Why Was the Sales Forecast So Unreliable?

Yesterday, schools were canceled, non-essential state workers were told to stay home, and businesses were asked to release their employees early. We told our employees that they could leave at Noon. It was quite a powerful storm and we were going to get in the neighborhood of 8-12 inches, all during business hours. Based on history, that is when drivers are most likely to become stranded on the roads. As late as 6 AM, they stuck with their 8-12 inch forecast, with snow scheduled to begin within 2 hours and intensify as the day wore on, snowing as heavily as 2 inches per hour during mid-day.

The snow storm never happened. We got an inch – over a 12 hour period – and the state shut down for nothing. And it’s not like we can’t handle a snow storm here in New England. We can handle anything! They just blew it.   How was this forecast similar to the sales forecast?

Does this ever happen to you? Your sales force? Your company?

Do the sales opportunities that were sure things ever fizzle out or become so delayed that you wonder what could have possibly gone wrong?

Is it because salespeople get too excited about the opportunity and take shortcuts?

Is it because they haven’t properly staged the opportunity in the pipeline?

Is it because they’re failing to make sure that the opportunity meets the criteria of a particular stage?

Is it because they failed to uncover any compelling reasons for the prospect to buy from them?

Is it because they couldn’t push back and can’t tell when a prospect is leading them on?

Is it because they developed a good relationship and simply assumed that something good would happen?

Is it because the prospect loved your product or service but had no urgency to buy it? Is it because your salespeople suck at closing and accept every stall and put-off that comes their way?

Is it something else?

When you identify the reasons, the next step is to identify the hidden cause for those reasons.  Failure to identify both the reasons and the causes are why most managers have difficulty getting things to change.  And if you can’t change the behaviors, you can’t change the results.