As a sales leader, you put the execution of your go-to-market strategy in the hands of your sales force. The larger your sales force, the more likely it is that you are out of touch with the day-to-day realities of the front line. The further you move from the action in the field, the more reliant you are upon data to meet your needs for information. As a result, frequent sales forecasts are likely to become the norm for your company.
In the process of attempting to gather pipeline and forecast data, you may be inadvertently hindering your sales manager’s ability to effectively manage their teams. Although sales forecasts can be a soothing salve, especially if they indicate that numbers will be achieved, the resource cost of producing them on a too-frequent basis may actually decrease overall profitability. Here are three signs that your appetite for sales forecasting data might be starving your salespeople of much needed coaching time with their sales managers.
A study by Adam Rapp of the University of Alabama found that front-line sales managers spend about 32 percent of their time managing their sales team, but as much as 44 percent of their time managing information and performing administrative tasks. This means sales managers are investing almost half of their time on administration, often at the expense of the development of the sales force. Rapp’s research identified yet another troubling finding: managers who spend more than four hours per week managing information experience a reduction in productivity. Keep in mind that the more time sales managers spend managing information, the larger the productivity hit.
What has the most impact on improving sales force performance and in turn, bottom line profits? Something too few sales managers devote adequate time to—coaching. In addition to a data deluge, sales manager’s responsibilities have increased, sales jobs have become more complex, and geographic dispersion of sales teams is wider than ever before. Today’s sales manager is often over-burdened and under-supported. If you want better execution in the field, consider balancing the need for forecasting data with more support for sales coaching and front-line execution.
Research from VantagePoint Performance and the Sales Management Association found that executives at 43 percent of companies surveyed required forecast reports one or more times a week. With all of that effort invested in forecasting, you would expect those companies to have more accurate forecasts, right? Wrong. The study found that the more frequently salespeople forecasted, the less accurate the forecasts tended to be. Companies that required weekly forecasts reported an average forecasting accuracy of 3.3 on a scale of one to seven with seven representing highly accurate forecasts. However, the companies that required forecasts quarterly or less reported a slightly higher average score of 4.
It is clear that sales forecasts matter, but maybe not as much as you might think. Perhaps by reducing the number of sales forecasts required, your sales leadership might just have the bandwidth needed to invest in activities that will actually have a tangible impact on the bottom line, such as sales coaching and sales force performance improvement.
To learn more about coaching practices of high-performing managers, check out our most recent book Crushing Quota: Proven Sales Coaching Practices for Breakthrough Performance on Amazon.
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