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Think about your business – and be clear about average order size or purchase level of each customer. (If you have several very different product or service groups or lines you may need to do this for each one.) Does this vary for existing and new customers? From this analysis you can see how many sales you need to get each month and what those numbers will be in each category.
Based on averages, how many orders or customers do you need each month?
How many of these can be relied on for repeat business – and how much new business do you need to obtain?
In order to get to point of orders coming in you will have to go through a number of stages, which may look something like this:
The stages might have different names within your business, principle will hold true.
To help your forecasting become more accurate you need to be able to move through process and assess how things stand at each stage and what is potential of moving through to end. The more you can break each stage down into specific activities, better your ability to see whether you will continue moving through.
You need to initiate some form of sales reporting system to record what are planned activities and actual ones which take place. There are many variations available electronically, which can improve efficiency and effectiveness. Most of these will enable you to create your own sales “pipeline” or “funnel” so that you can monitor progress. Basic systems such as ACT, Goldmine or SalesLogix will also allow you and your sales people to develop customer records, keep everything related to customer in one place, and manage their diaries. You can have an even more thorough tool such as SalesCentric, which can let you incorporate sales process and activities and carry support material on customer record. There are ways to use all of them to help with your forecasting, though SalesCentric will probably allow you to be more accurate with it.
Alongside need to set some form of percentage weighting at each stage, it will help you to know ratios between each stage of sales process. The way to go about this is to work backwards!! * As we stated earlier – how many orders (commitments) do you need each month?
* How many proposals will you need to be doing to achieve this number? (and what is time lapse between presenting them and getting response?) Do you convert 1 in 3, 1 in 2 or what?
* To get to formal proposals, how many people need to be at “analysis” stage?
* To be able to do this – how many do you need,,,,,,,,,,you can get idea!
These numbers will help you to create right sales controls for yourself. If you are not talking to enough people at start of process, you are extremely unlikely to get sufficient sales!
The next phase is to look at each of stages and think about how you can assess your chances of generating business. What criteria can you use for each one? Past relationships, number of contacts you have, relevant experience, number of competitors in frame etc.,etc. You will need to work this out for your own organisation. You may then make some decisions about how you progress opportunities. What can you do to increase your chances? When do you decide to pull out of opportunity?
When you are creating your forecast these percentages and numbers can then be combined to give you potential – and with some anticipated timescales. For example, if you have £150,000 of business being discussed, proposed or tendered you can do maths. If £60,000 is at 30% stage, that equates to £18,000. The other £90,000 might be at 50% - giving a potential of £45,000. Therefore forecast would be £63,000. You might be able to get more than this if you take action to increase % probability – but based on a realistic assessment, your forecast is not £150,000!! It is having figures like that in mind which can cause problems, being far too sunny! Encourage everyone to use an effective sales planning and reporting process that is relevant for your market, or even insist on it! Then manage that process, correcting problems early on rather than when sales are not happening – and set weightings for forecast. Let your sales people give you accurate forecasts, do not compel false optimism. There is no harm in being sunny, just be sure it will happen!!
References: www.salescentric.com, Saleslogix, ACT and Goldmine are available from many suppliers.
Graham Yemm a founding partner of Solutions 4 Training Ltd. He has worked with many different organisations around the world conducting both training and consultancy assignments. He is a Master Practitioner of NLP and an accredited trainer for the LAB profile programme – “Words that Change Minds”. Contact,