I’ve been following a discussion thread in a group that I belong to on a popular business focused social networking site. The membership of the group is comprised of Sales and Marketing VP’s and Directors. The thread that I am referring to has been very active and has had 125+ posts so far. What caught my attention on this thread was the premise of the question that started the whole thread – someone posed a question to the group wondering why CRM systems used such flawed logic to do sales forecasting. I have read and re-read the thread multiple times and there are all kinds of great comments and insights and similar and opposing theories, etc on how forecasting should work. Good stuff. The problem I have with much of the thread though goes right back to the original question in that a CRM system is just the tool…the business has to supply the logic. There is no one universal way that sales forecasting works. The needed logic is going to be different for each sales organization and even different within a sales organization that has a variety of product s and services that it sells, different types of customers, and so on and so forth. So the flaw in this whole discussion was looking to a CRM system to provide the logic to begin with.
There are certainly some standard theories and best practices for sales forecasting logic and that is generally the basis of what you find “out of the box” in today’s CRM systems. But, it should be viewed as just that, the basic starting point that you build YOUR logic on top of. In reality, you may or may not even use the base logic or functionality. What you need to do is to define how YOUR sales process works and the variables that drive that process and ultimately determine the logic you need to accurately forecast for your organization – what do you need for sales pipeline management – where will the sales process management come from?? Of course the typical challenge to this is almost a chicken or egg scenario…w/o data we can’t determine what our logic should be but w/o logic the data isn’t meaningful. To that I say…pick a place to start, make some assumptions, hazard a guess, draw straws, do whatever you need to do to begin to build the data that you need to that will help your ultimately determine your logic and adjust that logic along the way as you gain more information. A good partner like PowerObjects can help you through this process and then configure a Dynamics CRM system to match YOUR logic, whatever it is, vs. the other way around. If you look to the CRM system to determine your forecasting logic you risk inaccurate forecasts at best and maybe, having a lot of time to work on your short game at worst.