Field Guide to the Birds of Sales Forecasting

This is a guest post by Cary Fulbright, Cloud Executive and former VP/CMO/COO at Jobscience, Saaspoint and Salesforce.com.

John James Audubon was a pioneer in cataloguing the birds of America, including their unique habits. His work revolutionized ornithology and captivated American and European audiences. He even identified 25 new species of birds.

You can see a similar diversity of plumage and behavior among salespeople when it comes to sales forecasting: calling their deals toward the end of each quarter. While we haven’t found the over 300 types that Audubon painted, we thought we’d provide some examples that illustrate the point.

The Happy-Eared Warbler – This song bird only hears what he wants to hear. Every utterance from the customer is music to his ears, and so he is convinced that every deal will close. He needs a sales forecasting tool to interpret the amount and volume of communications coming from his prospects.

The Sandbagger – The Sandbagger hides her deals and saves them for rainy days and month-ends, even though they’re ready to hatch now. When the sales manager asks her about them, she says they’re just not ripe yet. When they hatch, they turn out to be blue birds. The sales manager would benefit from a tool that shows just how ready-to-hatch each deal really is, so she can forecast them for the right close date.

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The Hedger – The Hedger looks and acts like the Sandbagger, in that he is reluctant to commit to a close date for his deals. But the Hedger does this not because he’s sandbagging, but rather because he doesn’t know how to read the signs of a ready-to-close deal. Both the Hedger and his manager could use a tool that graphically displays the depth and breadth of communication and engagement with the prospect, so they can spot these welcome signs.

The Trumpeter – The Trumpeter is so busy singing about all the deals that she’s going to close that she doesn’t have time to actually talk to her customers and take their pulse. Sales managers love Trumpeters, because they’re playing a tune that the managers want to hear, but the managers would benefit from a tool that showed the real health of each deal and customer relationship, rather than rely on what the Trumpeter tells them.

The Ostrich – The Ostrich is widely known to bury his head in the sand to hide from bad news. The Sales variant of the Ostrich ignores the warning signs of a deal gone stale, including the lack of response from the customer to his repeated overtures. The Ostrich and his manager need a tool to spot these dead deals so they can cull them from the forecast.

The Lovebird – The Lovebird showers her customer with attention and can’t imagine that love isn’t reciprocated, so she can’t read the warning signs of indifference and therefore can’t close the deal. Managers of Lovebirds can use a tool that casts a bright light on unrequited deals.

The Cuckoo – Lastly, the Cuckoo survives by filling his forecast nest with fake deals and wildly inflated claims. The Cuckoo’s eggs look superficially like the other eggs in the forecast, so the busy manager and sales operations team can’t spot them for the imposters that they are. The Cuckoo thrives best in a larger team and with higher-volumes of deals where weekly pipeline review meetings are cursory at best. Sales managers and sales operations could use a tool that quickly flushes out the Cuckoo as a bad egg.

Despite their differences, what all these sales forecasting birds lack in common is either an ability to see the true state of their deals, or the ability or willingness to communicate this to their managers.

Modern sales automation solutions like Datahug use the actual volume, breadth, and depth of interactions between sales teams and their customers to calculate an objective measurement of the health of each and every deal in the forecast. Datahug customers describe these deal scores as “uncannily accurate” in predicting success and failure, and uses the objective truth that Datahug provides to inform their forecasts and streamline deal review meetings. Objective truth may not sound as attractive as the songs of our various sales forecasting birds, but it is music to the ears of sales VP’s and sales operations directors.

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