Sales Forecasting – Think and Be Different or Die

Forrester Research suggests that “by the year 2020 one million salespeople will be displaced as buyers both accelerate their shift to self-serve and demand higher quality interaction with sales professionals”.

Wow, that’s an incredible prediction! We worry about the loss of jobs in traditional industries like manufacturing and engineering but who would have thought that the second oldest profession of all was going to be in decline. Does it mean that come the third decade of this century there will be groups of chinos wearing, polo shirted people hanging around on street corners looking for work and reminiscing about the last big deal that they managed to close. Scary stuff!

Of course, the usual blame game will be played, and the technological takeover will be the redundant sales person’s public enemy number 1. We all like to find somebody or something to blame to help deflect any form of self-analysis or reflection.

But hang on there, let’s look at the Forrester quote once again, doesn’t it say something about “as buyers demand higher quality interaction with sales professionals”, does this mean that the open-minded sales professionals have time to differentiate?

Adapting Your Sales Skills & Objectives of Sales Forecasting

If you are in sales, managing sales teams, or leading businesses that depend on sales to survive (yes that includes your business Mr. CFO) then here are 5 things that you may want to consider.

  1. Experience is great, but the past is for relevance not for residence.

There are so many sales people out there that have never changed their approach to selling. They are using the same lines, same lyrics and have the same incorrect attitude towards their skills as they have always had. Lip service is paid to trying new approaches and little time given to the need for any form of self-development.


  1. Targets are only ink marks on a piece of paper.

The sustained achievement of sales targets is a great and wonderous thing. Clearly it means you can sell and this success is probably having a huge impact on everything from the destination of family vacations to the size of the children’s College tuition fund. However, is the target an internal budgetary measurement or a realistic and appropriate reflection of the opportunity? In all likelihood it’s the former, which means that a target is as much a limiter as it is a measurement. You don’t need to have ceilings; you can be the CEO of your territory or area of focus. Take an entrepreneurial approach and set your own objectives and measurements.


  1. What makes you different to your competition?

Well there are probably many things that you could recite verbatim and do on a regular basis. The only problem is that your competition is using all the same lines. You can hear them now “end to end total solution”, “willing to go the extra mile”, “always providing added value” are just 3 examples of tired phrases that nobody really understands what they mean. If you feel that you need to have an elevator pitch then at least make it insightful, inspirational and worthy of somebody’s time to listen and move forward. Remember that buyers are looking for “higher quality interactions” they want to be engaged and educated. So, remove the generalizations, make your style and strategy specific to you and your audience. If you are or know a BNI member ask them about having to create a different 60 second pitch every week, it’s a great discipline that is certainly not for the complacent.


  1. Continuing education.

When was the last time you got on a plane and the pilot had only once been trained? Probably never right? In addition to the initial training to get their wings in the first place there is then an ongoing annual mandatory requirement. Some is based on new developments and some is just confirming what is already known. The fact that a pilot has managed to successfully land and take off umpteen times before doesn’t matter. That type of diligence towards training is also seen in many other “life or death” roles and professions. Within corporate organizations there are also roles were continuing education is the accepted norm. But what about the sales division? There appears to be no formal strategy and in most instances no semblance of a desire to create one. Given that sales is the heartbeat of the company, pumping goodness in the form of revenue and cash generation around the rest of the organization it could be argued that it is indeed a “life or death” profession. Let’s face it no sales, no business.


  1. Analysis paralysis.

Sales automation has come leaps and bounds in the last 5 years. It is truly incredible the amount of data that can be extracted and the analysis provided and used correctly there are many insights to be had to base actions, strategy and decision making. But remember sales organizations are made up of people and like any high performing team require a range of methods and inputs to support, mentor, motivate and incentivize. Sales meetings and communications that are used to simply report on data does not promote strong and constructive leadership and will never replace it. Data will not generate “higher quality interactions” with buyers, highly skilled, well-motivated and incentivized sales people will.


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