Sales Forecasting: Turning Data, Analysis and Process into a Realistic View of your Business’s Future

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Sales forecasting is often looked upon as a black art. The wide variety of approaches and strategies used for forecasting does little to dispel that view; approaches vary from business to business and from division to division, and can vary from a sales manager’s best guess to a process highly reliant on analytics technology. The number of people that know how to do it well is remarkably small, and yet it’s a critical tool for any business.


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Why Did I Lose the Sale? 6 Win-Loss Analysis Questions

By Steve W. Martin, Heavy Hitter Sales Blog

Losing is always hard. Learning you are the loser in the eleventh hour of a deal is a frustrating, humbling, and embarrassing event. In this circumstance, perhaps it’s time to honestly ask yourself the following six questions.

1. Did I take the customer’s word at face value?  For a moment, let’s put ourselves in the position of the customer. As the customer, you are going to meet with multiple vendors, watch their presentations, and read their marketing collateral. Each vendor, most likely, has equally talented, friendly, and professional salespeople who come to your office. However, you will select only one product. Given that, how will you behave with each vendor? Will you tell each one the truth? Probably not.

It is basic human nature to want to avoid confrontation. This is particularly true when you are meeting in person, face-to-face. In addition, our society has implicit guidelines of behavior. We are taught at an early age that if we have nothing nice to say, then we shouldn’t say anything at all. Therefore, it is much more comfortable for the prospect to say something they think you want to hear than the actual truth.

2. Did I have an internal Coach within the account?   In order to win every deal you need a constant, accurate source of information revealing the internal machinations of the customer’s selection process. For many years, the term “coach” has been used by all types of salespeople, selling every conceivable product, to define the person within an account who provides this privileged intelligence and confidential information.

Why would someone coach one salesperson versus another? To establish a relationship with a coach, Heavy Hitters (truly great salespeople) build a different type of rapport with the customer. At the foundation is a special relationship, a personal friendship between two individuals. True Coaches not only want you to win; they’re your friends and allies. Winning without one is next to impossible.

3. Did I recognize the turning point?   Every deal has a critical moment or turning point that determines the winner and the losers. In some cases, the turning point is easy to spot. For example, a salesperson may be presenting a solution and encounters a deal-breaking objection that he or she is unable to overcome. Even though the customer remains cordial for the rest of the meeting, a turning point has occurred and the deal is lost. In most cases, the turning point occurs when the salesperson isn’t present. It’s in casual hallway conversations or internal e-mails that selection team members share opinions that influence vendor’s futures. This proprietary information is only reveled when you have an internal spy.

4. Did I misinterpret information?  The sales cycle is a formalized information-and-activity exchange. Customers are trying to gather as much information about vendors in order to determine if they are appropriate long-term partners. Meanwhile, salespeople are trying to gather as much information about the customer in order to determine if they can win the deal. Information is communicated back and forth, and each message that is sent must also be received and interpreted correctly.

However, an obstacle is inherent in this process. Each message is subject to a person’s interpretation and filtering. Some information is ignored, some information is misinterpreted, and some information is generalized. Therefore, do you really know if your arguments were interpreted correctly? More importantly, did you interpret your customer’s messages correctly?

5. Did I truly know the decision-maker’s motivations and values? Heavy Hitters always delve beneath the surface, the technical and business criteria, to uncover individual motivations. Customers may have their “official” reasons for purchase decisions; however, there is also an “off the record” truth. The final decision is really driven by the desire to fulfill self-centered needs on the part of a few individuals. Therefore, like a psychologist, Heavy Hitters concentrate on eliciting the deep feelings and desires from the “patient.” In this case, they are trying to determine the principles, standards, incentives, and priorities of the key decision makers. Always in the back of their minds is the question, “What is driving this person’s behavior and how will my product help achieve their needs?”

6. Did I listen to my sales intuition? Successful salespeople are continually cataloguing their successes and failures. They store patterns of individual and company behavior and link them to the sales process. From this base of intuitive knowledge they are able to decide which deals to work and create and execute account strategies. It’s your sales intuition that’s responsible for predicting the future.

