How to Improve Your Sales Forecast Accuracy

How to Improve Your Sales Forecast Accuracy

What is Forecasting and Why is it Important?

Forecasting is an essential part of every business as it helps you avoid unforeseen issues and manage your business more efficiently. The sales forecast is especially important, as it serves as the base for your company’s goals, profit and growth potential. But, to be able to depend on a sales forecast, you need it to be accurate.

Related Reading: Should Small Businesses Forecast?

Forecast Pitfalls

The problem for many businesses is that their sales forecast is based on data that isn’t accurate or realistic. Adaptive Insights’ CFO Indicator Q2 2016 report showed that only one in four CFOs met their sales forecasts. Relying on a sales forecast that is based on the wrong data can cause a lot of headache. If you are sick of coming up short on your goals, take a look at the steps below to improve your sales forecast accuracy.

Steps to Improve Sales Forecast Accuracy

1. Understand your buyer’s journey

A sales forecast is based on your sales goals and ultimately who ends up buying your products or services. While historic sales data is important, you also need to make sure you understand your buyer’s journey and each step of the sales process. Ultimately, the sales process only moves forward when your potential buyer makes a decision. Therefore, you should aim to outline each step of the buyer’s journey, what decisions are made along the way and what you can do differently at each stage. This will also allow you to make better predictions on your sales goals.

2. Incorporate external factors

It is common that companies only concern themselves with internal data and don’t realize the impact that external factors may have on your sales. As a result, their data is wrong. Because of this, you should research economic factors that have had a historical impact on your company’s sale and include in your forecasts.

3. Shorten your forecasting cycle

Finally, you should forecast more frequently, as it allows you to be alert earlier if expectations don’t match results. Consequently, you can take action quicker and prevent any arising problems.

“Consider pushing your annual forecast back to later in the year. We used to do our forecast in August but now have pushed that all the way back to November. And in the past six months, we’ve created a new forecast almost monthly. Creating that many new forecasts can take a lot of time, but sometimes it’s necessary. In the end, you don’t want to run a business off of a forecast you no longer have confidence in.”

 

– Jeffrey Hollender, Seventh Generation, in an interview with Inc.com

One approach to increasing the frequency of your forecasts is by using a cloud-based performance management systems (CPM). Using a CPM system allows you to constantly adjust and fine-tune your forecasts. This means you can view real-time data and make better informed decisions with your business.

In conclusion, you need to establish a framework that offers clear communication and no surprises. This will allow for an improved sales forecast accuracy that, at the end of the day, gives your business a better chance of succeeding.

What steps is your company taking toward improving forecasting accuracy?

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Missing Metrics:  The Hole in Your Donut

Missing Metrics: The Hole in Your Donut

Good Decision-Making is About Having and Using The Right Information

If you are missing metrics you need when you need it, your business will experience difficulty reaching its full potential. So here are two important questions:

  1. Do you have the view you need of your business?
  2. Are you missing out on important metrics that could make the difference for you?

If you answered “No’ to the first question and “Yes” to the second question, it is likely time to upgrade your firm’s accounting and reporting software.

Accounting Software Solutions Are Often Limited

They may be fine for a certain select range of functions, but they won’t deliver a complete, 360 degree view of your business. And the comprehensive view is essential for optimized decision-making. For example, operational data, which includes everything from energy usage to inventory and beyond, is a critical part of your business. But does your accounting reporting incorporate this data? Can you see operational data side-by-side with your financials in your reports? If this information isn’t incorporated in a visible, intuitive manner, you won’t have the complete picture when making strategic business decisions.

The same is true when it comes to financial depth. After all, there are many layers of financial data that need to be analyzed. Do you have access to real-time up-to-date business performance metrics from any venue? Can you slice and dice your accounting information to make comparisons and tracking even more effective? Or is your accounting software static? Do your reports have limited metrics? Can you only see a sneak peek of your company’s performance, instead of the whole story?

The more flexible and comprehensive your accounting and financial reporting software is, the better. In fact, you can gain a serious advantage over your competitors if you upgrade to a more adaptable, in-depth solution while they’re stuck with rigid, unrefined tools – or, even worse, still using spreadsheets for their accounting. So what software solution should you choose?

Related: Cloud Accounting Software: Ultimate Guide

Intacct Dimensions

One of the software solutions that we employ for our clients is Intacct Dimensions, a cloud-based application that delivers best practice accounting and reporting solutions for companies of any size. Intacct’s accounting and reporting software is based on the notion of dimensions. Multiple dimensions of data provide a deeper and far more accurate picture of your company’s financial situation. With Intacct, you can look at all transactions through eight distinct filters:

  • Department
  • Location
  • Customer
  • Vendor
  • Employee
  • Item
  • Class
  • Project

Integrating all of this information into unified reporting ensures that business leaders have the ability to examine their financial operations from many different angles. Reports can be modified to incorporate any or all of these different dimensions, depending upon what the user is trying to discover. And because of the high degree of integration, examining this wide range of metrics is a simple matter. Business leaders become more agile, more informed and more confident in all of their decision-making.

This isn’t just an accounting issue. There should never be any blind spots or mysteries when it comes to your company’s performance, finances or operations. Choosing the right software solution – such as Intacct Dimension- ensures that you will know what you need to know when you need to know it. 

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How Do CFOs Keep Up with Technology Changes?

How Do CFOs Keep Up with Technology Changes?

Changing Technology and Financial Pressure

Rapid change in technology has put a lot of pressure on finance and accounting teams. CFOs have increased responsibilities and their role is evolving. As a result, boardroom-level strategy is now as much of a focus as the balance sheet. Robert Half Management Resources recently released a survey with over 2,200 US companies of all sizes where they asked CFOs the following question:

“In general, what would you say is the single greatest pressure facing your accounting and finance function?”

Their responses were:

  • Keeping pace with changing technology
  • Meeting regulatory compliance mandates
  • Harnessing and managing big data
  • Finding and keeping skilled staff

Thus, based on the survey conducted by Robert Half, it seems that the greatest pressure CFOs are currently facing is changing technology. Leading financial managers should be able to look at a problem from many points of view and find a solution among disparate notions as a result. Therefore, gaining visibility into data and turning it into information is key. If data isn’t accurate, information and perceived solutions are flawed, or even worse, your solution only leads to further problems and you lose credibility.

7 Ways for CFOs To Keep Up with Technology

Paul McDonald (senior executive director for Robert Half), James C. Bourke (CPA/CITP/CFF, a partner in a large CPA firm) and Jeff Drew (Senior Editor at CGMA Magazine) have come up with seven tips that are especially relevant for CFOs to keep up with changes in technology.

  1. Hire financial staff with strong technology knowledge.
  2. Interact with in-house IT staff and outside consultants who are trusted technology experts.
  3. Attend conferences featuring sessions on current and emerging technologies.
  4. Set up RSS feeds with specific technologies as keywords.
  5. Join and become active in technology user groups.
  6. Collaborate with other CFOs at companies that use the same technologies.
  7. Meet with fellow CFOs to discuss technology issues.

How do you keep up with the pace of change in technology at your business? Do you employ any of the methods listed above?