Sales Managers Don’t Have to be Like Meteorologists!

snowfallmapLast week I posted an article about the similarities between Meteorologists and Salespeople.  This morning, while watching the recap of our latest snowstorm this analogy became even more obvious to me.

  • The Forecasts Were Unreliable – Like so many sales organizations, the forecasts for the timing and snow amounts varied wildly over the past 4 days and none of them got it right.
  • Hindsight is 20/20 – The final snow amounts were exact – looking back, they can always provide accurate actual numbers versus the forecast.

While actual numbers are the only ones that matter, our ability to accurately forecast the final number is still so very subjective.  It shouldn’t be subjective and it doesn’t need to be subjective.  If we continue to rely on the impressions, instincts, hopes and expectations of our salespeople, we’ll get more of the same.  But if we have a properly staged, criteria-based, weighted, objective, inspected visual pipeline, our forecasts will be much more accurate.

I have written much about pipelines and forecasts over the years but today’s article takes things a little further.  I have talked repeatedly about the importance of visual, staged and criteria-based pipelines.  I have helped clients weight the milestones in their pipeline stages.  But today I added two additional pieces:  Objective and Inspected.  I’ve recognized that all the criteria in the world won’t compensate for a salesperson’s happy ears and discomfort asking tough questions.  Many salespeople claim that they achieved the criteria in a particular stage and because they are inputting the data it won’t be objective.  That makes the case for inspection.  If you challenge the criteria where salespeople have historically been overly enthusiastic, it forces more objectivity.  When you finally gain objectivity – by continued rather than spot inspections – your forecasts will be as reliable as…hindsight!