In America, it’s April 14th, (April 29th in Canada and Brazil, May 30 in Germany, and June 29 in Papua New Guinea) and your income taxes are due tomorrow. You don’t want to do them, but you have to. They will be wrong, but you don’t know how wrong. You will cheat and hope you don’t get caught. There are expensive professionals and cheap software that will do it for you and give you someone to blame. And the audit is only slightly preferable to prison.
Quick – tell me the difference between this and doing your sales forecast.
Hint – you only have to do your taxes once a year.
Yes, forecasting. The very word itself makes you cringe. Like marriage counseling or colonoscopy. But it won’t go away, no matter how much you wish.
For the lucky few, forecasting is simple. How many tickets will we sell this week for each performance of Cats? All of them.
Your forecasting is no doubt much more difficult or you wouldn’t be reading this. So why do you do it? Well, for starters, you have to. Someone with power over your paycheck told you to. But what do you get out of it?
Most sales people would say nothing. The only benefit they see is an estimate of how much commission they will earn, or how much closer to meeting their sales goals they will get, or how desperate they feel as the forecast period closes. And, following the rule of “you get what you pay for,” most forecasts are slapdash things that serve some other goal than to provide the enterprise with the vital information that it needs to plan and allocate and prepare. If there was a simple and effective way to forecast accurately, everyone would be a lot happier, except maybe the Budweiser salesperson. His forecasts would go down.
But what about you? Shouldn’t you get something besides a check mark on your to-do list? Shouldn’t your forecast help you do your job better?
Yes, it should.
But it doesn’t.
Forecasting is one of the biggest wastes of a salesperson’s time. Right up there with expense reports. Someone needs to figure out a way to have both of these done for you so you can sell.
What is a forecast? It’s a list of what’s going to happen. Do you really need that? Don’t you already know what’s going to happen? What you need is a list of what should happen. That is something you can work with, something that will give you some guidance and direction.
Forecasts are for people who don’t know what is going to happen, i.e., your boss, and your boss’s boss, and the production manager, and the financial analysts, and everyone else dependent on your company’s performance who are not out on the front lines trying to make these things happen. All of these people, and many more, need and rely on your forecast.
But it doesn’t help you sell a thing. When you use your forecast as anything except a check-off on your to-do list, it starts to become your to-do list. And that is just plain wrong.
Here’s the thing – in today’s world of computers and sophisticated software and phone apps and cloud computing, etc, your forecast should be a minute-by-minute, real-time reflection of your work and your knowledge and your plans. It should be automatic, intrinsic in the process that you follow to do your job. When your boss, or anyone else wants your forecast, they ought to be able to click an icon on their computer and have it pop up.
That’s the goal. And there are ways to do that. We think ours is the best, but check for your self with this video
And someday we’ll figure out how to do that with expense reports. Then you’ll be a full-time sales person.