Why accuracy is the wrong goal for your sales forecast
In March of 2020, sports betting was at an all-time low. There just weren’t games to bet on. Combine that with the sudden cabin fever so many frequent betters were experiencing, and there was a real gambling gap demanding to be filled.
Online sportsbook Bovada seized the opportunity, launching a digital gambling platform called BetOnWeather.io, for betting on — of all things — the weather. The organization’s top oddsmaker spoke to the New York Post at the start of the pandemic and acknowledged it was a somewhat silly proposition, but might be a fun distraction while sports were on a collective hiatus. Now, the site is live with 200 cities available. Users can call sharps on their favorite meteorologists and even challenge them to put some skin in the game. Whoever’s right according to the National Weather Service wins.
It was a true sign of the times that even betting on clouds was seen as a decent distraction, but ultimately the notion of making bets on how warm it will be tomorrow isn’t any more ridiculous than betting on the Bulls winning by at least 20 points. No matter how much someone thinks they know about the history of weather patterns or the specific factors affecting a basketball game, there’s no such thing as a sure bet.
So why are sales teams still gambling with their sales forecasts every day?
The simple answer is that businesses need to plan and sales managers need to keep their teams accountable. So, in pursuit of more accurate forecasting (and presumably better planning and accountability), sales teams have started relying on technology that promises incremental forecasting improvements — recording sales calls to monitor reps’ habits or automatically uploading sales activities into CRM — all in the hopes of increasing sales forecasting accuracy just a little more.
But here’s the thing: Accuracy should never have been the primary goal of the sales forecast to begin with.
Chasing the sure thing doesn’t work
It’s important to understand what success should look like for the sake of accountability. Without a reliable metric for future sales, it would be tough to plan, budget and hold sellers accountable.
This has led to a wide spectrum of tech tools entering the market promising to give sales teams a better way to track activities and establish targets. AI-augmented forecasting tools can do things like take over CRM management to make sure forecasts are based on accurate information. But if the goal is still accuracy for the sake of accountability, these tools ultimately fail in their efforts to help businesses.
Stephen Messer, Collective[i] Cofounder, says that most sales teams are incentivized towards the wrong goal. “Sales teams today are given a number and then spend their day managing to that number. Daily forecasting like ours is geared towards optimization. This frees the seller to focus on the optimal actions, the optimal outcomes to improve the experience for the buyer, and ultimately the best outcome for their selling team.”
The issues with focusing solely on forecasting accuracy can be seen when sellers do whatever it takes to reach their quotas. Their proximity to that number is what will decide their commission, their next quarter goals, and ultimately their fate at a company. The accountability system it builds often ignores how a seller reaches that number, so long as they do.
Many sellers end up chasing the “sure thing” (or at least that deal they believe will help move the needle) to get them closer to their goal. But that myopic focus on hitting a targeted number means they often ignore or fail to nurture other deals that are less mature or urgent. And when they come back at a later date to close those, they may no longer be attainable. The result is less revenue for the company in the long term, because buyer expectations are only getting higher as sellers struggle to keep up with arbitrary targets.
The accuracy-obsessed forecast puts the wrong kind of pressure on sellers — often incentivizing them to act on instinct and, in worst case scenarios, fear. Using accuracy as an outcome forces sellers to chase quick solves rather than build long term relationships. It’s bad for their long term success — and their companies’ revenue.
Shift focus to better selling decisions with prescriptive forecasting
The automation brought about by AI-augmented sales tools has given sellers more of their time back to actually sell, but it still hasn’t addressed the quality of day-to-day actions. That’s because automation is just the beginning.
The goal should be better sales outcomes, with the forecast being a measurement tool to help guide the way forward. AI is the technology necessary to get there — if you start with the right data set. With prescriptive forecasting tools that analyze and interpret a far greater amount of data than traditional forecasting software, it’s possible to provide sellers with informed recommendations about what to do next.
With networked intelligence updated in real time, daily forecasts are possible. Revenue estimates can be automatically updated — not only with the activity on leads within a selling team, but also with real info on buyers and how those buyers are interacting with other sellers in the marketplace. They factor in shifts in the stock market or other macroeconomic forces that might make a once promising deal look less likely to close.
The result is that sellers aren’t just doing whatever they can to meet a number. They’re prioritizing the deals with the most potential and taking the best possible steps to move them forward. Sales managers become less fixed on arbitrary targets for accountability, and are instead enabled to empower their sellers to work smarter — to let go of the deals that won’t go anywhere, stay nimble and focus on the right deals at the right time.
It’s the difference between being mad at a meteorologist for getting the weekly forecast wrong and getting an update before heading out for the day to bring an umbrella just before the rain starts.
See the difference with Collective[i]
At Collective[i], we believe that sales forecasting accuracy is only as important as the results it brings. With our growing neural network of data from sellers across industries and geographies, we’re able to provide sales teams with real-time sales forecasts and smart recommendations for the best actions to take — not three months from now when a quota needs to be filled, but right now.
That collective of sellers all contribute to a platform that boasts over 98% sales forecast accuracy. More importantly, they represent a way forward for sales that leverages technology to fill in blind spots and equip sellers to close deals and exceed sales goals.
Ready to see it in action? Click here to see how Collective[i] can help modernize your selling process.Explore Collective[i]