The stresses of this economy are affecting entire sales departments from the leadership down to the trenches. One piece I have noticed is a distinct aversion towards customer relationship management software. Interestingly, the resistance is coming from sales managers.
What I believe I am seeing are sales managers with less than solid forecasts…and they know it. However, one of the oldest games in sales is fudging the forecast. Sales managers typically inflate the forecast to buy time. They know certain deals are soft, to say the least, but they are hopeful they can cover those loses with new, undiscovered opportunities. It is some twisted logic for sure.
I once worked for a sales manager who knew – knew – his forecast was inflated by at least 33%. However, he also knew that if he reported the real forecast to the overseas headquarters, his department would be slashed within a month. He figured the remoteness of the corporate headquarters would make it difficult for them to get a clear view of the veracity of his numbers.
The obfuscation approach has a tendency to buy time, but the sales manager has to pay either by not making the number or by creating doubt about their knowledge of the pipeline. If they make the number, upper management tends to view it as luck, whether right or wrong.
One of the simple, critical steps in managing revenue in this economy is to conduct a scheduled, thorough pipeline analysis. This analysis must include the salespeople responsible for the opportunities along with the sales manager to whom those salespeople report. The end of the calendar year is a natural time to analyze every opportunity presently in the pipeline and those on the horizon too.
Failure to look at these opportunities under a microscope will place a certain amount of hazy ambiguity into your 2010 revenue estimates.