Account Planning

Improving Forecasting Accuracy Using Salesforce

Posted On
October 6, 2022
Resource Type
Account Planning
white space, key account management

Sales managers often have trouble accurately “nailing” their sales forecasting process on a monthly or quarterly basis because there’s no true standardized way to forecast. It’s trusting your sales team and understanding the structure of your most lucrative in-play deals. Past that, there’s not much more you can do to improve forecast accuracy and predict future sales revenue.

Or is there?

No process is perfect, forecasting in salesforce is no expectation. But, eventually, everyone will over or under-commit, that’s part of the game. Utilizing your CRM (in this instance, Salesforce) as a place to track important KPIs and more nuanced details around large accounts eliminates the “guessing game” sales forecasts are often associated with. Revenue is the most tightly watched metric, but truly predicting what you can count on with accuracy remains a staunch challenge in 2024 for most teams.

As opportunities are created, how do you dissect what is most likely to turn into future sales? Do certain reps setup a sales opportunity for their Account Executive better than others? Understanding every sales team and forecasting method will be somewhat different. Still, the following best practices will ensure that your forecast is not only more accurate but that you and your team as a whole will better understand the “big bet” deals in play when you effectively tool your Salesforce.

Sales Forecasting By Using Opportunity Planning 

Audit for an opportunity plan

You can utilize an opportunity planning process to improve your forecasting methods. When a team follows the same SWOT analysis, tracks key stakeholders and their sentiment throughout the deal, and examines the account for upselling potential using a white-space template, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll have a better handle on the value of each deal. This is especially useful when you have large deals with multiple stakeholders involved, such as sales leadership. Evaluating a sales pipeline using strictly CRM data can be risky, there are generally a variety of signals that tell a story.

Forecast data is only as good as the inputs into your CRM, and other data warehouses. Sales Cloud (Salesforce) is very useful, and we regularly see sales teams overlook leveraging Salesforce reports to identify the number of stakeholders involved in deals won, as well as the individuals involved in those deals, as part of opportunity planning. Pull a closed won report over the last 6, 12, or 24 months to give yourself a nice sample size, and look for commonalities in who the main point of contact is in deals you win. Are those people documented in your map, and aligned to your objectives in the opportunity plan? This is a great way to get ahead of deals at risk and improve the likelihood of knowing where a deal stands.

Opportunity planning ultimately keeps sales teams and leadership in lockstep throughout the sales cycle. That means when it comes time to sit down and forecast, all the players on your team will have a better and more realistic understanding of where each large opportunity lies.

Advanced Forecasting Reports

sales metrics and opportunity planning pic

The ability to create comprehensive reports gives you a major increase in visibility into each opportunity and your entire pipeline. You can see not only where deals are currently at, but also where/when they’re likely to close. This will help you adjust your forecast accordingly.

You should perform these reports within your Salesforce instance as it is an important component. Because Salesforce has such comprehensive reporting abilities, it’s only logical to do so. This ties into the best practice that all account and opportunity data should be stored in your CRM. If you have all your critical account data stored in Salesforce, you can report on some of the following metrics:

  • Opportunities close when using an opportunity plan vs no plan
  • Average deal size with total accuracy
  • Average upsell potential by firmographic metrics
  • Number of stakeholders in deals you win, by deal size/industry

There’s another way to help take this a step further. Using Opportunity History reports, you can begin to break down the conversion rates by stage as well. Pull all the opportunities for a period of time, and ensure you include the Opportunity ID. Using an opportunity history report, you can pull the “to” and “from” stages, filter by the stage you want to learn more about, and then filter by all opportunities that are closed won and pull those opportunity ID’s. It’s now simply doing a lookup to see where you have matches, and that will tell you your win rate.

Align with Each Business Unit  – Salesforce Forecasting

Having more visibility for each large opportunity across business units makes it easier to forecast large deals that require more than one account executive to push forward. Always remember; salespeople are in the “driver’s seat” for closing business, but that doesn’t mean your car and its maintenance should be neglected!

Perform a field audit with your Salesforce admin or operations team. What’s on the opportunity object that could be added to improve forecasting accuracy? Are there potential fields unique to your GTM strategy? Have a whiteboard session with your BU leaders.

You can add custom fields to track any additional information that you think would be helpful in forecasting, such as average deal size or expected close date.

Defining and Assigning forecast categories

Similar to opportunity stages, a forecasting process should have different forecast types (new business versus expansion versus renewal) along with a forecast hierarchy. An example of this hierarchy that might be more common would look like this:

Prolifiq’s forecast categories

Grow your existing accounts

  1. Commit – This is a done deal. There is at the very least, verbal commitment to executing the deal, if it’s not already closed. The forecast accuracy should be very strong!
  2. Most likely – You’re far enough in the sales process that you’ve discussed finishing the deal in that month or quarter, and may be in the early stages of discussing procurement, legal, and onboarding. Administration responsibilities are also laid out.
  3. Best case – While there might be good momentum, for that forecast period (month) or quarter, it’s going to be a stretch to execute and finish the deal. Sales data probably shows that most “best case” deals might come in around 15-20% of the time, for Prolifiq.

Each business will have different historical data that supports sales reps in predicting what will close and what will push to the next month or quarter. We do recommend getting this process out of spreadsheets and fully inside of your CRM. While these categories aren’t perfect, and things come up in deals all the time, sales performance should be similar to what you’re informing leadership of.

Sales Forecasting Tools

In 2024, you can choose from countless tools, such as Gong, Chorus, Outreach, and many others. Most tools will have automation in place to make the forecasting process more efficient and effective for forecast managers.

Types of forecasts – customizable forecasting

Single forecasts: This could be for a single rep, over the course of 1-3 deals.

Territory forecasts: This is breaking down deals strictly in specific territories, over a given time frame

Overlay split forecasts: Forecasting based on ownership of deals, such as sales engineers or pre-sales consultants and a seller. This is dependent on business process and commission structure, but it also alludes to future sales performance based on who is involved in a deal.

Cumulative forecasts: This is a forecast of the entire team, broken down by different opportunity types (New logo, expansion, renewals), etc. It is the most comprehensive overview of a sales organizations overall pipeline, deal progression, and overall forecast.

Conclusion

Account Planning template and metrics for key account management software

When it comes to forecasting accuracy, being able to see the future is a mixture of art and science. It’s a skill that develops with time and practice for many sales leaders. Your historical sales data will provide context around the entire sales motion. And it’s usually a high priority for executives since one of their key tasks is to cut through all the company noise and dissect the pipeline—is this number based on fact or fiction?

The purpose of forecasting involves understanding what goes into a forecast and how you can make it more accurate. The art of successful forecasting requires using your intuition and experience to make your forecast more accurate. You can also use Salesforce as a tool to improve your forecasting accuracy.

Salesforce provides features that can help sales leaders improve their forecasting accuracy, including:

Utilizing Salesforce in this way will help you improve your forecasting accuracy and give you a better understanding of your pipeline.

Posted On
October 6, 2022
Resource Type
Account Planning