Why is forecasting so screwed up? You run pivot tables in Excel, try to read CRM reports, and maybe even buy a business intelligence (BI) tool.
But I bet you’re still not getting the data you need. Why? If you want a forecast you can trust, CRM data alone isn’t enough.
Your forecast misses a rep’s real source of truth: their email and calendar. Here’s what I mean: CRMs just give the basics — customer name, opportunity size, close date — but not the backstory on what reps do all day. The only thing you can swear to is that they logged in to the CRM.
If you want to really know where deals stand and be able to answer questions like, “What is my rep’s next move, and how can I help? How engaged is the customer at this point in the sales cycle?” — email and calendar data give you a front-row seat. Analysis of these data stores can tell you about the cadence of every deal, the critical meetings that have gone down, the key contracts that have flown back and forth, and — maybe most importantly — if the customer is switched on and angling to buy! You can finally answer questions like: “Which of my deals are at risk?” and “Who needs my help now?”
Forget the Sunday night forecast prep call. When you see emails with PoC results, terms of service docs, and proposals flowing between the rep and the customer, you know when you should be confident about a deal…or when it’s time to get on a plane. You learn a lot without ever asking a rep for more intel and you give them back more time to sell.
Sales doesn’t work with a “set it and forget it” approach. To make your number, you need to be able to change tactics on the fly. One VP of Sales recently told me:
"Today, the only way I can understand what my reps are doing and the progress they are making on their deals is by picking up the phone and interrogating them–and they hate that! Just looking at CRM data doesn't cut it; I always need more information. I need details about what they are doing, where they are struggling, and how I can help. CRM data doesn’t offer any insights here."
What if the Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, the sabermetrics scientist and the subject of Moneyball, only saw final game scores, not pitching stats and RBIs? How would he plan his trade strategy? He’d have no clue as to a player's value, who to bring up from the minors, or who justifies a bigger contract.
It sounds ridiculous to manage with only the final box score but that’s what it’s like when CRM’s the only data you use to run your business. If you plan to lead a data driven sales organization, you can’t ignore email and calendar systems. Your reps use them as their to-do list, conversation history, and workspace. The leading indicator performance data — of every rep, of every deal, of every customer interaction — is in email and calendar systems. It's an untapped treasure trove of insights for managers and executives.
I know what you are thinking, “What would my reps think if they knew we had visibility into their activities?" I recently spent time at a customer’s QBR in the Northwest and talked about Clari with their 50+ reps. Almost every single one of them came up to me and said, “Thank you.” For what, you ask? They no longer are forced to “bcc:” their communication into their CRM system. They don’t have to manually log events about what they did and who they met with! We're giving the reps a ton of time back to do what it is they do best: spend time with customers, not sit in front of screens.
You’re probably also wondering, “Aren’t there privacy issues here? Is it ok that I can read all the reps’ email communication?” NO, because you CAN'T. That would be super creepy. We're only collecting the activity data from the email and calendar flows (e.g. to, from, cc, subject line, date, file name, etc). You get the critical nuggets of information you need across all your deals with zero privacy concerns.
If this sounds right but you don’t know where to start, call us for a demo. You might be surprised — both by how much you learn from email and calendar activity about what reps do all day and by how reps feel when auto-capture gives them back time to do what they do best: sell!