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How And Why To Use Expected Revenue For Sales Forecasting

How And Why To Use Expected Revenue For Sales Forecasting

Not having an accurate revenue forecast is the bane of many sales managers’ lives.

Gut feel just won’t cut it.

Nor will a top-down percentage applied across all open opportunities.

Moreover, executives often dismiss the Expected Revenue report in salesforce as irrelevant or inaccurate.

That’s a pity.

Used correctly, the Expected Revenue report is a realistic forecast of future sales. It’s a sales forecast that stands up to detailed analysis and scrutiny.

But here’s the rub with Expected Revenue.

If the Opportunity Probability is wrong then so is your Expected Revenue forecast.

Unfortunately, the Opportunity Probability IS usually wrong.

It’s wrong because in most salesforce implementations, the probability links directly to the Opportunity Stage. It reflects how far the Opportunity is through the sales process. However, it doesn’t say anything about the chances of winning the deal.

But this relationship can be uncoupled. It’s even possible to set Opportunity Probabilities automatically, based on proven historical evidence.

That way, the Expected Revenue report becomes a realistic revenue forecast and a key sales performance indicator.

That’s the holy grail of sales management.

Expected Revenue Defined

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here.

Expected Revenue (or Weighted Revenue if you prefer) is the Opportunity Amount multiplied by the Probability. That gives a dollar value for each Opportunity.

Add up these dollars for all your open deals and you have the Expected Revenue for each month or quarter.

If you calculate Expected Revenue on a realistic basis, sales manages know where they stand in relation to future sales targets.

That means decisions that drive sales team behavior are better informed.

For example, if the Expected Revenue is higher than the sales target, focus heavily on closing the deals you already have.

Alternatively, if the Expected Revenue is too low, then the sales team must generate more pipeline to meet target.

The Power of Expected Revenue

Many sales managers dismiss Expected Revenue as irrelevant.

That’s because it relies on calculating the weighted value of each Opportunity. Yet the outcome of each deal is a win or a loss. The full value of the Opportunity is won – or nothing is won.

It’s a binary outcome.

But wait a moment.

Let’s say you have a number of deals due to close next month or next quarter. You will win some and lose some.

The problem is you do not know which will be which. Crystal balls are hard to find.

Suppose you knew this information in advance. You would take 100% of the value of those opportunities that you will win. Likewise, you’d take zero value of the deals that will be lost.

But life isn’t like that.

Other than gut feel, you don’t know which will be won.

However, creating a forecast based on Expected Revenue is the way round that. The catch is it relies on setting a realistic probability for each opportunity.

The Problem with Opportunity Probability

The Opportunity Probability is wrong on many deals because it links only to the Opportunity Stage.

If the Stage moves forward, the Probability automatically increases. That happens irrespective of whether your chance of winning the deal has increased.

For example, let’s say four similar companies are pitching for a deal. They all have an Opportunity Stage called Needs Analysis. And let’s say they all have the Opportunity at 25% Probability.

All four sales teams submit their proposals. They all move the Stage onto Proposal Submitted – which for each company, has an Opportunity Probability of 30%.

All other things being equal, the individual chance of any one sales team winning the deal has not changed. There are four of them left. So each one has a 25% chance of winning.

In fact, it’s probably less than 25% because the prospect may decide not to proceed with any purchase.

However, the total Expected Revenue for each individual Opportunity has increased. Indeed, across the four combined companies, the total probability is 120%.

That clearly doesn’t make sense.

It means that a reliable Expected Revenue forecast needs a better way to estimate opportunity probability.

The Probability of Winning a Deal

For any one company, the Probability of successfully closing an Opportunity is dependent on many factors.

These might include geographic sector, product category, tender versus pitch deal and so on.

For our purposes, let’s consider two factors that apply to many businesses:

  • New or existing customer. Usually the chance of winning a deal is significantly higher with an existing customer compared to a new prospect.
  • The effectiveness of the sales person. Some sales people consistently close more deals compared to the rest of the team.

This where we need to consider history.

In financial services, there’s usually a warning that past performance is not an indicator of future returns.

With sales teams, it’s different. Past performance is an excellent indicator of future returns. We can use that to our advantage.

By extrapolating the Opportunity Probability from similar historic deals, it’s possible to forecast the future. It’s possible to confidently predict Expected Revenue.

Historic Opportunity Conversion Rates

We have implemented functionality for our customers to gather data on historic opportunity probabilities and conversion rates.

New versus Existing Customer conversion rates

Look at the report and dashboard table below.

It shows the difference in opportunity conversion rates between new and existing customers.

Report and dashboard chart compares the difference in opportunity conversion rates between new and existing customers.

The report and chart tells us about conversion rates for existing versus new customers. For example:

  • 41% of all Opportunities with existing customers were successfully won, compared to 34% for new customers. See the “1. Prospecting” row in the report.
  • 58% of Opportunities with existing customers that entered the “2. Investigation” Stage were won. This compares with 53% of Opportunities that entered the same Stage for new customers.
  • 76% of Opportunities with existing customers that entered the “3. Proposal Made” Stage were successfully won. This compares with 65% of Opportunities that entered this Stage for new customers.
  • 92% of Opportunities with existing customers that entered the “4. Negotiation” Stage were won. This compares with 79% of Opportunities that entered this Stage for new customers.

In other words, the report provides the information we need to differentiate Opportunity Probability between new and existing customers.

This is the starting point for more accurate Expected Revenue forecasts.

Sales person conversion rates

Now, let’s consider the difference in opportunity conversion rates between sales people.

Compare the difference in conversion rates between salespeople.

The report shows that Dave Apthorp wins 60% of all his Opportunities compared to 27% for Peter Hemsworth and 36% for Shaun Yates. This is shown in the “1 Prospecting” row.

Look at other rows in the report. They tell us the Opportunity Conversion rate that for Opportunities that move into each Opportunity Stage.

