Bankable Forecast

Time for a Bankable Forecast

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We’re quickly approaching the end of Q2 and the midpoint of the year. Obviously your forecast is probably front and center now as you start to get an accurate view of what your 2019 revenue will be.

Or are you still unsure of what this year will hold? No matter what your sales cycle time is, you can (and should) have a “bankable forecast.” What we are talking about is forecast accuracy. Do you trust your current forecast? Many of the CRO’s we talk to do not trust what their sales team report on the forecast. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. If your forecast is unreliable today, you are missing one important piece - accountability.

Accountability in the forecast comes down to using a system for determining how qualified a prospect truly is. Our system incorporates four elements from our 5 M’s Process. Salespeople in our system have to identify, through the prospect’s words, their Motivation, Money, Methodology and Market for our solution. We call these items the Four Aces. Once your salesperson has the Four Aces qualified, you have a qualified prospect worthy of a projected closing date on the forecast.

Here are the Four Aces defined:

Motivation - your Differentiating Value (DV) has traction in the prospect’s world motivating them to learn more about your solution

Money - delivering a strong DV to the emotional decision maker with compelling consequences will lessen (eliminate) their objection to your cost

Methodology - understanding how the prospect’s company makes decisions, including their methodology, priorities, and the relative weight of those priorities

Market - there is competition in almost every deal so your salespeople need to know how well your DV fits with the prospect’s objectives and if their is another solution that is a potentially better fit

Incorporating the Four Aces into your forecasting process will instantly bring accountability into the sales team. A fully-forecasted deal has to have these criteria qualified through the prospect’s words (not the salesperson’s speculation). We’ve seen this transformation first hand - it does not take long. There is still time to impact your 2019 revenue by implementing a bankable forecast today.

The End-of-Year Race

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The annual end-of-year race is about to commence right after Labor Day.  The finish line resides somewhere within the holiday season.  This period represents the closing of the revenue year and will determine success (or something short of that).

The importance of this time period is clear.  Do you have all of your tools aligned to make the final revenue push?  If we may be so bold, here are a trio of recommendations for all CROs heading into the race.

Bankable Forecast - this is the most important aspect of the race. Can you take your forecast to the bank?  If not, you need your team to perform a real-world purge of the forecast for the remainder of the year.  You must know what is closing in the time period to make the right adjustments to your game plan.

Bench Strength - your team may be facing some unexpected turnover.  The economy is roaring and salespeople are confident in finding new opportunities.  When is a popular time to make a change?  Many salespeople will make a move right before the holiday season to leverage time off with family and friends.  Others will wait until early in Q1 to cash in their variable compensation (commissions, bonuses, etc.).  Either way, you need to have a plan for building a strong bench in case turnover occurs in your team.

Results-Driven Incentive Plans - next year's compensation plans will be on your list during the race.  You have to recognize effort and reward results with a plan that drives the behaviors you need in each role.  The mix of salary, commission, bonuses, spiffs and more needs to be designed for a Jan. 1 launch date.

Clearly, there are other topics for all CROs this time of year, but these 3 tasks will cover a good portion of your 2019 foundation.  If you need help on any of these topics, we are here to help.

4 Steps to a Bankable Forecast

Forecasts are a true management challenge for almost every Chief Revenue Officer.

One reason is that salespeople know that their lives are more enjoyable when the forecast dollars are increasing…whether that is an accurate forecast or not.  This deceptive approach creates forecast bloat.  This bloat can be a actual loss to manufacturing companies that build their products based on the sales department’s forecast.

So how to fix this issue?  I provide 4 steps that will transform your data into a bankable forecast in this classic article in Upsize Magazine.  Briefly, the 4 steps:

1. Define what CAN go on the forecast.
2. Build an audit trail.
3. Use an up or out model.
4. Give Incentives for forecast accuracy.

Each of the 4 items is built out in more detail within the article.  As they say, I recommend you read the entire thing.