While you have learned that you must be persistent and energetic to succeed, sometimes it is far more important to listen to your sales intuition so you don’t waste your time on non-winnable accounts in the first place.

Sales Progress Requires Change

By Tony Cole, Sales Sales Management Brew

When I was 42, my eyesight began to change. I was coming back from Manchester, New Hampshire where I had just spent 2.5 days working with a sales team to help them improve their cross selling process. It had been a long trip as I actually started in New York City on Monday and today was Friday. So, when the words in my document appeared to be blury, I just thought it was due to fatique.

The next morning, while reading the cereal box, I discovered that the problem wasn’t fatique; it was my eyesight. Astigmatism had hit me in my early 40s and so for the last – several – years I’ve been wearing glasses.

About a month or so ago, my eyesight once again was failing me and I just assumed it was time for a new perscription. Instead, I found out that I had a retinal edema. This freckle that was apparently swollen (actually about the size of a couple of pin heads) was located right in the area for sharp focus vision. After a biopsi, it was determined that I didn’t have a malenoma and so we would adjust my lenses and go from there.

I was sick and tired of seeing frames in my view. My tennis game was not good to begin with but, with the blended lenses and the frames, I would often lose the ball. My brother-in-law, Mike, had just announced that he was going to go with contact lenses. I figured I’d give it a shot!

There was only one problem. I couldn’t touch my eye, or, so I thought.

Now to the title of this article. I wanted to make progress with my quality of life. I wanted my vision to be normal without the glasses. I wanted to be able to compete on the court without frustration. I didn’t want to touch my eye.

Here I am 4 weeks later and I just removed my contacts. I go through this lens routine twice a day. In the morning, I pop them in; in the evening, I pop them out. Well, I’m not exactly popping. I rub them in and drag them out to be more precise. The benefit is worth it.

I now see like I used to prior to the discovery of my sight diminishing at the age of 42. I don’t have frames in my vision, I can read road signs, and in many cases, I can read labels on containers. This is a result of improved vision with contact lenses and long arms.

My point here is that progress is only made when you take chances. Risk the unknown for the unknown. Know that you might fail, but the reward of success is great enough to give it a shot.

If your sales team needs to make some progress, more progress, better progress, then change is the answer.

Leading and Living with Integrity

By Mike Camp, Contributor, Human Resources IQ

Someone can easily say they are “leading with integrity,” but the challenge lies in actually following through.  The majority of us have had importance of being honest instilled since we were children. Unfortunately, some people struggle more than others to live with and exhibit integrity, no matter how many times they hear it.

But what does “integrity” actually mean?  Most of us could easily define the word and have a pretty good idea of what that really looks like— or could we?

Integrity is not a characteristic you can demonstrate sometimes, or even 99 percent of the time.  Leading with integrity means demonstrating it all of the time!  Integrity can be defined most simply as “being honest” or “following moral and ethical principles.”  Integrity has also been defined as being when “a person’s behavior is the same, whether someone is watching them or not.”  I like to consider integrity to be like an eggshell that must be protected at all times in order to keep the egg (or your integrity) whole.  Once an eggshell has even a slight crack, the structure can no longer be depended on to handle the pressure of the environment.  It is simply a matter of time before the egg is completely compromised.  A leader’s integrity (or eggshell) is the exact same thing:  a leader can do the right thing 100 times, but if on the 101sttime they choose to deviate, their integrity comes under scrutiny from those around them.  Even though we may live a life of integrity throughout the first 100 situations, if we choose to act incorrectly the 101sttime, the way people perceive us can change forever.

If we want people to follow our lead, there must be a strong level of trust.  Keeping your word and living with integrity are two critical pieces to this process. Trust is not something built overnight; however, it can be lost instantly.  The easiest way to come across as not being honest is to say one thing, but do something completely different.  When people choose to follow us, they need to know the words we speak are genuine and that we will not deviate from what we said we would do.