For example, of all the deals that enter the “4 Negotiation” Stage, Dave successfully closes 90% compared to 78% for Peter and 86% for Shaun.

Accurate Expected Revenue

Our customers use the information in these reports to calculate Expected Revenue accurately.

To do this we need a custom Opportunity Probability field.

The field populates by a formula, based on the information we garnered from the conversion reports.

Let’s take an example.

Here’s an Opportunity for £15,000 with a New Customer. It’s in the Investigation Stage.

Based on the standard method, the Opportunity Probability is 25% and the Expected Revenue £3,750.

Expected Revenue using standard approach.

However, we know from our reports that 47% of Opportunities with new customers that enter the Investigation Stage are successfully closed.

That figure automatically enters our custom Opportunity Probability field. Now the Expected Revenue becomes £7050.

Expected revenue with probability adjusted for new customer.

Alternatively, let’s consider what happens if this Opportunity is for an existing customer.

We know that 58% of all Opportunities with existing customers that enter the Investigation Stage close successfully.

Therefore, that figure automatically enters our custom Opportunity Probability field. This time the Expected Revenue is £8,700.

Expected Revenue adjusted for existing customer.

In other words, a realistic Opportunity Probability, based on historic conversion rates, automatically populates for each opportunity.

This, in turn, provides a more realistic (and in this case higher) Expected Revenue.

Accurate Expected Revenue Forecasts

Expected Revenue calculates by multiplying the opportunity probability by the value of the deal.

The problem is that our probabilities link directly to the Opportunity Stage.

However, if we use historical facts it’s different.

We know that 58% of Opportunities with existing customers that enter the Investigation Stage close successfully.  We know that Dave Apthorp successfully closes 60% of all his Opportunities, compared to 36% for Shaun Yates.

Now we can use these facts to set realistic Opportunity Probabilities and drive accurate Expected Revenue reports.

And accurate Expected Revenue reports mean accurate sales forecasts.

To find out more about how to create an accurate sales forecast using Expected Revenue in your business, simply get in touch.

Related Blog Posts

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How to use opportunity conversion reports for superior results
How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards
5 Easy Tips That Will Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend

How To Track Revenue Over Time In Salesforce

How To Track Revenue Over Time In Salesforce

Many businesses need to track revenue over time in salesforce.

For example:

  • Capital equipment items that the customer draws down or pays for over time.
  • Professional services to deliver projects over time.
  • Maintenance contracts in which revenue spans 12, 24 or 36 months.
  • Software-as-a-Service (Saas) licenses on fixed term or open-ended contracts.
  • Transactional items in which you anticipate the customer will buy a significant volume over goods every month, but with no guaranteed amount.

Do any of these apply to you? Perhaps several do.

It’s common for businesses to have a mix of different revenue streams over time on the same opportunity, some managed by framework agreements.

Unfortunately, many companies do one of two things when it comes to tracking revenue over time in salesforce.

The first is they perform this critical activity outside salesforce. They perceive it’s simply too difficult to do in the system.

This means those companies lose valuable visibility of committed and scheduled revenue. This impacts account management, business development, target tracking, revenue forecasting and performance management.

Alternatively, they add numerous fields to the opportunity. These fields capture revenue for Q1, Q2 and so on for each year.

Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to produce meaningful reports this way. It also results in one heck of a mess on the page layout.

There’s no need to take either of these routes.

It’s perfectly possible to track revenue over time in salesforce. The result is a significant increase in the benefits you generate from your salesforce licenses.

Two ways to track revenue over time in salesforce

Essentially, there are two options.

Option 1 is to use the standard product schedules feature in salesforce. This works well for many businesses. However, there are significant limitations, which we’ll explain.

Option 2 is to use a custom schedule solution. This solves the limitations of the standard schedule functionality. It’s a dynamic and powerful approach to tracking revenue over time in salesforce that is already benefiting many of our customers.

So let’s start with the standard approach.

Option 1 – Standard product schedules

Here’s how the standard product schedule feature works in salesforce.

The salesperson adds one or more Products to an Opportunity in the normal way.

The salesperson then creates a Schedule for each line item. They do this by clicking on the product line item on the opportunity, then on the Establish button.

This provides the page to enter the details about the schedule for that product on the opportunity.

This generates the product schedule that tracks revenue over time for the first product.

The salesperson repeats the process for any other products on the opportunity.

Advantages of standard product schedules

  • It’s standard functionality with no need to purchase separate app or salesforce.
  • Reports and dashboard chart can track revenue over time using standard product schedules.

Disadvantages of standard product schedules

  • The user interface is cumbersome. For example, the salesperson must drill down to each product line item in order to create the schedule.
  • If the opportunity close date changes, the schedules do not automatically shift. However, you can solve this problem with our Schedule Shifter app.
  • It’s impossible to customize or adapt the standard schedules. For example, you cannot add a Status field to track Booked, Shipped, Invoiced, Paid values. You also cannot schedule by margin or other values.
  • There’s no ability track committed and pipeline revenue over time against current and future targets.

The standard approach is appropriate if you normally have only one product per opportunity and you want an out-of-the-box way to track revenue over time.

Option 2 – Custom Schedules

A custom schedule approach overcomes the limitations of the standard product schedule feature.

Tracking revenue over time in salesforce using custom schedules means you can:

  • Forecast both committed and pipeline revenue over time.
  • Compare revenue over time in salesforce with targets.
  • Update revenue you previously forecasted based on ‘actuals’.
  • Adjust forecasts of future revenue based on current expectations.
  • Analyse revenue over time by product category, territory and other parameters.

Your system administrator can build the custom schedule solution, alternatively or you can use the pre-built GSP Custom Schedule app. We’ll demonstrate how the app works here.

When the salesperson adds one or more products to the opportunity then several additional fields are available.

For each product, these fields define:

  • The method of scheduling the revenue over time. More on this below.
  • The start date when the revenue over time will begin.
  • The number of months for the revenue over time.

