Sales technology vendors often use the GPS analogy to describe how they help sellers reach their goals. Enter your destination, and let the system guide you. While this analogy makes sense, these vendors have spent more time talking about the route than their ability to get where you’re going on time.
Companies that are not growing are dying. Investments are made based on a cyclical process where future value is determined by meeting sales commitments, which are then used to validate investment that drives growth. Continued investment is dependent on a proven track record of achieving sales commitments. Forecasting, like a GPS route, is not valuable unless it can help a company reach its committed sales target. An accurate forecast that misses commitments to investors will lose funding and stall the future growth of the company.
Sales organizations need more than a forecast — they need actionable insights to help their sales teams overcome barriers and gaps. At the beginning of a quarter, a company typically knows the sales goals it needs to deliver to satisfy investors. Sales technology should provide insights and guidance that enable those goals to be achieved even when forecasts point to a miss. When an issue is identified, the system should immediately provide options to get back on track. Sales leaders instinctively do this by incentivizing buyers to purchase earlier or by focusing sellers on higher-potential opportunities. The insights generated by modern sales tech platforms can help identify novel options to close gaps that may not be readily apparent.
Current tech platforms are in the early stages of providing this level of insight, but many sales technology vendors have the vision and investor backing to make it a reality. For buyers of sales tech, here are a few questions to ask vendors to determine if they can go beyond forecasting and provide insights that help close gaps and consistently hit sales targets.
- What time period can vendors accurately forecast? The buying cycle plays an important role in determining how far out vendors can provide insights. Opportunities outside the buying cycle are more difficult to predict. Not accounting for the buying cycle limits the ability to provide the insights needed to help achieve sales targets.
- How do vendors identify opportunities to help companies fill a gap to target? There are unforeseen circumstances that come up and challenge a company’s ability to achieve its target. Vendors should be able to show how they can achieve the difficult task of not just identifying those circumstances but also providing the insights needed to make up the gap.
- Can vendors prove the benefits of their insights? Companies need to go beyond correlation and into causation to contribute to achieving a commitment when there is a gap in the forecast. Sales technology that does this will provide tangible models that are so good that they are willing to stand behind them with ROI commitments.
I don’t believe many sales technology vendors have high-level insights, but many will very soon. Those that make this a reality will lead sales teams into an insights-driven future. This will eliminate those (often tedious and unproductive) forecast calls and allow sales organizations to focus on the value-add work needed to achieve their targets.