Double Article Friday, Sales Pipeline Nazi, Get Forecasts Right


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For double article Friday, in addition to my Sales Pipeline Nazi article, I have the following bonuses for you:

For those of you who wanted to attend the Webinar on the Sales Candidate Analyzer, here is a link to the recording.

WittyParrot has just released the Top 50 Sales Productivity Tips ebook with 50 Experts, including me, offering their advice.  Download it here.

And the March Issue of Top Sales Magazine is available!  It includes an article from me and several other noteworthy sales writers.  You can download your copy here.


The Sales Pipeline Nazi

When I wrote this article, the Northeast corner of the US was being walloped by yet another snowstorm, which in this case, was very accurately forecast.  At the same time, the first email I saw today had a link to a very funny video – a spoof of a Pipeline Review being run by Hitler.  Here is a link to that video on You Tube.

So the storm and the video led me to the following thoughts.

We joke a lot about sales forecasts being no more accurate than weather forecasts but everything is relative.  An inaccurate forecast of cloudy won’t have much of an impact on anyone, but an inaccurate forecast of sunny and warm might.  An inaccurate forecast of flurries might not cause a problem if they don’t materialize but an inaccurate forecast of a foot of snow – in either direction – has serious consequences.

Inaccurate sales forecasts are legendary.  Here are the 10 most common reasons why salespeople, sales managers, Sales Directors and CEO’s suffer from this: 

  • They lack a formal, staged, criteria-based pipeline
  • They lack a functional, sales-specific CRM or Pipeline Management application
  • Their sales process is not integrated into the CRM/Pipeline Management application
  • Salespeople have the power to suggest the likelihood of closing
  • Salespeople have the power to override the application’s weighting of an opportunity
  • Salespeople fail to LIVE in the CRM application, providing infrequent updates, causing most report and dashboard data to be outdated
  • There is a lack of accountability for keeping the application up-to-date.  Not weekly, not daily, but in real-time!
  • The data being entered is not being inspected by management
  • Nobody cares about getting it right
  • The concept of Pipeline Management has not been integrated into the culture

As for the weather, we learn to live with those inaccurate forecasts by preparing for the worst.  We also learn to check back often, get an updated forecast the night before, the morning of and right before that outdoor event, trip to the airport, or 6-hour drive.  What if our salespeople did that?  What if sales managers did that?

If sales forecasts are truly like weather forecasts and we have learned to make the best of the weather, why can’t we simply employ the same strategies and tactics to sales forecasts?  Why can’t we get updates, check-in, check back, verify and re-verify?  Why can’t we get it right?  Why don’t we get it right?

In my opinion, there are a combination of factors at play that discourage salespeople from taking the steps I just mentioned:

  • Laziness – “It’s too much work!”
  • Fear of Rejection – “When I check back, what if they changed their mind?”
  • Need for Approval (Need to be Liked)  – “They might not like me anymore”
  • Fear of being wrong – “How could I live with myself?”
  • Pressure to find new opportunities – The only time hunting takes precedence over anything!
  • Consequences of removing an opportunity and its related value from the forecast and/or pipeline – “It’s much better to slide the opportunity to next month than the alternative”

We must get sales forecasting right.  And we can.  If one company can do it, all companies can do it.  But it takes a commitment, from the top down, to make it work.  It takes work after the commitment has been made.  If the first 9 reasons from my list at the beginning of the article are all properly addressed and the appropriate commitment has been made, then any company wishing to have an accurate sales forecast can have one. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Your question “If sales forecasts are truly like weather forecasts and we have learned to make the best of the weather, why can’t we simply employ the same strategies and tactics to sales forecasts?” is a good one. Part of the answer is in the fact that weather forecasts and sales forecasts are not similar. As Nate Silver wrote in his book The Signal and the Noise, “We understand the chemistry and Newtonian physics that govern the weather fairly well, and we have for a long time.”

    In another book, “Against the Gods,” author Peter Bernstein sheds light on a major reason sales forecasts lack predictive accuracy: “the accuracy of most forecasts depends on decisions being made by people rather than by Mother Nature. Mother Nature, with all her vagaries, is a lot more dependable than a group of human beings trying to make up their minds about something.”

    I think the insistence on accurate forecasts is somewhat misguided. I wrote about this in a March, 2013 blog, “Your Sales Forecast Accuracy Sucks, and Why It Doesn’t Matter.”

    Forecast accuracy alone doesn’t help anyone if people don’t listen to it, or if they listen, but fail to take the right actions. Silver suggests three qualities that make a forecast good:

    1. Accuracy – did actual meet forecast?
    2. Honesty – “however accurate the forecast turned out to be, was it the best one the forecaster was capable of at the time?”
    3. Economic value – did it help people make better decisions?

  2. Hi Andy,

    And I like your comment, “Forecast accuracy alone doesn’t help anyone if people don’t listen to it, or if they listen, but fail to take the right actions.”

    There is one very important reason that companies need forecasts to be accurate. On that statement, I not only speak for all of my clients of the past 28 years, but also for the companies I have run during that time. The budget is only as good as the forecast. If the money doesn’t come you can’t spend it and if you spend it because it was budgeted, and the money doesn’t come, you can still have a paddle but you’ll never make it down the creek.

  3. Coveted as they are, accurate sales forecasts are a mirage. By definition, accurate forecasts mean that the revenue that was forecast equals the revenue achieved on the expected date. That happens, but it’s a rare exception, not the rule. Executives who insist on accurate forecasts will always be frustrated. Selling is probabalistic, and there are many events outside the salesperson’s direct control that intervene.

    The goal for forecasting needs to be moved from ‘accuracy’ to ‘good quality’, as I described above. The function of risk planning is to figure out what to do when actual and predicted don’t match. It’s every executive’s job to do that. Expecting the sales force to overcome that issue by “nailing the forecast” month after month doesn’t reflect how things really work.


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