In order to reach our goals, it’s important to forecast sales in advance.
A few weeks ago, I shared two ways to forecast sales to help track return on sales training investment. First, by measuring culture. Second, by building a forecast. Click here to read the full article.
Today, I’ll be diving into five more ways to forecast sales and track your return on sales training investment.
Forecast Sales in These 3 Areas
Use the following areas to forecast sales and determine your return on investment for sales training.
Surveys are a good way to quantify the return on investment in specific areas and forecast sales. Your outside sales training company should help you develop these.
Several surveys can be administered at the same time. A self-assessment, performed by each salesperson can run in parallel with another that is completed by the sales leader and other executives.
These surveys form a performance baseline prior to conducting professional sales training. Additional surveys can be administered after training and periodically thereafter to measure progress.
Surveys are helpful to assess where to repeat or even determine what additional training is required. Here are a few examples:
2. Hiring and Retention
Offering professional sales training is an advantage when competing for sales talent. You can include a summary of the training program in your job postings and provide more detail during the in-person interview. Salespeople love to hear how the organization can support them to produce the desired results. This includes getting leads, being provided with solid marketing support, and using state of the art systems to successfully manage their customer relationships.
Remember that professional sales training can be applied to non-salespeople in your organization as well. This becomes relevant if some of your employees are interested in changing career paths, or if they are involved in the sales process as subject matter experts.
Professional sales training can lower employee turnover. Dedicating resources and spending money on people’s development shows that you’re investing in their success.
3. Key Performance Indicators
KPIs are a great way to forecast sales. Be sure to make indicators SMART: specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based.
Make sure the professional sales training program addresses all of the indicators listed below, as well as others that are important in determining a good ROSTI.
You’ll probably notice that I stated “requests” rather than “received.” This is deliberate. You can’t control how many referrals you receive, but you can control how many you ask for. It’s a good idea to ask salespeople to commit to a referral request target. This makes them more likely to perform this activity.
You can create a game by awarding points for how many referrals each person asks for. At the end of the month, give someone a prize of your choice for the most referral requests. The professional sales training program can help by giving you a way to ask for a referral.
At CFS, we provide a seven-step process that begins with the request and ends with keeping the person who referred you in the loop. For more details, see our blog on Why are people not giving me any referrals?
Keep track of the number of leads received at an individual and team level. Also track the sources that bear the most fruit in generating new leads. These include:
- Inbound marketing, e.g. from downloads on your website
- Referral requests
- Events, such as trade shows, speaking engagements, conferences, and networking
Count the number of disqualified opportunities. One thing that we cover in our professional sales training program is how to disqualify as early as possible. This serves prospective customers well because they’re not wasting their time. Obviously, your salespeople’s time isn’t being wasted either. By disqualifying early, salespeople aren’t getting emotionally hooked by opportunities that are not a fit.
Count the number of qualified opportunities being worked at any one time. You can do this at both the individual and team level. Determine the length of time these opportunities are moving through each stage of the pipeline.
It’s also a good idea to track the sizes of your opportunities. This gives you insights into the type of customer, the type of salesperson, required effort, and the marketing and messaging involved for large versus small opportunities. By doing this, you may discover that it takes about the same amount of effort to close a small transaction as a larger one.
Be prepared to readjust targeting and forecasting moving forward as you spot trends by tracking your opportunity indicators.
Measure how many opportunities convert to close/won. Group these into categories and track by customer type, transaction size, and salesperson. We’ve seen that customers that are invested in a strong relationship with you buy larger transactions and convert at a higher rate. On the other hand, a transactional buyer that is price sensitive buys smaller transactions and converts at a lower rate.
Match the type of salesperson that is better suited to selling higher valued transactions to more sophisticated buyers. These would typically be your A+ and A salespeople.
Professional sales training can impact this indicator by teaching your team how to best work with key executives and more sophisticated buyers.
Meetings and phone calls
In a highly transactional sales environment, such as inside sales, tracking call volume and meeting activity is important. For example, if inside sales generate appointments for outside sales, measuring these two indicators gives you valuable insights into performance. More phone calls, lead to more meetings, which lead to more opportunities, resulting in more closed business.
However, there is some fuzziness around these two indicators. Many salespeople call someone on the phone, wish them a happy birthday, and log that as a call. Or, they meet someone for coffee and doughnuts are mark that as a meeting. Make sure professional sales training helps you provide a clear definition of this type of activity.
Follow up emails
In all the years of providing professional sales training, I’ve found that the best leading indicator of future business is tracking the number of follow up emails sent to prospects and customers. We call these the DEAL emails. When working on a bona fide opportunity, every salesperson should send a DEAL email after every first sales call (phone or in-person).
DEAL stands for:
- Determine requirements
- Engage the prospect
- Assume responsibilities, and
- List the outcomes you are driving for
This email is a huge time saver and a great way to qualify or disqualify a new opportunity.
We have an entire eBook dedicated to this practice. See our Discovering High Performance with DEAL eBook.
Tracking the number of proposals is a good indicator of opportunities that passed the disqualification stage.
This may or may not apply to tracking RFPs. I personally believe that all RFPs are not the same. Track the ones that are in your sweet spot versus those that just came in on a random basis. Trace back the efforts to get the RFPs you want. This can lead to better marketing and messaging, specific referral requests, and better branding.
At CFS we refer to proposals as “confirmations.” In our view, a proposal alone doesn’t close opportunities. A “confirmation” implies that everything that is laid out in the document confirms what has already been discussed. Applying this philosophy ensures that the salesperson is doing his or her due diligence before sending the proposal.
Customer testimonials and success stories
In addition to surveying your customers, capture testimonials and success stories. More success stories and customer testimonials are a good indicator of ROSTI. Put these into your Sales PlayBook and reference them when you want to demonstrate your solutions to a prospective customer.
Consider paying special attention to improving the practice of storytelling during professional sales training.
Professional sales training is not limited just to sales. Cross-training other employees in your organization can be very important. We encourage non-salespeople to participate in our professional sales training events. We’ve found that becoming aware of how new opportunities are created and how they are worked creates better alignment. Going on joint sales calls gives people ideas on how they can improve your company’s services.
I don’t like hearing “everyone in our company sells,” or “we are a selling organization.” I’d rather hear “we are problem solvers, working for a problem-solving organization.” Professional sales training gets at the core of what part each person in the organization plays in providing the solution.
Another indicator to track is how well Marketing supports Sales. An increase in number of new leads, for example, is a good way to measure ROSTI.
Additional indicators for you to track include:
- New marketing initiatives
- New presentations
- Modifications to existing presentations
- Number, quality, and relevancy of new blogs, white papers, and eBook downloads
- New templates for email outreach
Want all 10 areas to track return on sales training investment and forecast sales? Click here to download our eBook How to Track Return on Sales Training Investment for Superior Performance.