What I Accidentally Learned About Forecasting Last Year

I like to spend at least one full day a month learning. Sometimes learning is very intentional – a new book, listening to webcasts or attending conferences. Sometimes, you learn new things where you least expect, as happened to me at the end of 2019. The first was getting insight into a company who was selling to us and we asked, how do you do it. The second, was a true happy accident, all because my boyfriend has an unhealthy obsession with Yeti products.

Well how does Salesforce do it?

Last year I was heavily involved in bringing Salesforce to a SaaS business to displace Microsoft Dynamics. It was a complex sale bringing on board many senior stakeholders for a large investment. To keep all the multiple meetings straight, our account manager sent me a Quip document with upcoming sessions. This gave us common sight of planned dates and more importantly we could both edit to adjust our mutual engagement plan as needed. For an engaged buyer like me this was great!

I first saw Quip a few years ago at the London Salesforce World Tour. World Tour is a brilliant (and free!) opportunity for learning which I would highly encourage everyone to find the next time they are coming to a town near you. Even if you are not a Salesforce.com user there are loads of partners (many of which work with other CRM tools) and more importantly, loads of ideas of best practices to bring to your own business. So anyway, when I first saw Quip, I still wasn’t QUITE sure what it did. My initial reaction was perhaps it was a bit like Google docs but I didn’t ‘get it’ as I hadn’t really seen any use cases that hit home, that were unique and couldn’t be done with other tools.

So seeing the mutual close plan was pretty neat and saw how it could add loads of value to inspecting reverse close plans with sales, so I started poking around what else it could do. With our interest in Quip, Salesforce offered a test drive on how they use Quip and highlight some use cases, including forecasting. What’s unique about Quip is that it pulls live data (from Salesforce) into your document. Because this is then a spreadsheet you can total and query, you can show flat data, like an account name, or it could be totals, like all commits in the Northeast. This was a game changer for me as it means that the forecast was now an active, live document and not a process.

I think what really made me turn my head around Quip was how hooked the Salesforce team is on it. Shared information, close plans, forecast – they are all done in Quip now. I started to think of loads of use cases and ideas I could build templates for, which was rather fun.

Which brings me to an even happier accident later that year, also as a result of Salesforch.

When good swag turns into brilliant ideas

Last year I finally popped my Dreamforce cherry and it didn’t disappoint. If you work in any capacity with databases or prospects/customers (B2B, B2C or even non-profit) I highly recommend making the trip to San Francisco for the event at least once. If you’ve not heard, Dreamforce (and the growing number of side conferences held alongside) bring together approx 200,000 professionals to share and learn their experience of using Salesforce.com to transform their business.

I’d seen a post on LinkedIn that looked something like this

I’d heard about the social scene at Dreamforce so was keeping my eye open on LinkedIn for contacts in the industry who I might be able to reconnect with when I saw that InsideSales.com were doing a promo that looked too good to be true. My partner had been coveting a Yeti mug and here was an opportunity to get a free one.

InsideSales.com is a fantastic company to follow, it must be said. They do some excellent thought leadership. I was familiar with their playbooks and dialer functionality having attended a few events they hosted and trying to visit their booths at events. It seemed like an excellent product for a business operating at scale and a great leg up for inside sales teams. Does what the tin says, I thought.

A friend I used to work with were wandering around Dreamforce swag hunting. We got some free massages, some stuffed animals, some great stuff. The InsideSales.com gang were there and I asked what we needed for a mug and we were in! In a conference space off the side we popped in mid-demo for another audience. And I’m glad I did as I got an insight into a product I had no idea they had – Predictive Pipeline. All of a sudden my 10min of quiet listening for my swag turned into wanting to learn loads more.

The best part of the InsideSales.com solution it that it uses machine learning and AI. It knows better than sales managers which deals are the most likely to close (and therefore where to focus energy). It automatically highlights a delta from the last inspection, making meetings a whole lot more efficient. Yes, there are ways to build snapshots and SOME SFDC dashboards like this and you can do some other reporting via visualisation tools or excel but this is so easy and transparent!

There’s all sorts of fun things the Predictive Pipeline offers. It provides some suggestions for focus and highlights issues.

It enables you to then drill down at a deal level and understand the chance of closing, how many times its pushed, etc.

There are great visuals on how much pipeline has been created, closed, moved out and lost. This seems to be the number one thing any sales manager Ive worked with wants to know. It’s all right there and brilliant.

Finally, there’s a roll-up functionality for forecasting – you can see below there’s a box for adjustments.

Overall, it does some pretty cool things and well worth checking out. To me its a solution that could work well for a volume or enterprise sales business.

In conclusion

Inadvertently, I think have discovered two brilliant ways to better manage forecasting which has only left me wondering what other tools or hacks are out there. The easier and smarter the better. Stay tuned for what else I discover as its quite obvious Excel is NOT the way forward!