Reliable sales forecasting is the core element of any great sales strategy. It helps you project your sales results for the month or quarter, and pick the right deals and activities to focus on at any given moment.
Financial services sales is no exception.
There are many ways to evaluate your sales forecast, but knowing exactly when, why and how to do so is crucial when engineering a healthy sales pipeline.
Demand forecasting is your ultimate tool for identifying and planning your team objectives.
What is demand forecasting?
Demand forecasting is a process of predicting the demand for your product(s) for a set period in the future. By looking at historical sales data, trends and market changes, you can estimate the number of future purchases, as well as qualified leads, across all your offerings.
Accurate demand forecast can prevent problems before they start by enabling you and your sales team to:
Spot weak points in your sales process to isolate and address them
Determine and understand exactly when to hire
Work on deals that are likely to close or find new deals to work on
Prepare for seasonal or events-based fluctuations in revenue
There is no ‘one size fits all’ sales forecast, as factors like the size of the business and the number of financial products you sell differ from one agency to the other.
However, even though every financial services provider differs in size, expertise, sales velocity and many other elements, demand forecasting has benefits for all. It helps you make the right strategic, operational, marketing and hiring decisions.
Accurate sales forecasting will help you win confidence from your sales team, executives and the rest of your company. You’ll turn insights into predictions of future revenue and identify opportunities to grow and scale your financial services.
Use the right data
Hone in on the numbers that give you the right information to make decisions.
When done right, your sales forecast will give you a solid understanding of your expected revenue growth, profit and the demand you expect to generate.
For this, you need to hone in on the right numbers and trends, both from your company and external data, such as:
Information on all the leads currently in your pipeline
Your historic close rates per sales rep and for the whole team
Current trends in your sales
Recent and upcoming developments in finance, such as changes in regulations and compliance
Changes in the broader industry and market landscape
These figures often exist in a vacuum, separated from other numbers and trends, and you may struggle to see the big picture when looking at each number on its own. This is where visualizing data in one place with a tool like a CRM really helps.
Sales managers can monitor the team-wide forecast and avoid digging too deep into individual pipelines. Individual sales reps get the detail and clarity that comes with the individual forecast view for their own leads and sales.
Permissions and visibility will help with control and focus when you want to give team members access to information relevant for their deals, as transparency is key.
Revenue projections can also come into play here, ensuring individuals can focus on which activities and actions take priority on a quarterly, weekly and even daily basis.
Adjust for variables
Consider all the factors when it comes to your daily interactions with customers instead of just looking at last year’s numbers.
Digital and analytical advances have given FinServ businesses access to vast amounts of data about customer preferences and behavior.
Be sure you’re asking the right questions across the board. What can you be doing to streamline, where can you invest, and what specifics demand your attention for growth?
Instead of simply looking at your historical close rate and sales velocity, dive into your team’s knowledge of the leads that are currently in the pipeline. You and your salespeople will get your best understanding of a lead’s potential to close by speaking to them directly.
This will also help by starting a conversation on their objections or delays you can address and work to solve these problems.
It may also be a good idea to combine all of your data sources and get your sales team to collectively analyze the data so discrepancies can be ironed out before you prepare your forecast.
The devil’s in the details: capturing additional data as you go can help you better understand customers and ensures the business remains focused on quality customer service.
Know your business: use your statistical data (and your intuition)
When things get hectic, it’s easy for data to be entered differently or incorrectly within teams. As a result, tracking becomes an issue and reporting becomes based on inaccurate figures and data.
Make sure all of your sales data is up to date and accurate at all times, as this will guide your decisions on how to improve and optimize. To maximize your team’s chance of always having access to accurate data, you can do two things:
Lead by example: hold yourself up to the same standard as you do your sales team and always enter your own data timely and correctly
Make sales forecasting the focus of everyone: get your team actively involved in forecasting so they see the importance of up-to-date, sufficient data
With financial services sales, another thing to keep in mind are recurring trends.
For example, if you offer accounting services or financial advice, how will the demand for your services change as the end of the tax year approaches? You might have significantly fewer sales six to seven months before it and a surge of sales in the last three months.
Here are some other reasons you may need to tweak your forecast:
Months vary in number of days: May 2019 had 23 business days, but June had just 20, which can impact your forecast for the month
Vacation days for your sales reps
The number of reps you have on your team in periods you’re forecasting for and hiring plans
Take into account each month’s specific circumstances and take advantage of all the information available. Failure to do so can cause oversights that could damage your pipeline, not to mention cost you time and money.