Clicking Save simultaneously adds the products to the opportunity AND the associated revenue schedules.

At any time, salespeople can use the Edit Line Item Schedules button to return modify the schedules and change the way salesforce tracks the revenue over time.

Close Date changes

If the opportunity close date changes at any point, then the custom schedules automatically adjust by the same number of days.

For example, if the opportunity close date moves by 20 days then all schedules that track revenue over time also shift by 20 days. This avoids salespeople continuously re-aligning schedules and maintains the accuracy of revenue forecasts.

Track revenue over time in reports and dashboards

Additional information is stored on the schedule including product, margin details and ‘actuals’. This information is available for reports and dashboards.

Track revenue over time against Target

Each custom schedule links automatically to a Target record. This means salespeople and managers can immediately assess whether there is sufficient committed and scheduled revenue over time to meet quota.

Straight-line and S-curve revenue forecast

It’s easy to understand why you want to schedule revenue over time in salesforce using a straight line.

Service contracts, maintenance agreements, repayments on capital goods, Saas licenses – they all need the ability to track revenue over time in a straight line.

However, project work is often different. For example, frequently you have a period of mobilization in the early stages. Then you get into the heavy lifting of the project. Finally a period of testing and commissioning in which the revenue tails off.

An s-curve therefore accurately tracks the revenue on month projects. With the GSP Custom Schedule App, simply select the S-curve option in defining the schedule. The app automatically schedules revenue over time in an S-curve profile.

Advantages of standard product schedules

  • Easy for salespeople to us.
  • Flexibility to define different revenue profiles over time for each opportunity product.
  • Forecast accuracy is maintained because schedules automatically shift when the close date changes.
  • Track additional information over time including margin and actuals.
  • Track pipeline and committed revenue over time in salesforce.

Disadvantages of standard product schedules

  • Requires more setup than the standard product schedule feature (although our app takes care of this).

Many business already track revenue over time salesforce. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need our help in becoming one of them.

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If You Only Use One Sales Pipeline Chart, Make It This One!

If You Only Use One Sales Pipeline Chart, Make It This One!

Nothing is more useful to a sales manager than a sales pipeline chart that gives a comprehensive view of the funnel.

That’s exactly what the Pipeline by Month and Opportunity Stage sales pipeline chart gives you.

It’s my absolute favorite in our 12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts. In fact, if I could only have one sales pipeline chart then it would be this one.

Tip: You don’t have to build this dashboard chart yourself. If you haven’t done so already, download our free GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. That way you can easily install all 12 recommended sales pipeline charts in your own salesforce environment.

So here it is. It’s the sales pipeline chart shows the Pipeline by Close Date and Opportunity Stage.

This sales pipeline chart gives robust visibility of the funnel on a salesforce dashboard.

The chart shows the value of opportunities due to close each month. Within each month, we can see where those deals are in terms of the Opportunity Stage and the sales process.

Let’s assume we are in the middle of October right now.

We can see that in this month, there is £600k worth of Opportunities due to close. This value is split by the various Opportunity Stages. In salesforce, hover over each Stage for additional detail.

This is powerful information from a sales management point of view.

It gives sales executives the essential information they need to manage the sales pipeline effectively. The underlying report facilitates accurate forecasting. Dud deals can be identified. And the sales pipeline chart helps to prevent that all too common problem, an over-inflated sales pipeline.

Tip: When the Pipeline by Stage chart is first created in many businesses, it doesn’t bring the immediate clarity you expect. That’s because the pipeline is full of opportunities with Close Dates in the past. In fact, the chart looks more like a bedraggled washing line. However, that problem of Close Dates in the past can be easily fixed.

Current month pipeline strength

Let’s stick with our assumption that we’re in the middle of October right now. And, in this case, let’s assume our typical sales cycle is 3 months.

As a sales manager looking at my October projected revenue, I want to know just how robust the October pipeline really is.

The sales pipeline chart shows the value of deals due to close this month, split by opportunity stage.

Those deals that are in Prospecting, for example. If our average sales cycle is three months, are we confident those deals on the sales pipeline chart will close this month? Should some of them be at a more advanced Stage? Do the close dates need to be moved to a later month? Have the close dates on some of this opportunities slipped from one month to another before?

The same with the Investigation and Proposal Made Stages. Are we really going to close these opportunities this month? If not, then our October pipeline is significantly over-inflated.

December pipeline strength

Let’s look at another month in the sales pipeline chart.

What about those deals in the negotiation stage in December? Is it really going to take us three months to close these deals? Is there anything we can do to bring them forward?

The sales pipeline chart shows deals scheduled to close in December.

In fact, looking at the sales pipeline chart for December, we have a lot of funnel value that’s due to close. But just how robust is that? Are these deals in December because the financial year of many customers ends that month? If so, we can legitimately expect many deals to get completed in the run up to Christmas?

Have many of the opportunities due to close in December been sitting in our pipeline for a long time? Have sales people entered December as the close date on the basis that (hopefully) the opportunity is “bound to be closed” sometime during the year?

If that is the case, then the December pipeline is nowhere near as strong as we might hope.

January pipeline strength

The sales pipeline chart shows there’s a dip in the size of the funnel in January.

The sales pipeline chart shows there's a dip in the size of the pipeline for January.

Is this due to legitimate seasonal variation? Or is it something we should be concerned about? As a sales manager, do I need to start organizing some marketing campaigns now, with a view to boosting the pipeline 3 or 4 months from now?

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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Deals due to close before today

Let’s stick with our assumption that right now we’re in the middle of October.

What are these deals doing here on the sales pipeline chart? The ones with the close date in September.

Opportunities with a close date earlier than today are revealed on the sales pipeline chart.

Unless you have a time turner, these deals aren’t going to close in September!

But we see this very often. Open opportunities with close dates in the past. Either those deals have already closed and the opportunity stage hasn’t been updated. Or, the close date needs to be moved because they are still open.

