When done right, forecasting provides insights that can drive your growth. If done poorly, it can guide decision-makers down misleading paths. The difference comes down to accuracy. Obviously, to get accurate forecasts, you need accurate data. Easier said than done, right? But when your data isn’t reflective of what’s really happening with your buyers, you might default to arbitrary projections based on personal feelings or best guesses from the sales team.
Clearly defining your sales stages is a critical first step towards getting accurate forecasting numbers. Our SaaS consultants use this template, which lays out the basic foundation for crafting sales a sales process that works. Let’s take a look at what’s wrong with your current forecasting, and how this template can help.
Your Current Process is (Probably) Broken
If your forecasting numbers are wildly inaccurate, or it takes a ton of manual work to figure out what your projections are, your Salesforce processes are probably to blame. Here’s a good litmus test: If you asked each of your reps what a particular stage means, would they all say the same thing? If not, you need to do a better job of clearly defining your stages and communicating processes to the team.
Without definition in your stages, confusion will run amok. Inevitably, each rep will develop their own measure of what successful completion of a stage means. For example, some reps might think a successful demo means the Discovery stage is complete. Others may not feel comfortable moving to the next stages until they have more information. This discrepancy in perception shows up as a discrepancy in data, which renders your forecasting inaccurate.
As ops people well know, under – and over-reporting by reps creates a lot of extra work. You’ll probably find yourself playing detective in Salesforce and manually adjusting your numbers.
Defining Your Sales Process
The main goal of this template is to define your sales process in a way that is both logical for sales and generates accurate forecasting. This means creating clearly defined sales stages that shares three key factors: carefully considered sales activities, key milestones, and clear exit criteria. These three factors taken together will determine what your sales stages are, and how many you have.
1. Sales Activities
Sales activities are tangible actions that your reps take during each stage of the sales process. During these actions, your reps will gather information about the customer that’s required in order to move the deal forward in the pipeline. Clearly defining these activities within your stages will help both your reps, and your numbers.
For example, during the Discovery stage, reps may complete a demo meeting as one of their activities.
Sales activities reveal vital information for securing the deal, which builds towards your milestone for that stage. Think of a stage milestone as the ultimate purpose for the activities that happen during that stage. Make sure all of the sales activities required to meet this milestone are tracked within this stage.
For example, the milestone in the Discovery stage might be to identify the target solution for your customers.
3. Exit Criteria
Exit criteria are the determining factors for whether your deal is ready to move out of one stage and into the next. Until this criteria is met, reps can’t move their deal into the next stage.
For example, the exit criteria to move from Discovery into Proposal could be agreement to proposal.
Once you’ve defined your sales process, think about your Salesforce gates. These are the specific fields in Salesforce that your reps need to fill out to track the health of the deal. You can make filling these fields required in order for the rep to move to the next stage. This helps lock in probability accuracy for each deal.
I’ve Filled Out the Template. Now What?
By defining the sales process and salesforce gates for each stage, your future forecasts will be based on objective measures rather than arbitrary projections.
Remember the litmus test that tells you if your forecasting is broken? Ask it again. This time, each rep should be able to tell you the defined activities, milestones, and criteria of every stage. Using this new roadmap, your team will know exactly what needs to be done in each stage to achieve much more precise measures of success.
Defined checkpoints in the sales process now decide the probabilities of closing, and your forecasting in Salesforce will naturally become more accurate over time.
A Visual Manual
Even if you don’t need to totally revamp your sales stages, you can use this template as a rubric to guide your new and onboarding reps through essential actions. It can act as a guide for which activities should occur when, and milestones/exit criteria will provide crystal clarity about what data they are require to track as they move through the pipeline. We even had one client ask for an image of each stage be pinned to the Salesforce Opportunity as a visual reminder for their reps to stay on track.
No matter how you decide to use the template, it serves as a great visual guide of your sales process that removes subjectivity from your sales forecasts.
Grab the template to get started today!