You’ve got your accurate, up-to-date data and you know what to do with it. In order to plan ahead and gauge revenue, you should feel empowered to make educated decisions and estimations based on this data. This is where revenue forecast reports come in.
Using tools like Pipedrive’s Forecast Revenue allows you to view your projected revenue, so if things go as planned, or something unexpected happens, you’ll have plenty of time to react and adjust your actions accordingly.
Forecasting demand is an ever-evolving process, you’ll learn as you go and you can refine each year.
Many factors can impact the accuracy of your forecast, from government changes, compliance (like GDPR), political events (like Brexit), your competitors, consumer trends and more.
Get together with your colleagues and your team regularly to track and review changes and their implications on your sales.
Stay ahead of regulations
Making sure that your sales process follows the rules is crucial in any industry, but it’s particularly relevant in the ever-fluctuating and highly sensitive arena of financial services.
In other words, the more you’re aware of changes in regulations, the more accurate your forecast will be.
As Deloitte’s 2019 Banking Regulatory Outlook reminds us, when the financial crisis ended in 2010, the result was a substantial number of new or strengthened financial regulations. Almost a decade later, lawmakers are still evaluating what’s working and adjusting as necessary.
These waves of regulatory changes mean financial services sales must account for the time it takes to adapt in their forecast.
Could an upcoming change in financial regulation impact sales velocity? Will it take your reps longer than usual to close deals? It could take longer to qualify your prospects into leads if new regulations bring up more questions, or if there’s more paperwork due to new legal requirements.
Getting sales velocity right in your forecast is essential. Our Global Sales Performance Review revealed that salespeople spend an additional ten days closing deals than their initial sales forecasts had predicted.
It’s a metric that’s easy to get wrong and it will impact your forecast significantly, so keep the timeline of regulation changes in mind when forecasting.
Regardless of what definitive changes lawmakers and regulators might make, banking organizations should continue to drive effectiveness and efficiencies across their risk and compliance programs so they can meet applicable laws, regulations and supervisory expectations.
Explore modern data platforms that allow you to not only capture, but also store and process data all in one place.
Make use of advanced analytics to ensure you’re aware of updates and in full compliance with how you are storing data at all times.
Divide demand into component parts for separate analysis
With a tool like sales CRM software Pipedrive, you can easily calculate and forecast future revenue so you’re able to spot:
The deals of highest value
Deals most likely to be closed in a certain period
A summary of all deals, including probabilities
Lead sources that have produced the highest-value deals
Leads generated during a specific marketing campaign
This will help you organize and filter your sales information into clear chunks of data for specific analyses.
You can further filter by date started, and then forecast the revenue from deals stalled in the final stages of your pipeline.
Filtering your deals by each sales rep for the designated period will allow you to better allocate resources in busier times for your team, predict more accurate revenue when your reps take annual leave and identify hiring opportunities.
Check in with other departments to ensure you’re all working towards the most relevant goals for that particular quarter and don’t let your data live in silos.
In a study by Claranet, 51% of respondents who had access to centralized and structured data at their company struggled to draw insights of value that helped them understand the needs of their customers. However, with the right data management in place, these types of insights can inform decisions across the board!
From a sales perspective, the right data management means an up-to-date CRM software.
The insights generated from an accurate forecast help you see the bigger picture. Ultimately, companies that are able to accurately prepare for and predict the flows of demand are a step ahead of their competitors.
Not only does it allow you to identify any problem areas that could prevent you from hitting your targets, but it also:
Helps you understand where your team is at, so you can see where they are going and ensure they’re on track
Enables you to drive meaningful, sustainable revenue growth with less risk
When it comes to forecasting for your financial business, the more thoroughly you can plan, the more benefits you’ll reap. CSO Insights research shows that having a formal forecasting approach, with accuracy targets and measurement in place, will lead to higher win rates.
Ultimately, your business’s success depends on many factors that are reliant on accurate demand forecasting, including profit margins, turnover, cash flow, capital expenditure and capacity planning.
Timely, strategic forecasting is a skill that will allow you to work more effectively and help you and your team to smash those quarterly goals time and time again!
Check out the ebook below for everything you need to know about forecasting demand for your financial services business or read one of the other features in this series.