One thing the many reps and managers we've spoken to have agreed upon is that forecasting is part art, part science. "Any process that deals with human behavior and decision making has an element of variability." said one sales manager from a large research organization. A lot has been written about the process of forecasting and pipeline management so we won't go there. What hasn't been discussed at any length are the tools sales reps use to keep track of and manage their pipelines. I know what you're thinking: "of course it has, it's their CRM system." Is it really? Consider Dave Kellogg's comments:
This begs the question: what’s an opportunity? I have two definitions: (1) the way you track deals in your salesforce automation (SFA) system, which these days is typically Salesforce.com, or (2) a possible deal that a salesperson is willing to be asked about every week by his sales manager on a forecast call. (By the way, I love definition 2 because that’s how “opportunity” really is defined from the viewpoint of the salesperson.)
If you believe that definition 2 has merit (and if you've ever run a weekly forecasting meeting, I'm guessing you do), then what are the differences between the 'possible deal[s] that a salesperson is willing to be asked about' and the ones in the salesforce automation system? And more importantly, where are they stored?
Enter the 'second book'
For years, reps kept track of their personal forecasts in one or more Excel spreadsheets that allowed them to manage their managers' expectations. In the early days, there was one spreadsheet that was safe for the manager and one meant for the rep. Now, the deals reps are likely to close go into the SFA system. The rest of their pipeline stays in the Excel spreadsheet so they can manage their own activities without setting unrealistic expectations that work against them. Just as that primary spreadsheet migrated into the SFA system, the secondary spreadsheet is now migrating into other tools like SalesMesh. Why? Excel spreadsheets are static, not mobile, and not at all dynamic. Reps have to spend additional time keeping them updated, duplicating some of the information into their corporate systems of record, and keeping the data connected to their other productivity tools. More work that takes away from selling.
Over our next few blog posts, we'll be exploring this idea of the 'second book'. Is it something you or your reps have and use? Something your company is vehemently against? Whatever the case, we'd love to hear your thoughts.