A case in point. Colin Parish, VP of Sales at Moderna downloaded the dashboard package containing the sales pipeline chart. But Colin’s chart didn’t look like our beautiful example, based on his own sales data. That’s because Colin’s funnel was full of opportunities with close dates in the past. Read how Colin solved this problem.

Underlying report for the sales pipeline chart

Let’s go down to the underlying report.

The report provides more detail than we saw in the sales pipeline dashboard chart.

The report provides more detail than we saw in the sales pipeline dashboard chart. The report data shows the specific value of opportunities that are due to close by month, by each opportunity stage.

Like any other report, we can click on the Show Details button to see the underlying opportunities.

Like any other report, we can click on the Show Details button to see the underlying opportunities.

Now we can start to interrogate the individual opportunities that make up the chart and report data.

Right click on any opportunity to open it in a new tab. This way you can examine the individual opportunity details, whilst still retaining the open report.

Sales Pipeline Chart Video

The sales pipeline chart and underlying report give sales managers robust visibility of the funnel, in a meaningful and useful way.

And of course like any other chart, it doesn’t just need to be visible to managers. Team leaders and individual sales reps can manage their own pipeline, using this exact same sales pipeline chart.

In the video below I explain how to use the sales pipeline dashboard chart and the underlying pipeline report to manage the funnel effectively.

Create the Sales Pipeline Chart

If you don’t want to download the full 12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts, then here are step-by-step instructions for creating this salesforce dashboard pipeline chart and underling pipeline report.

  1. Start on the reports tab, click new report then select an Opportunities report.
  2. Adjust the basic filters. Set Opportunity Status to Open. Set the time Range to All Time.
  3. Set the Format to be a Matrix report by clicking on Tabular Format.
  4. On the left hand side chose Opportunity Stage.
  5. Across the top of the report chose Close Date. Adjust the date format to Group By calendar month.
  6. Pull the Amount field into the body of the report.
  7. Click on the Show link to remove the record count. Repeat the process to set the report to Hide Details.
  8. Run the report to check that it looks the way you expect.
  9. Now create a chart directly in the report. Click on Add Chart in the Customize section.
  10. Choose the vertical bar chart.
  11. On the Y axis select the Opportunity Amount.
  12. On the X axis select the Close Date.
  13. In the Group by, select Opportunity Stage.
  14. Now choose the stacked bar chart.
  15. Click on the Formatting tab. Put the legend below the chart. Enable the hover. And put the chart below the report.
  16. Now run the report and check your chart.
  17. Save the report (remember, not in your Personal Folder, no-one else will be able to see it).
  18. Click on the dashboard tab and select the dashboard to which you want to add the chart.
  19. Click on Edit on the Dashboard.
  20. Drag a bar chart from the left hand pane onto the dashboard.
  21. In the Data Sources tab, find the report you want to use for the dashboard. Drag it onto the component you’ve just added to the dashboard.
  22. Rather than creating a new chart within the dashboard, let’s pull in the chart we’ve already created on the report. Click on the spanner symbol on the chart. Tick the checkbox, ‘Use chart ad defined in source report’.
  23. Finally give it a header and a title so that people know exactly what they’re looking at.

If in doubt watch the video – I demonstrate fully how to create the report and dashboard chart.

Related Sales Pipeline Blog Posts

12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts | With Video And Examples

3 Ways To Measure Performance Against Sales Target In Salesforce In 2017

How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

Big is beautiful: The 4 easy dashboard charts you need to measure pipeline size

5 Big Problems with Sales Adoption (and how to fix them)

5 Big Problems with Sales Adoption (and how to fix them)

“The sales forecast spreadsheets never match what’s in salesforce”.

That from the VP of Sales of a prospective customer last month. He was complaining about low sales adoption of salesforce.

I’m sorry? What did you say?

Why on earth are you still using spreadsheets for sales forecasting when you have salesforce?

Actually, low sales adoption of salesforce is more common that you might think. And one way this manifests is continuing to use spreadsheets for forecasting and pipeline management.

Here is the business impact that emerged when we discussed low sales adoption with this VP of Sales.

  • Lack of pipeline visibility. A single salesforce dashboard provides a perspective on the size, quality and trend in the pipeline from different angles. A spreadsheet usually gives a one dimensional picture.
  • It’s clearly more time and effort to maintain opportunity information in two places rather than one.
  • Inconsistent information. Different teams using different spreadsheet formats and structure.
  • Lack of consolidation. Rolling up multiple spreadsheets into a single company-level view is a cottage industry in its own right.
  • It’s difficult to view a spreadsheet from a mobile device or when you’re out of the office. And it can be very difficult if someone else is editing the spreadsheet at the same time!

So low sales adoption is a problem. But it’s one that can be fixed. Usually quite easily.

But of course if you want to change the situation then you need to understand why it happens in the first place.

So we asked the VP of Sales why he thought low sales adoption occurred in his business. We have listed the reasons he gave below – along with our recommended actions for improving sales adoption.

1. Fear of visibility of sales performance

 

Sales adoption problem described by the VP of Sales

Sales people generally don’t vote for more visibility. Or at least the lower performers don’t. Keeping the opportunity information and sales forecast in a spreadsheet minimizes this visibility.

Our sales adoption recommendation

Be careful that this isn’t a management problem. If senior managers are constantly breathing down the necks of sales people on every big deal, then there’s little incentive to use salesforce. And even if you move sales forecasting entirely to salesforce then you risk sandbagging.

If you are confident there isn’t a management problem then check the visibility levels in salesforce. Agree what people can see – and cannot see.

But other than that, tough. It’s a fact of life that sales people operate in a high visibility role. If it’s too hot then don’t come into the kitchen.

2. Managers unaware how to run a pipeline review in salesforce

 

Sales adoption problem described by the VP of Sales

Using reports and dashboards to conduct an effective pipeline review or create a sales forecast needs know-how. Not a lot, but some.

