What Is Sales Forecasting? Definition & Methods + Free Template

sales forecasting definition

Sales forecasting should be an ongoing process, as the market and customer preferences can change quickly. Companies should regularly update their forecasts with new data and adjust their strategies accordingly. This helps ensure that businesses remain competitive in a dynamic market. The sales forecasting process is a collaborative sales forecasting definition one, and every member of your team has a role to play. Forecasts are typically based on historical data, current pipeline status, and external data sources that represent industry trends and market conditions. The biggest limitation of forecasting is that it involves the future, which is fundamentally unknowable today.

There is a real difference between noticing an issue when it just appeared and reacting only after some time. Sales forecasting allows you to understand what is possible, and what is not. And, by extension, they need to feel comfortable sharing information about deals even when it’s not favorable. Find the best, most effective sales training program for your sales team.

Top 9 Sales Tracking Software to Better Streamline Your Sales Process

Your forecast is only as good as the data coming into it from your sales teams. Dedicated analytics tools also have the advantage of staying updated in real time. They can give clearer insight into sales pipelines, products, and staff performance. They can help with everything from spotting opportunities for growth to working out which team members to assign to which clients.

  • Then, calculate the probability of new deals closing in a certain period of time as a percentage of the average sales cycle length.
  • Use this free guide and Excel template to start closing more deals.
  • In this article, we’ll share the basics of forecasting as well as strategies to improve accuracy and overcome common challenges.
  • Follow the steps below to build an objective foundation from which to work.
  • Hiring, payroll, compensation, inventory management, and marketing all depend on it.

One of the main disadvantages of using deal stages for sales forecasting is that it doesn’t consider the passage of time. Whether you presented a demo to a prospect three weeks ago or yesterday — they are treated the same even though the probability of these two deals closing is widely different. If you rely on Excel sheets for forecasts (or if the CRM in your company has poor adoption rates), it can lead to inaccuracies. Your product, sales, marketing, and finance teams also need to use the same methodology and a consistent approach .

Best Practices in Sales Forecasting

Despite the downsides, intuitive forecasting helps teams understand the intangibles that influence deals. Forecasting makes it easy to see where your sales team may be struggling. Once you identify areas of improvement, you can provide additional training opportunities to help reps refine their sales techniques at those stages. Say there’s a predicted decrease in the opportunity stage of forecasting. By analyzing your past sales revenue and data, you’ll also be able to set realistic goals and benchmarks for your team. Unfortunately, at many companies these methodologies stay disconnected, which can produce adverse business outcomes.

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Market volatility and uncertainty can lead to unpredictable changes in demand and pricing, affecting your entire sales forecast. Businesses must regularly monitor and adjust their forecasts to align with current sales performance. Sales forecasting enables businesses to make smart decisions regarding inventory, staffing, marketing, and budgeting. Even the most lightweight forecasting options rely on knowing how many opportunities are in each rep’s pipeline and their project’s likelihood of closing.


When using a sales forecast as a planning tool, you are not only able to prepare your resources, but you can also stay consistent with supplying your goods in the market. Elements like these can maximise your sales since you won’t have to turn down a single customer/client due to your lack of inventory. But with a single, unified platform for support, forecasting can shift from a critical gap to a seamless, highly-valuable component of your business. The
multi-variable forecasting method involves combining a lot of statistically
correlated and codependent variables, find the relationship between them, and
use them for predicting future sales. For example, you
create your forecast for future sales by multiplying the amount of each
opportunity by that opportunity’s probability of closing.

  • Managers use reps’ sales forecasts to estimate the business their team will close.
  • This method takes advantage of the specialised knowledge of your salespeople about your customers since they are the ones in direct contact with them.
  • Elements like these can maximise your sales since you won’t have to turn down a single customer/client due to your lack of inventory.
  • Most of the
    organizations consider their recent history to predict sales for the future.
  • There are a lot of sales forecasting applications that help organizations to forecast their sales.

Retail outlets use square feet, foot traffic, and average selling prices to forecast sales. Another challenge is that sometimes you may not be sure of the lead source. For example, suppose that another customer has recommended your product to a contact and that that contact decides to first check you out on your website. You might very well assign a lower lead value to this prospect, assuming they will behave like our web-originated leads, when, in reality, they will probably behave more like the customer referral leads.

Once each deal is scored, you have a stronger prediction of which deals will be won and which will be lost. To help prioritize prospective buyers and gauge their likelihood of conversion, companies score leads based on criteria that signify purchase intent, such as content downloads and website visits. For scenario writing to be effective, plan your potential outcomes around uncertainties with your business, and then create a clear action plan for each one.