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Fix Sales Forecasting

Move sales forecasting from seller to buyer.


Ian H Smith

Most executives tell me that the biggest challenge with managing a sales force is achieving reliable and consistent sales forecasting. Although firms investing in a leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, such as the Salesforce Sales Cloud, helps to record and report sales forecasts, it remains as unreliable and inconsistent as ever. Something has to change, but what?

The answer to the sales forecasting problem is simply this: shift the responsibility from seller to buyer. This requires two important innovations in sales:

  1. The introduction of technology that enables buyer's to validate the sales forecast generated initially by the sales person. This is Interactive Decisioning Tools.
  2. The introduction of a sales method that changes the relationship between buyer and seller to enable the introduction of Interactive Decisioning Tools. This is Design Thinking in Sales.

Interactive Decisioning Tools

What are Interactive Decisioning Tools? In the context of the Salesforce CRM system, Interactive Decisioning Tools are a set of Custom Objects that enable a nominated buyer to validate a sales forecast. This is illustrated in the infographic above, where Interactive Decisioning Tools are accessed by the seller, as a Standard User, and the buyer, as a Community User within the customised Salesforce Sales Cloud instance.

Interactive Decisioning Tools are tailored Return On Investment (ROI) Calculators, where, from the buyer's perspective, the solution being considered for purchase has a corresponding set of values for Current State ('As Is', before solution purchase) and Future State ('To Be', after solution purchase.). The ROI Calculator generates the Cost of Delay and Cost of Doing Nothing, using inpout values agreed and validated by the buyer in a Mutual Value Discovery process with the seller. 

Design Thinking in Sales

Design Thinking is the DNA of the early adopter buyer of new innovations: inquisitiveness, empathy, cooperation, experimentalism and optimism. Design Thinking in Sales starts with achieving high degrees of receptivity, rapport and trust between buyer and seller. This approach means engaging in a Mutual Value Discovery, to create a win-win outcome.

As the name implies, Mutual Value Discovery is all about bringing buyers and sellers together in open communications: the antithesis of the arm's length procurement process, which is driven by responses to the RFP. Easy to say, hard to do. This requires both buyer and seller to embrace Design Thinking and, as the term implies - think and act like a designer.


In the quest for reliable sales forecasting you enable the buyer to determine the Opportunity Value (or Deal Value) and Close Date - and you can use the Interactive Decisioning Tools to make this work in reality. In turn, this allows the sales forecast to be completed or at least validated by the buyer, where these key numbers and dates become qualified through ROI Modelling in one or more Mutual Value Discovery interactions.

Of course, a timely deal with an early adopter customer is crucial, as is the need to achieve the right gross margin from the Opportunity Value. By calculating and agreeing the ROI with the prospective customer, a quantified Opportunity Value makes it easy for the buyer to justify investment and for the seller to counter discounting. Equally, a Cost of Delay and/or Cost of Doing Nothing counters deal slippage for the seller.

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