Salesforce reports and dashboards are a tool. In themselves, they don’t manage the sales team. But managers need to know how to use these tools.

Our sales adoption recommendation

Coach sales managers how to conduct both a short term and a long term funnel review in salesforce.

This blog post and the accompanying video explains how to use the single most useful chart on the salesforce dashboard. It’s a good place to start by learning how to conduct a funnel review in salesforce.

3. No pipeline reports and dashboard charts set up

 

Sales adoption problem described by the VP of Sales

When a salesforce sales executive pitches the system, the first thing they do is demonstrate dashboards. And yet it’s remarkable how many companies that have implemented salesforce still don’t have pipeline reports and dashboards set up.

Or at least no decent ones that give effective visibility of sales performance.

If managers can’t get the visibility they need from salesforce then they’re going to keep opportunity information in spreadsheets.

Our sales adoption recommendation

The solution is obvious. Set up opportunity management reports and dashboard charts that give managers the visibility of sales performance and the sales pipeline that they need.

We’ve written extensively to help you do this. Take a look at our most popular blog post, 12 Charts That Should Be On Your Salesforce Dashboard. You might also want to try Spot Poor Quality Deals Using Salesforce Dashboards.

4. Salesforce is too difficult to use

Sales adoption problem described by the VP of Sales

Too many fields have been created on the opportunity. Or too many validation rules. It’s just too damn difficult to create and update an opportunity on salesforce through its lifecycle.

Sales people will, not unreasonably, take the route of least resistance.

If it’s hard to manage deals and produce sales forecasts in salesforce then sales adoption will suffer. Both managers and their team members will gravitate towards spreadsheets.

Our sales adoption recommendation

Take a long hard look at the way salesforce is set up. Are all the fields really necessary? Can the number of mandatory fields be reduced? Are there too many validation rules?

Implementing salesforce so that it genuinely adds value to the sales person is fundamental to sales adoption. There’s multiple ways to do this. For starters, try our blog post 5 Compelling Ways to increase salesforce benefits or even 5 More Compelling Ways to Increase Salesforce Benefits.

5. Lack of sales management desire to use salesforce

 

Sales adoption problem the VP of Sales described

The Sales Manager just doesn’t get it.

They’ve always used spreadsheets. It’s a tried and tested way to manage the sales team. You don’t have to be a computer genius to use a spreadsheet.

That scenario definitely exists.

But sometimes the Sales Manager does actually get it. It’s just that they lack personal confidence in using salesforce. And don’t want to look like a complete numpty in front of their team or peers.

Our sales adoption recommendation

The first scenario is increasingly less common. Where it exists, the Sales Manager needs careful education through demonstrations and external reading. Try many of our salesforce dashboard-related blog posts for examples of the power of using the system to manage sales performance.

And not everyone is confident using a PC or laptop. We have conducted a number of private training sessions for senior executives to educate, coach and instil confidence in using the system. It’s rarely a capability issue, more a matter of knowing how to navigate the system with confidence.

Update: Salesforce adoption in our customer’s sales team

I’m pleased to say the prospective customer on which this blog post is based is now a customer of GSP.

We ran several workshops with the sales team to listen to their concerns. This enabled us to create a tailored approach to increasing adoption and improving forecasting accuracy.

To start with we streamlined their salesforce user interface. Removed many of the superfluous fields and validation rules.

Then we implemented a number of measures to streamline sales processes. This includes implementing Conga and DocuSign to automatically produce customer-ready quotes and proposals directly from salesforce. And in order to make it much easier to find Products and add them to Opportunities we implemented the Product Selection Wizard.

We have re-built their reports and salesforce dashboard charts. The sales team now has full visibility of the sales pipeline. And the ability to forecast accurately using salesforce.

We implemented new target functionality so that sales people and their managers can easily view sales performance against target. This led to a tremendous boost in the popularity of the system for sales executives.

New metrics now track user adoption across the team. Rather than focusing simply on whether sales people have logged on, the metrics measure the quality of interaction with the system. The purpose is to identify people that might benefit from further coaching and advice on how to get the best from salesforce.

One final thing. We conducted a series of one-to-one coaching sessions with each of the sales managers. We showed them how to conduct a pipeline review and sales forecast in salesforce. This gave the team the confidence and know-how to use salesforce reports and dashboards to manage the team effectively.

Needless to say, the sales forecast spreadsheets have been ditched.

So goodbye spreadsheets. Hello sales adoption, accurate forecasting and a more effective way of working.

Related Blog Posts

Why You Need To Compare Average Closed Won Opportunity Size

How to use opportunity conversion reports for superior results

How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

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3 Ways to Spot Deals That Will Deflate Your Monthly Sales Forecast

3 Ways to Spot Deals That Will Deflate Your Monthly Sales Forecast

If your monthly sales forecast has ever fallen through the floor at the last minute then this blog post is for you. Use these three sales metrics to identify the deals that might deflate your monthly sales forecast. Take action on these deals to firm-up the close date or remove them from your sales forecast.

No-one cares when a deal moves within a month.

But everyone cares when a deal moves from one month to the next.

And when that happens in the last week of the month of the quarter that’s when they care the most.

(Actually that’s not true. What they care about most is when that move happens on the last day of the month or quarter).

Pardon the French, but when this happens it completely screws your monthly sales forecast.

But here’s the thing. If you can spot deals that might slip then you can take three forms of action. You can:

  • Prioritize at-risk deals to increase the chances of a successful close this month.
  • Adjust your monthly sales forecast to take account of the potential slippage.
  • Investigate deals highlighted by pipeline quality metrics.

Here are three sales metrics that help you do that. You can use these metrics in salesforce to spot deals that might sabotage your monthly sales forecast.

1. Month on month close date changes

There’s a statistically proven way to forecast the weather accurately. Predict that whatever happened yesterday will happen again today. Very often you’ll be right.

It’s the same with opportunities. The fact that a deal slipped last month means it’s more likely than others to slip again this month.

Particularly if that slip happened in the last week of the month.

