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How to Design a Sales Forecasting Cadence That Drives Results

by Ian Kwok

Forecasting takes time; nearly three hours per seller per week according to a SiriusDecisions survey. While this may not seem like a lot of hours for a single person, for a team of six people, it equates to nine hours of reps' time and 7.5 hours of management’s time. Each week this sums to nearly 17 hours solely dedicated to forecasting!

Weekly Forecasting Processes Duration Reps (6) Manager (1)
1:1 pipeline review 1 hour 6 hours 6 hours
Forecast call 1 hour 6 hours 1 hour
Other 0.5 hour 3 hours 0.5 hour
Total 2.5 hours 9 hours 7.5 hours

And yet, even with a signficant amount of time spent on forecasting, many sales teams still miss their numbers. 

Why is it that some sales teams consistently make their numbers while others do not?

In my role at the Insight Venture Partners Onsite Sales Center of Excellence, I interact with some of the top B2B sales leaders in software. I enlisted their help to understand what separates high-performing sales teams from the rest of the pack when it comes to the tedious, yet critical, task of forecasting. 

Their collective wisdom? High-performing teams have a disciplined and well-orchestrated sales forecast cadence.

What is a disciplined and well-orchestrated sales forecast cadence? It refers to a structured series of one-on-one and team meetings that together drive sales organizations to deliver their numbers and achieve organizational goals. Every sales organization has a forecasting process, but few do it right. 

Three Key Elements

Onsite’s Sales Center of Excellence advises Insight’s portfolio companies to implement three key meeting elements when it comes to forecasting:

  1. Scheduled and structured. There must be a structured series of meetings that are scheduled well in advance (over the course of the year, quarter, month, and week). These meetings must be timed in a way to provide visibility on how the team is tracking against KPIs. This gives sales leaders transparency to proactively manage their business and take corrective action with their reps before it's too late.
     
  2. Defined agenda and objectives. Each meeting has a clearly defined agenda with attainable objectives, owners/attendees, an explicit set of questions (to address problematic accounts, opportunities, pipeline, or reps), and follow up activities. Everyone understands what is expected of them before and after the meeting. This level of discipline and consistency instills accountability to ensure progress and results from your team.
     
  3. Standardized KPIs and tools. Each meeting is supported by a set of standard KPIs, dashboards, and tools. All reps should use the same dashboard for pipeline reviews. Similarly, a "closing plan" template should be provided for top deal reviews. By standardizing how you interact with each other in these meetings, you avoid wasting time using different tools, but more importantly, you can compare performance across reps. 

What a Best-In-Class Forecast Cadence Looks Like

With these elements in mind, below is a forecast cadence developed from best practices across Insight’s portfolio companies. If you employ this cadence, along with the three key meeting elements listed above, your sales organization will hum like a well-oiled machine. Feel free to use this as a starting point and adapt it to the needs of your business.

Click into the image below and hover over the weekly magnifying glasses for interactive text. Below the image, you can also download the interactive forecast cadence PDF for integration with your own sales process.  *Note: Hover functionality is not available on mobile.

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Ian Kwok

Vice President, Sales COE

Ian Kwok joined Insight in 2017 and works closely with Insight’s portfolio companies on fine-tuning their sales organizations and go-to-market strategies. Specifically, he advises companies on scaling sales operations capabilities through best practices, rigorous processes, and new…

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