Talent and Territory: Factoring Sales Team Talent and the Manager Skills in the Forecasting Process

May 19, 2021
4 min read
Even as technology makes forecasting an increasingly data-driven process, there's still a place in it for traditional sales skills. In this blog, learn the best ways to combine a managers' talents with technology to get the most accurate forecasts.

Even if you don't want to hear it or face the reality of it, we’re going to give you the cold hard truth. Ready for it? 

Here it is: modern enterprises, regardless of industry, are recognizing that in order to compete in tech-savvy markets, new investments and approaches to performance management are needed to secure continued revenue growth. 

Long story short, it’s time to get a one-way ticket and hop aboard the digital express.

BUT! Let’s level for a second, this realization doesn’t mean you need to throw your hands up in the air in frustration or let your sales processes and plans come to a screeching halt. It’s all about BALANCE. And balance starts with an accurate sales forecast.

Sales forecasting is a key component for any business because it assists companies in making better business decisions. The key to finding balance in your forecasting methods is by creating a harmonious partnership between sales team talent and intelligent software. While some managers worry about technology displacing their talents in the forecasting process and possibly leading to inaccurate forecasts by ignoring the information they have accumulated through experience, finding the right mix of both the old and the new is the best way to secure success. 

Below are four key processes in sales forecasting and how to combine both the traditional and digital methods of succession planning.

How to Align Traditional Selling Skills With Modern Technology 

#1 Evaluating Sales Opportunities

Traditional: Enterprises use historical observations to estimate future business metrics like inventory requirements, budgets, revenue or asset performance. Traditional forecasting practices fail because the past does not necessarily represent the future.

Digital: The modern buyer seeks to be educated about solutions to their business challenges and aspects they may have missed while identifying their needs.

Combination: A.k.a, do your research. A great seller will conduct research both digitally and socially to identify market trends and influencing factors affecting customers within their industry.

To meet these goals, managers can leverage new tools and techniques to achieve the same goals as traditional selling, but in half the time and with half the effort. 

#2 Predicting Forecast Accuracy

Traditional: Historical sales forecasting methods were far from accurate. In fact, most of the forecast was determined by leadership’s gut feelings and intuition. With few methods to collect objective information about the sales cycle, sales managers were expected to be right on the money with nothing more than past experience, the history of the sales team members, and vague assumptions about market conditions.

Digital: Miller Heiman’s research showed that 40 percent of sales leaders viewed seller subjectivity as the greatest challenge to forecast accuracy. Using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) solution completely takes the guesswork out of forecasting. But AI only takes into account the data, not outlying factors like disruption or market volatility. 

Combination: To be truly effective and help make better-informed decisions, data should be viewed holistically. Instead of using multiple platforms and tools across each team, companies should compile and analyze data together. By fusing these systems, data can be used as the single source of truth across the entire organization. 

#3 Ensuring Sales Confidence and Trust

Traditional: Confidence and trust are two words that have hardly been associated with traditional sales forecasting. Think about it: according to recent research by Gartner, 55 percent of sales leaders lack confidence in their organization’s forecasting accuracy. It’s only now with new technology that leadership is breaking ground with this topic.  

Digital: With an automated solution, managers have an easier view of the numbers for better plan alignment based on data-driven insights.

Combination: Transparency is at the root of any trusting relationship. Data from across an organization offers full transparency in business operations, driving more trustworthy, strategic insights. By employing the right combination of tactics and technology, you can rest easy knowing you’ve got the most accurate, reliable, and resilient revenue plan possible. 

#4 Breaking Down Data Silos

Traditional: When managers want to build forecasts based on data, too often their first step is to discover where data is stored before they can pull it together and analyze it in context. But what happens when you don’t have one source of data all departments can pull from? Historically speaking, that wasn’t a very common phenomenon. Departments used to create repositories of data to pull from that were disconnected from the rest of the organization. 

Digital: The biggest obstacle to using advanced data analysis isn’t access to data or technology; it’s having the right eyes on the data to identify patterns, strategies, or insights. By relying on unified and accessible data to inform decisions, business leaders can provide full transparency in their decision-making process.

Combination: Systems to track sales performance are becoming increasingly common. These investments in technology allow leadership to gain a full 360 degree view into all aspects of business in order to ensure that their sales plans are running like a well-oiled machine.

Technology and People are Better Together 

In today’s digitized business world, the ability to use data represents a real and essential competitive advantage. But at the end of the day, technology is a tool to be used by sales teams, not the end-all-be-all of your department. While both the human and technology aspects of business are both important, a marriage of the two is the best way to guarantee a ‘win-win’ forecasting situation.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Sellers must leverage different tools and develop a sales cadence to identify which approach works best for a particular buyer. To learn more about how to use and leverage data in your sales forecasting processes, check out our recent guide, “The 2021 Guide to Successful Forecasting Fundamentals”.

  • Forecasting
Emily Jahn
Content Marketing Manager

Emily Jahn is a Content Marketing Manager at Xactly. She earned a degree in advertising from The University of Colorado - Boulder and has experience in copywriting, social media, and digital marketing.