The number of times the close date has changed is important. But what helps us identify the most at-risk deals is the number of times the close date has moved from one month to another.

Particularly if that move happened late in the month or quarter.

Here’s what that looks like on a dashboard chart and report.

Dashboard table that shows opportunities whose close date has slipped month on month.

Salesforce report that shows the number of times the monthly sales forecast has been impacted by close date changes.

The chart shows opportunities that are due to close this month. These are the deals that are in your monthly sales forecast.

That focus on this month is deliberate. If the opportunity is at an early stage and the close date moves from 3 months out to 4 months, we’re probably not too concerned. It is deals that might let down this month’s sales forecast that we’re most interested in.

A sales manager armed with this information might:

  • Focus on helping the opportunity owner to close the deal this month.
  • Make a call to the prospect or arrange a negotiation meeting.
  • Offer the prospect an additional incentive or discount to close this month.
  • Or any one of a number of other tactics to increase the probability of closing the deal this month.

You might also consider removing it from any month-end sales forecast you communicate to colleagues. Forewarned is forearmed.

Let’s look at another way to show the same information. Here’s the team-view.

Dashboard chart that shows how the monthly sales forecast can be impacted by close date changes at the team level.

The chart and report helps managers identify systemic issues. Do some sales people need support and training in closing out deals? What can we learn from individuals that have low slip rates? Are some products, opportunity types or territories more prone to having deals slip than other?

2. Number of days since last opportunity stage change

This is a powerful sales metrics because it shows deals on which progress is slow. It highlights deals with low velocity.

Let’s say the typical sales cycle is 3 months. Let’s also assume there are four or five opportunity stages for open deals.

Then all other things being equal, the opportunity stage should change every 20 to 30 days.

If an opportunity is due to close this month but the last stage change is well above this figure then it’s a strong warning signal.

dashboard table showing days since last stage change.

Report showing days since last stage change.

The metric is particularly powerful when applied to opportunities that have slipped one or month months.

Dashboard table showing impact on sales forecast of combining close date changes with last stage change.

Now we can really hone-in on at risk opportunities.

3. Total age of the opportunity

Some opportunities seem to live on for ever.

They’re like zombie deals. No-one knows if they’re really alive but they haunt your sales pipeline and over-inflate your monthly sales forecast.

Dashboard chart showing age of open deals.

And it’s amazing how often these deals will have the last day of the month, quarter or year as their close date.

That happens when the sales person hopes the opportunity will close at some unknown point in the future. Leave enough time, and it’s bound to be closed by then.

Why does this happen? It happens because:

  • Sales people are optimists. They often believe a deal has life long after its sell-by date.
  • Pressure from managers on the size of the pipeline. Closing out these deals doesn’t alleviate this pressure. It increases it.
  • Sales people don’t like setting deals to Closed Lost. This standard salesforce Opportunity Stage implies failure. And that doesn’t sit well with most sales people.

Which is all very well but these opportunities have a habit of moving from one month to the next. That habit often raises its head in the last few days of the month.

And we’ve already discussed the impact that has on the monthly sales forecast.

What’s the best way to manage these opportunities? There’s several options:

  • Add an additional opportunity stage. “Not Proceeding” for example. In many cases these zombie opportunities aren’t lost to a competitor. Rather, the customer simply does not go ahead with any purchase.
  • Create a Task to revisit the opportunity. The customer will potentially go ahead at some point in the future. Keep in contact. Check-back regularly. Add them to your marketing nurture program.

Either way, keep a watch for these opportunities. Use the Opportunity Age sales metric to identify deals that have out-stayed their welcome.

How to create these monthly sales forecast metrics

Each of these three sales metrics are based on custom fields on the opportunity. There is already a standard Opportunity Age field but it continues to count the age of the opportunity even after it’s closed. We therefore created a custom age field that stops when the deal is won or lost.

The three fields are updated using the salesforce Process Builder. Whenever an opportunity is edited the process builder updates the metrics. The dashboard charts and reports then simply use these custom fields to give visibility of the monthly sales forecast.

Simply let us know if you’d like a customized demo of how these sales metrics can apply in your business. Or if you’d like our help in creating powerful salesforce dashboards that give visibility of sales performance and the sales pipeline, simply enter your details in the form below.

Related Blog Posts

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How to tell if your sales funnel is emitting warning signals

How to tell if your sales funnel is emitting warning signals

It’s easy for sales managers to get distracted with the here and now. Especially when there’s constant pressure to hit this month’s target.

Today may look rosy. Or not. But your sales pipeline shape may be a warning signal of a future revenue problem.

And that problem is a missed sales target three, four or five months from now.

Sales managers need to understand whether they’re storing up a problem for the future. They can do that by looking at the shape of their sales pipeline.

It needn’t take long.

Here are two eyeball checks to see if your sales pipeline shape is emitting a warning signal. The checks will tell you whether you should be initiating marketing and business development activities now, to meet sales targets in the future.

Let’s say your sales cycle is typically 3 months. The shape of your sales pipeline tells you whether you have enough early stage opportunities to win revenue three, four or five months from now. That’s the first check.

The second check is to look at the timing of these opportunities. You need to understand whether the early stage opportunities that you do have, are in the right place.

Sales pipeline shape

Take a look at the pipeline chart below taken from a salesforce dashboard.

Sales pipeline shape showing opportunities by stage.

The chart shows all open opportunities grouped by opportunity stage. What we’re interested in are the shape of each segment. They show the breakdown of the sales pipeline by opportunity stage.

In this case our early stage pipeline looks good. The colour shading and numbers on the chart show that we have progressively more pipeline at earlier stages in the funnel.

Now have a look at the pipeline chart taken from another business.

Pipeline shape with not enough early stage opportunities.

This time it’s not so good. The early stage funnel is smaller than the middle or later stages. Just one look at the chart suggests we’re storing up a problem for the future.

