If your sales and sales operations teams haven’t been able to establish a durable and disciplined sales pipeline management process, the chances are that developing your sales forecast is chaotic, time-consuming and often results in a significant miss, to either the upside or downside.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools will not solve poor pipeline management tools and processes, and they certainly won’t replace the vital ingredients of a properly formatted sales pipeline report and regular sales leader pipeline reviews. AI tools promise to outperform — and out-predict human reps, double forecasting accuracy, and fix the long-standing ‘business blind spot’ off sales forecasting. That won’t happen without an effective and durable sales pipeline management process.
Shifting an organization’s focus to a disciplined, clearer and more effective pipeline management process can be incredibly hard. However, without a shift, it will be practically impossible to improve the consistency and accuracy of the sales forecast. Only once your pipeline management process is in place, will you be able to address one of the core issues associated with the sales forecast — sales person and sales leader judgment.
We even encountered large firms with no sales stages on their pipeline reports, just forecast categories. And we’ve seen all too often organizations that elect to conduct weekly or daily forecast calls, in efforts to improve forecast consistency and accuracy. We liken this approach to navigating the streets of New York City with a map of Chicago. No matter how many hours you spend trying to navigate, you won’t make progress with the wrong map. The output of good pipeline management is the right map for the forecast process.
Simply put, you can’t help the sales organization refine or improve their judgment if the sales pipeline data can’t be trusted. Remember, data kills denial, which prevents disaster.
We strongly recommend that organizations defer evaluation and decisions on purchasing AI tools to improve sales forecasting if your sales pipeline management hasn’t yet been transformed.
If your organization’s sales pipeline management process needs help, start a conversation with your best sales operations and sales leaders to assess, prioritize and mobilize efforts to build a durable and consistent process.