Some people believe if they always handle the big issues with integrity, the little issues don’t always need to be handled the same way—especially if no one will know the difference.  This couldn’t be any farther from the truth.  A person who leads with integrity will always keep their integrity untarnished and will not waver, regardless of the size of the issue at hand or whether or not people will ever know what they did.

There is nothing worse than listening to someone speak about what they plan to do when we know their actions will not match what they said.  This type of dishonest behavior is what usually creates the first crack in what I call the “Trust Foundation” that the leader – follower relationship is based on.  As a leader today, the challenge is for us to live the true lifestyle of a leader with integrity at work and outside of work.  When people see us acting differently in public than we act in the workplace, our genuineness becomes questionable, as does our integrity.  Show the people who choose to follow you what kind of leader you are by keeping your word and always living with integrity.

Take the “Leading and Living with Integrity” pledge with me…

“This year I will commit to doing whatever it takes to:

Become a leader trusted by my co-workers, my family, my community,

Demonstrate outstanding servant leadership,

As I lead and live with integrity to build trust with those whose lives I influence.”


By Steve Hilliar

“Remember when you are in any sales situation or presentation you must be absolutely on top of your game.”

I remember way back in 1962 well before I ever knew I would have a sales career; I was employed by “Plessey” an English Radio Telephone manufacturer in Auckland New Zealand.

At this time I was young and had dreams of becoming a Radio Technician.

During my four year tenure here an immigrant from England by the name of Ray Woolf joined the company for a short time. Ray’s mother already worked for the organization and Ray took a job on the assembly line. Ray had been trained as a singer in the UK and he had aspirations of entering the entertainment scene in New Zealand.

It is now 2008 and Ray has had a sensational career winning many awards and he has become a very professional and polished entertainer.

This brings me to today’s rave about being the best you can be.

Mt career took a turn for the better in 1975 when I realized I could sell and it was in the late eighties I got a lesson from Ray about being your very best.

I had been visiting one of my country Hifi retailers Roger Angell in Whakatane New Zealand. I happened to be staying over night and we heard that Ray Woolf and his band (including Billy Christian) a great bass player were in town. They were performing at a local hotel.

We decided to go and see them and to our amazement our group made up of sales staff etc happened to be the majority of people there.

When the show started only a handful of patrons arrived and it was rather disappointing to see such a poor turnout for what was going to be a class act.

When the concert finally got under way I was totally speechless as I witnessed the most professional musical event I had seen in years.

Ray and the boys gave it 150% effort despite the very poor turnout of support. The people who did not come missed a real treat but above all this drummed into my mind about being your very best.

Remember when you are in any sales situation or presentation you must be absolutely on top of your game.

Take a lesson from Ray Woolf just like I did. The fact his audience was small and probably intimidating did not phase him or his band in any way. They gave more than anyone expected that evening and this is a credit to this entertainer and the belief he has in himself.

You too will have witnessed the professionalism shown by similar people to Ray Woolf and when you think of these people try and apply the same faultless level of expertise to your own efforts. Whether you are running a business or making major sales this applies in every case.

The Japanese on Resilience

By Just Sell: Give More Inspirational Sales Blog

Seven times down.

Eight times up.

– Japanese proverb

Give more resilience…

resilient: noun: capable of bouncing back from or adjusting to challenges and change

We all fail from time-to-time (our doing, someone else’s doing, somethingelse’s doing, a combination of each). It’s life.

To be resilient…

  1. Focus on results. Embrace the fact that results are what we’re all really after. Effort and attempts are great first steps, but we need to act with commitment to delivering (just like we want people to do for us).
  2. Make lessons of failures. Minimize the tendency to make a failure or mistake anything more than a lesson on how not to do something. We need to learn from our mistakes and truly accept them as tuition for succeeding later. And yes… Our mistakes might put us in a bind at times and have some uncomfortable consequences but again,
    that’s real life.
  3. Continue on. Smarter.
  4. Reinforce. Support each other (and ourselves) by continually reminding and encouraging one another to deliver on the
    first three points.

That’s it. Let’s practice it more.

(Forward this quote or inspire someone with the resilience
pocket card or wristband.)