In other words, the pipeline chart shows at-a-glance, whether the overall shape and composition of our funnel is a cause of concern.

And of course, you can run this chart at any level in the sales hierarchy. So examine the pipeline shape at individual, team and product level to understand the health of the pipeline.

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

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Sales pipeline timing

The funnel chart gives an immediate indication of the shape and health of the pipeline.

But we also need to know about timing. Specifically, are the early stage pipeline opportunities related to deals that are due to close some months from now? If your sales cycle is 3 months and these early stage opportunities are all due to close this quarter, then you might have a problem.

Look at the chart below. It relates to the second funnel chart we looked at a moment ago.

Significant proportion of the early stage opportunities are due to close this month.

We saw in the funnel chart that the early stage pipeline is too small. And now look at the timing. A significant proportion of the early stage pipeline is due to close this month. So now I’m immediately sceptical that I’ll meet the revenue target for this month.

In this case there is relatively little early stage pipeline three to four months from now. In many B2B sales environments, that’s a sure sign of an impending revenue problem.

In comparison look at the dashboard chart below. It shows the time-based spread of the opportunities in the first funnel chart.

Most of the early stage opportunities are due to close in later months.

There’s relatively little early stage pipeline due to close this month or the next. In contrast, most of the early stage opportunities are due to close three to six months from now. There’s a good head of steam built up to meet future sales targets.

By the way, we’re written a blog post specifically on using and creating the Open Opportunities by Stage dashboard chart. The article includes a video of Gary demonstrating how to apply the information in the chart and step-by-step on how to create it. It’s chart #2 in our series of the ‘12 Charts that should be on your salesforce dashboard’.

Investigate the pipeline shape further

These dashboard charts tell you in one eyeball glance whether you’ve enough early stage pipeline. If you think you’ve a problem then the first thing to do is look into more detail. Find out exactly where the funnel shape is wrong.

Drill down on the charts by team and opportunity owner. Look to see whether the shortage of early stage opportunities lies predominantly in one territory or geographical area. If you use products on opportunities (which you should!) then create the same reports based on opportunity line items. That way you can determine whether the problem is confined to one product family.

Also check there’s not sandbagging going on. In other words, are sales reps deliberately holding opportunities outside salesforce until they’re confident the customer is going ahead? If that is the case, then you’re missing the visibility of sales performance needed to manage a team effectively. It also makes it impossible to accurately assess how deals are leaking from the sales funnel.

Once you have a detailed understanding you can decide on the marketing and business development actions that will protect future sales volumes.

So act now – create the dashboard charts that tell you about the shape and size of your sales pipeline. Then have a quick glance to check they’re not giving off warning signals!

And now, read our 5 tip guide to creating high impact salesforce reports.

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5 killer examples of recurring revenue forecasts in salesforce

5 killer examples of recurring revenue forecasts in salesforce

I’ve never met any company that couldn’t – or probably shouldn’t – be using Products in salesforce to forecast revenue.

But here’s the rub.

Many of us sell products and services that involve recurring revenue. And that means you need to use standard or custom product schedules.

Unfortunately many companies that use salesforce think this is difficult to do.

But it isn’t. And you shouldn’t be put off.

In fact, making the effort to forecast recurring revenue in salesforce has many benefits. For example it:
– Increases visibility of committed and pipeline revenue streams.
– Improves the ability to manage customer payments.
– Ensures opportunities are managed to secure the full anticipated revenue.
– Improves cash flow management and production planning.
– Removes the labour intensive headache of forecasting on spreadsheets.

So here are 5 examples of companies that manage recurring revenue in salesforce. We bet you can spot at least one that is similar to the products and services your company sells.

If they can do it, so can you.

(Just for the record, all screenshots below are taken from real GSP customers but the actual data displayed is fictional).

1. Service Contracts with recurring revenue

Let’s start with the absolute easiest one.

Service Contracts typically have a fixed duration and recurring revenue over the life of the contract. This recurring revenue is easy and simple to forecast in salesforce using product schedules.

Linx Printing Technologies, for example, sell service contracts of 1, 2 or 3 years to support and maintain the printing equipment they sell. Payment terms on the service contracts can be monthly, quarterly or annually.

Linx have created the various service contracts in salesforce as Products. For each product, a default revenue schedule has been created.

A default schedule is the revenue schedule that will be automatically applied when a sales person adds a product to the opportunity.

Default revenue schedule on a service contract product in salesforce.

For example, the product that represents the 2-year service contract with monthly payments, has a default of 24 revenue schedules. The 3-year, annual payment service contract has default of 3 revenue schedules. And so on.

Here’s how it looks in a dashboard chart and report. We’ve used three examples of 1-year service contracts to keep down the size of the image.

Report showing recurring revenue over time.

salesforce dashboard chart plotting recurring revenue.

2. Products with deposits or multiple part-payments

MAM Software provides management software solutions to the automotive, building and distribution industries.

Each opportunity can contain multiple products including software, hardware, licenses, service contracts and professional services.

Like many companies MAM charge an initial deposit. Further payments are due when the products are delivered. Subsequent invoices and payments are triggered upon implementation and customer sign-off.

In other words there’s recurring revenue for a short period of time, albeit the payment amounts are not necessarily identical.

There are two ways to handle this type of recurring payment – standard salesforce product schedules or custom schedules.

Standard product schedules

Using the standard functionality the sales person enters the core data required to create the schedule.

Establish initial revenue schedule on a product.

This will create an initial recurring revenue schedule of 4 payments @ £750. However the sales person now has a chance to modify the date and amount of each schedule.

Users can adjust recurring revenue schedule.

The result is a series of recurring schedules that correspond with the payment arrangement agreed with the customer.

Custom product schedules

It’s imperative for MAM to record this schedule of payments in salesforce.

  • Contractual payment agreements are visible to appropriate users.
  • Goods are prevented from being shipped to customers that haven’t paid their deposit.
  • Professional services and implementation work can be triggered based on customer payments.
  • Sales people can accurately forecast upcoming pipeline and committed revenue.
  • Finance has the visibility needed to manage credit control effectively.