How To Keep Your Forecast On Track

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Everybody wants a sure thing. They want to kick back and let the money roll in.

But sure as Lucy is going to pull that football away when Charlie Brown comes running, your “prospects” are going to come back with reasons not to buy your product or service. It’s time to put an end to that.

If you’re experiencing fluctuating quarterly revenues, your business may have landed itself a seat on the revenue rollercoaster. Structure is your key to success here. You know that well-run production boils down to thoroughly developed and managed systems; it works the same way with revenue. Accurately predict and generate revenue by operating under the four interrelated core processes that constitute a complete revenue system.

But before we discuss the four core processes, let’s clear the air on prospects…

It’s great when your sales team envisions endless prospects as they gaze upon the world of business. Don’t ever let them lose that sense of the market being theirs to win. But help them keep their feet on the ground while they’re reaching upward. There are ways to identify a lead as a true prospect, or a potential waste of time. Your salespeople should be shaking the money trees, not chasing down tumbleweeds.  Teach them to focus on the Differentiating Value that your offering brings, and to also ask Critical Qualifying Questions (CQQs) to uncover problems, frustrations, gaps, losses, and challenges that the potential prospect is experiencing.

Once you’ve got your people going after the true prospects, set them up to lock in realistic sales forecasts. Here’s a quick rundown of the four interrelated core processes:

5 M’s Sales Process:  Message, Motivation, Money, Methodology and Market

It’s likely that you already give major consideration to the power behind these words. When all five are achieved, you have the foundation for an objective, measurable sales process. Put them to work for you based on your business today – not hypothetical models.

Bankable Forecast Process: Build your forecast objectively, rather than as a conglomeration of the unique forecasts created by your reps, using the four qualifying elements of the 5Ms above: Motivation, Money, Methodology and Market. These are called the Four Aces, and should be incorporated into your forecast math. If your selling system is well defined and connected to a direct audit trail, you will be able to extract the objective data to report and determine accurately where you are in the qualifying/sales process for each revenue opportunity.

Results-Driven Incentive Process:

If the incentive system isn’t structured correctly, companies typically wind up losing their strongest performers. Focus on improving these seven aspects of your incentive process.

1. Structure your incentives. It is important to keep your company strong and growing, and new business is the best way to accomplish this. So why would you offer the same incentive for both new and existing accounts?

2. Remove the caps. If your salespeople bring value and profits to your company, why shouldn’t they be appropriately compensated for it? If you put a cap on your salespeople’s earnings, you put a cap on your company’s earnings, and may ultimately lose your best salespeople along the way.

3. Create an incentive based on your company’s desired sales outcome. If you want your team to sell to volume, make sure they’re incentivized toward it.

4. Define your sales cycle. Having an understanding of how long a piece of business takes to go from an initial contact to payment for goods/services delivered is critical for both business planning and incentive structuring.

5. Integrate the incentive plan into the business model; don’t allow it to be designed by other groups, such as finance. It’s important that the incentive process supports and rewards a salesperson’s measurable level of contribution.

6. Make incentive payments at customer payment, not based on orders written.  Clarify that incentives are earned only upon timely payment of the complete transaction amount. You can pay incentives at any time, but waiting until the payment has been received can save your company money, and legal risk.

7. Help out the low and non-performing reps. Address their performance issues and create a plan for their revival. Leave top leads for high performers to help ensure the business can be closed.

Skills-Based Staffing Process:

If you hire people who fit your core sales force profile, you have better odds for success. The skills and characteristics that best fit your sales positions will be defined by selling process, forecast process, and incentive process metrics.

Not every hire will be successful, but the odds are significantly better when an objective, more structured process is in place.

Once you have built these processes into your business structure, forecasting will move from hazy and hopeful guesswork to a clear component of your operation. And remember to update your revenue forecast with changes on a quarterly, if not monthly, basis. Your forecast is a living document that should be constantly reviewed and updated to reflect the changes in your business. Set it up correctly and it will serve your business’ success.