Forecasting is a tricky business. There are so many variables involved in the data, people, company guidelines, level of collaboration and years of experience that these meetings are one of the most challenging. Forecast meetings can steal hours of time from some of the best employees, thus raising a question as to whether the time spent in these meetings is the most effective use of their talents.
Recently, however, I had an enlightening conversation with one of our customers that may change that perspective. On the way to a forecast meeting, a funny thing happened that caused him to rethink his many years of forecasting and how it had been done. A peer on his executive team, we’ll call him Jeff, had been traveling and due to a series of unusual events, he ended up without any of his devices. Jeff was on his way to their forecast meeting with no laptop and no smartphone. He was virtually cut off from all of his business data.
Prior to their company implementing a BI tool, this development would have rendered Jeff unable to participate unless he recalled details from memory. While it would have been a pretty painful meeting for Jeff, some of the other participants would have certainly enjoyed the opportunity to debate him while he was disadvantaged. Here’s the funny thing, the meeting went off without a hitch, and Jeff was able to fully contribute just as he would have during any other meeting when he was fully equipped.
The difference is that their company now had a single source of truth thanks to the BI solution that every department is mandated to use. The collaboration that results from this change has dramatically increased the value of their forecast meetings, and this occasion was a shining example of just how much more efficient it is to have everyone on the same page and accountable for progress. Because the company implemented BI tools that leveraged the same data used by the entire executive team, Jeff was easily able to access his data from the BI system via a company laptop and another manager’s smartphone, resulting in no disruption to the meeting.
Here are a few additional tips available via new technology that have helped our clients make their forecast meetings more useful and efficient:
Use BI to Analyze Trends
Analyzing trends has historically been manual and slow; and often got pushed off the priority list in favor of dealing with projections, setting monthly quotas and handling urgent customer issues. However, with today’s technology, much of the effort of identifying trends is automated and presented in easy-to-read formats making it possible to learn from trends affecting our industry and take advantage of timely opportunities.
Learn from Incorrect Projections
Rather than dwell on the fact that the projections turned out to be wrong, take the time to understand why they were wrong. Was it a sales rep error? If so, spend the time to work with him or her and set clear expectations to avoid similar issues in the future. Was it an error in the way the systems were set up or integrated? If so, this can easily be corrected by the system administrator or data analyst.
Collaborate with All Departments
Forecasting is often left to sales and is not inclusive of other departments. This approach is almost always a mistake as sales teams have many dependencies on other departments and should be in sync with the timing of marketing initiatives to ensure the smoothest and most efficient customer experience possible. BI tools support this effort by tying disparate systems together. Consider integrating your CRM, call center, ecommerce, Google analytics, and other relevant business applications with your BI tool.
Employ Artificial Intelligence (AI)
It is well-known that most sales professionals would rather be selling than entering data into company systems. One of the biggest challenges with this tendency is that projections can be way off-base due to inaccurate or out-of-date information in the system during forecasting. The addition of AI into business applications has dramatically improved this scenario as many CRMs now capture sales actions automatically without the rep having to enter the data after-the-fact. For example, there are tools that scrape email and call data and record it within the appropriate customer record without human intervention. This solution gives sales reps more time to sell, reduces their frustrations, and provides the executive team with more accurate data.
Rethink your Forecast Meetings
If your company is still conducting forecast meetings the way they have been done for the past decade, it is time to reconsider. There are so many options that can improve your efficiency, accuracy, and your bottom line. BI solutions like ClicData provide easy-to-implement systems with pre-created dashboards to get you started quickly and enable customized reporting, dashboards, and formatting once you learn exactly what type of data you need to see. Contact the team today to talk with experienced advisors about how to start improving your company’s forecasting.