However this means that additional information must be entered for each recurring payment – the status, for example.

Unfortunately the functionality associated with the standard product schedule in salesforce has several constraints – additional fields such as ‘payment status’ cannot be added for example. It also requires sales people to manually calculate the amount and timing of each schedule.

MAM overcome these constraints by using custom product schedules.

Sales people record the deposit and repeat payments using a Visualforce page embedded within the Quote.

mam_vfpage_custom_schedules_resized

The scheduled payments are automatically calculated based on the default payment terms – for example, 20% upfront deposit, 60% upon delivery and so on.

If additional products are added to the Quote then the deposit and recurring revenue calculations are automatically updated. Once the deal is agreed with the customer the final Quote is synced with the Opportunity and both are locked to further changes.

The Finance team within MAM use these payment records to send invoices. When the invoice is paid the relevant payment term is updated and the next project stage can begin.

The structure gives MAM a robust dashboard view of pipeline and committed recurring revenue. It also enables product delivery, implementation and commissioning activities to be scheduled based on invoices and customer payments. It also means MAM can easily compare expected with actual orders on framework agreements.

In summary, if you simply need to record the basic recurring revenue schedule agreed with the customer then standard product schedules are likely to meet your needs. Anything more complex – then use custom product schedules.

3. Transactional products

Some companies sell high volumes of products that the customer will use on a monthly basis. But at the outset, the actual number of units or transactions per month can only be guessed at.

Brainstorm, for example, sell text messages to accompany their software products that enable companies to get real time feedback on their customer service performance.

A large deal might require as many as 1 million text messages, to be used over 12 months.

To manage this Brainstorm has created Text Message as a product in salesforce.

Sales people add the product to the opportunity and enter the estimated volume of units and unit price. They then add a revenue schedule based on the duration of the contract.

Custom product schedules modified to reflect actual revenue.

Each month, the account manager updates the forecast revenue schedule with the ‘actual’ revenue that was generated. We can see this in the figures for January to April in the screenshot above. Optionally the account manager also updates future schedules based on the latest available information.

This means the reports and dashboards provide a clear view on two key things. First, the actual revenue that was generated from the text message product on each of the opportunities. And second, the projected revenue for future months.

4. Distributor sold products / run-rate recurring revenue

Gilbarco Veeder Root is the worlds’ leading supplier of petrol pumps and related retail equipment. In addition to their direct business, Gilbarco also sell significant volumes via distributors.

Revenue from these distributors is ‘guaranteed’ in the sense that there’s an ongoing commercial relationship and contractual arrangement with the distributor.

At the start of each year each account manager forecasts the product volumes that will be sold by his distributors.  He does this based on historic information and his knowledge of the distributors business.

To reflect this revenue in the pipeline reports and dashboards, Gilbarco take a similar approach to the transactional product example shown above.

In other words the account manager creates an opportunity for the estimated annual volume. At the same time she creates a revenue and quantity product schedule that reflects anticipated month-on-month orders.

Every month the revenue and quantity product are updated based on the actual volumes received. At the same time she modifies the schedule for the following months based on latest understanding of the distributor pipeline.

So again it means that there is an up to date view of confirmed deals and pipeline revenue based on the latest information. This is critical information to Gilbarco in production management and financial planning.

Find out what Derek Davis, Sales Support Director at Gilbarco Veeder Root has to say about working with GSP.

5. S-curve recurring revenue

Taylor Woodrow undertakes major construction and infrastructure projects such as motorways, tunnels and railway lines on behalf of government agencies.

The sales pipeline for these projects can last many years. As can the construction and engineering work that results from a deal.

Yet like any other business, Taylor Woodrow needs to forecast the anticipated revenue for pipeline and closed won opportunities.

For any given opportunity the revenue can be predicted – it’s either going to be a straight line, or more commonly, an s-curve.

The s-curve profile reflects the fact that at the beginning of each project there’s a comparatively modest design and set up cost. At the end there’s commissioning and sign-off. However in the middle, there’s a major chunk of heavy duty construction going on!

To manage this Taylor Woodrow use an s-curve function built into the opportunity.

s_curve_recurring_revenue

The opportunity owner enters start date, end date and number of months, projection method (straight line or s-curve) and the system does the rest.

Taylor Woodrow amalgamates the recurring revenue from all projects in reports and dashboards to produce a predictable view of anticipated income.

So did you spot a company that operates in a similar way to your own? Try making the effort to implement product schedules to forecast recurring revenue – there are major benefits to be gained!

And if you have a question – or want to talk to us about helping you forecast recurring revenue – simply get in touch.

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Your sales forecast is probably wrong (but here’s what you can do about it)

Your sales forecast is probably wrong (but here’s what you can do about it)

Track Sales Performance And Pipeline Versus Target

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It’s tough to create accurate sales forecasts.

Gut feel just won’t cut it. Nor will a top-down percentage applied across all opportunities.

And often your forecast contains deals that get continually shifted to the next month at the last minute.

It’s no wonder most sales forecasts are inaccurate.

But it doesn’t need to be this way. And that’s why Derek Davis of Gilbarco Veeder Root and I ran a webinar about it.

The live version was attended by 86 people from 12 countries. This 10 minute edited-highlights version distils the essential information.

So listen to Derek and myself as we discuss:

  • How a single dashboard chart can double forecasting accuracy.
  • How to spot poor quality deals that have no chance of closing this month.
  • How to set realistic probabilities on opportunities.
  • How to compare your sales forecast with revenue targets.

 

Other blog posts by The Gary Smith Partnership on sales forecasting, pipeline visibility and salesforce dashboards include:

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE eBook today from our website

Get it now!

Related Blog Posts

Why You Need To Compare Average Closed Won Opportunity Size

How to use opportunity conversion reports for superior results

How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

5 Easy Tips That Will Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend