3 Tips For Channel Forecasting Heaven

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As a Channel Manager, Director, VP or even SVP of Channels – you will have the reoccurring challenge (nightmare?!) of getting together a weekly, monthly and often quarterly sales forecast for your indirect sales channel.

Add large volumes of partners to the mix, distribution and mixed go to market models in separate regions and the challenge is compounded to say the least!

Yet as a senior sales person you are expected (quite rightly) to be able to provide accurate and timely sales forecasts for your management team.

Having worked with a number of channel models in UK, EMEA and Global clients at TST and before as a Quota carrying VP of Channels here are some of my findings and suggestions to help you achieve the ‘Nirvana’ of 99% Forecast accuracy in an indirect Sales Channel.

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#1 – Your Sales Process

First of all….is your own house in order?! Before you go out to work with the Channel on forecast accuracy has your organisation defined and implemented its own sales process and forecast process?

With regard to the sales process specifically:

  • Do you have defined sales stages from ‘Suspect’ to ‘Closing’?
  • What questions need to be asked at each stage?
  • What the key decision ‘gates’ that allow a sales person to move an opportunity forward in the process?
  • Do you have pre-defined emails to send to prospects relevant to each sales stage?
  • Is their full consensus and adoption of the process internally?
  • Is it embedded in your CRM or sales force automation systems?
  • Finally, are your own sales people trained and confident with the process?

With regard to internal forecasting:

  • Do you hold regular reviews?
  • Do your managers really ‘add value’ in line item deal discussions or is it a simple ‘What’s your number?’ type of call?
  • Crucially – does the forecast process link in with the sales process above – i.e. are opportunities graded by sales stage?

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#2 – The Channel Forecast Call

No doubt you have a forecast call schedule set up with your partners….how do those calls go? My findings have been that both the Vendor and Partner can get frustrated with the calls.

Partners tend to view them as an overhead / distraction or even worse an unwelcome inspection of their business and sales capability.

Vendors tend to get frustrated by the lack of clear information and so experience a lack of real control of key larger deals and therefore the total aggregated sales number.

To help improve this here are just some suggestions I have found that work:

  • Sell in the benefits of ‘Forecasting’ to the Partners – i.e. don’t just tell them they need to do it!
  • Benefits to the Partners will include – better knowledge of their pipeline weaknesses (e.g. not enough prospecting), or, better resource allocation (particularly scarce tech. resources) to the most important deals, or, easier and earlier access to key vendor resources / people to help improve deal success
  • Have forecast calls that add creative ideas help to move deals forward. Explore key deals together – respecting how each party could improve win chances.
  • Don’t disturb the Partner’s core selling time. Hold Forecast calls before or after the 9-5 day. Also if your Partner has a sales manager in the team – hold 1 review with sales manager – not 15 individual sales people reviews!

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#3 – Extend and Embed the Sales and Forecasting Process in the Channel

Once you have built the foundations of good sales and forecasting process in your vendor organisation and have a successful regular review process set up with your partners the secret to 99% accuracy is to have your partners adopt as much of the same process as resources, technology and culture allow.

Again you as a Vendor, you will need to ‘sell’ vs. ‘tell’ the partners why this is a good idea.

Some of the benefits I have seen to be of value to channel partners include:

  • They may not have a sales process in place today…(just as you didn’t until recently) so the usual benefits of having a process will apply: better forecast predictability, risk reduction, knowledge of metrics for sales stages and so on.
  • Deal Review discussions will be more effective and efficient for the Partner as both the Vendor and Partner will review the deals in the same language.
  • If combined with a sales training programme relevant to the sales process Partners also benefit from an investment in improved sales capability – which not only leads to improve sales effectiveness but can also help sales staff retention and motivation.

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So in summary – these are the 3 Steps to Channel Forecast Heaven!

– Define and agree a Sales Process

– Hold creative and value adding forecast calls

– Extend and embed your sales and forecasting process in your Channel.

So next time you are pulling your hair out trying to increase your forecast or forecast accuracy have a think about adopting some of the techniques above. Then, I guarantee that even within your current Quarter you will start to see results!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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