I've been in sales for 16 years, but out of all of those years, only a few times was I required to call a number in a forecast cadence.
Of course, I had quotas to hit. Of course, we would talk about deals often—where I was going to land and what I was going to close, but typically my manager or VP would be the one taking information from the field to put into a spreadsheet, on which some "magic math" would be performed and a number pushed up to the CFO and the board.
Since I interact with a variety of sales teams every day at Clari, I'm constantly surprised that upwards of 40-50% of the teams I speak with use a similar process to most of my previous jobs.
The sales managers and/or VPs are calling all of the numbers based on ad-hoc discussions with reps in the field followed by their own upper-level meetings where they hedge bets. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that process (aside from the time waste of managers chasing pipeline data), it is my belief that when a rep has to manually call a number that she believes she will deliver, the accountability factor shifts and something magic actually does happen.
Shared Accountability Drives Results
When only sales managers and up are calling a number, the concept of a commit, best case, or any forecast category can easily become window dressing to make a deal fit into a state that the rep feels it should be in to look good for management.
If all I have to do is click a button to mark a deal committed and my Managers and VPs have to figure out how to roll it up, the ultimate ownership of getting that committed deal across the line by end of quarter falls on my manager in a way. When management and sales operations spend hours upon hours each week to sift through spreadsheets and reports of what is committed/best case/long shot and rely on anecdotes to determine what's real, it's hard to hold the reps accountable to that number and even harder to call an accurate forecast since there is so much opacity and so little hard data on which to bolster a reliable call.
It's Not More Work for Your Reps—I Promise
At Clari, the field calls 2 numbers each week (hard commit and upside) and the deals that comprise the number are automatically rolled up for all to see. This process takes about 5 minutes, maybe 10 if there is a lot of deal movement in a given week.
Most companies I've spoken to who don't have reps forecasting are worried about adding another task onto the reps' plate, but I would argue that this is the single most important task a rep should be responsible for. When individuals manually call a number, there tends to be significantly more inspection and granular focus on the veracity of individual deals from the field level. We take off the rose-tinted glasses and see the deals for what they REALLY are once we put a hard commit number on them. Management can now operate with a much tighter base-level forecast and make educated and informed adjustments from there.
But It Needs to Be Easy, Fast, and Transparent
Spreadsheets aren't going to cut it, no matter how exotic your operations team's Excel chops are. The data are stale, there is no visibility into actual deal health, and it takes hours upon hours to roll up and clean up the team forecasts. What about deals that disappear? Where did they go? Who do we have to ask? Why are we navigating 3 different systems and having multiple conversations to find the truth? Why do forecast calls run for hours?
When you invest in an end-to-end platform like Clari, providing simplicity, ease of use, and standardized visibility across the sales org, there is nothing stopping you from empowering your reps to be CEOs of their territories and calling their number. When the entire team from rep to CFO is talking about forecasting in the same language and baselining on the same data, it becomes much easier to have strategic discussions around deal health, progress, and specific actions to take to move deals forward predictably.
But Where to Start?
If you aren't having your reps call and OWN an individual number, you aren't holding them accountable for bringing in the deals they need to in order for the company to hit goals. A forecast category is not the same as a forecast call. Perhaps it's human nature, but if your reps are not calling a number, it's like having them turn in a critical exam without their name written on it.
The good news is that the Clari team can help you design and implement a process that works for your team, and we'll be there for you every step of the way to share best practices from working with the top-performing customers we're fortunate to partner with.