do alone. Your reps’ contributions and investment in the sales forecast will drastically increase its accuracy. Investing in the forecast and celebrating team wins will build a culture of both motivation and accountability. To continue the conversation about sales forecasting and sales operations best practices, join the EXCEED LinkedIn community.