According to Harvard Business Review, companies that have a formalized forecasting process saw 11% higher revenue growth than those without a formal process.
Why is that? Forecasting and active pipeline management aren’t solely about ensuring your deal data is updated in your CRM so you can roll up a forecast. The value of having a disciplined approach to forecasting is to enable managers to help coach their reps, do active role playing, and help unlock deals that may otherwise be stuck and at risk of being lost.
GTM technology like InsightSquared, Clari, Aviso, Collective, and Discern.io have all paved the way to simplify the forecasting process. Analyzing week-over-week changes in the pipeline and understanding deal velocity and conversion rates can now be easily assessed to help managers understand where to focus. New machine learning and artificial intelligence can help companies predict their forecast with accuracy in addition to helping to populate activity data into your CRM – which is one of the biggest gaps inaccurate CRM data.
At Insight Partners, in addition to working with our 275+ B2B software Sales and Customer Success leaders, we also interact with hundreds of other SaaS companies each year. One of the factors that separate the high-performing teams from the pack is the fact that these companies have a tailored approach to how they work on their deals and how they forecast. Again, forecasting isn’t just about calling a number. The top-performing teams have a disciplined approach to how they review deals, prioritize deals, and unlock their maximum potential.
Whether a company is doing $10M, $50M, $100M, or even $10B in ARR, forecasting and pipeline management is something that you constantly evolve within your organization.
Insight Partners have found that there are four key elements to drive an effective forecasting and pipeline management process:
Four Key Elements
- Have a Clear Sales Process: In order to train reps on selling your products, you need to provide clarity on what the steps are in your process from a lead to a closed deal. That sales process also needs to align with the journey the customer is on because your customer doesn’t really care about your sales process. So reps need to know what the entry and exit criteria are for each stage and have clarity on what it means to commit a deal. Having a clear sales process allows you to then understand stage progression so you can be targeted on training, content, and coaching.
- Qualification: One of the main reasons deals push out or are lost is because the deal was never correctly qualified. Training your BDR/SDR teams and sales reps to do proper discovery and qualification ensures your teams are focusing on deals that have a higher probability to close. Leveraging frameworks like MEDDIC, BANT, NEAT.
- Run a Structured Forecast/Pipeline Meeting: Forecasting is like backward funnel math. Determine what needs to happen in order for the Head of Sales/CS to roll up their forecast to the CEO on a weekly/bi-weekly basis. Ensure that you have a process to dive deeper into Enterprise/Mid Market deals and leverage data to help inform the transaction side of the business. Provide clarity to managers and reps on what is expected from them in meetings. Remember, being disciplined in forecasting is more than just calling a number.
- Standardize KPI and Analysis: All meetings are supported by a set of standard KPIs, dashboards, metrics, and tools. Reps and Managers should leverage consistent dashboards for pipeline reviews. Standardize your metrics so you can have better visibility into where deals are getting stuck, where are conversion rates higher (across regions, product lines, teams, etc.). Provide visibility into a new business, expansion business, and renewals. The best performing sales teams ensure there is a holistic approach to forecasting along the entire customer journey.
With these elements in mind, below is a forecast cadence developed from best practices across Insight’s portfolio companies. If you employ a structured cadence along with the right coaching and elements above, the performance of your team will only improve. Feel free to use this as a starting point and adapt it to the needs of your business.