Planning and forecasting became virtually untenable and often downright unreliable for sales professionals in the last two years, dramatically increasing the reliance and importance of planning that provides real-time insights. According to a recent BARC survey, 89% of respondents claimed that the predictability of events impacting business was low to zero while 80% agreed that it was important to rely more on more frequent forecasts versus only annual. Agility has never been more crucial than it is today.
Historically, strategic planning has been done by the Office of Finance. Now, sales leaders can have the tools available to independently do their own planning to implement strategy, manage compensation models, and create territory and quota plans. While sales can certainly do this themselves, we must link sales and finance to enable deeper, more strategic planning that provides long-term benefits to the organization. Finance holds a broader view, which is important for long-term viability. Sales can ensure greater short-term success with increased visibility and better forecasting. Each organization’s planning approach depends on its own unique parameters, but generally there are three stages.
First, define the plan. Sustained business performance depends on internal and external factors such as management, customer expectations, strategy changes and market volatility. These interrelationships influence the organization’s approach to planning and defining the level of complexity. Globalized markets, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, changing customer demands and “The Great Resignation” are making the business environment more complex than ever before. The global chip shortage is a vivid supply and demand example that has impacted everything from cars to smart phones. And there are many more examples of why usage of faster and more frequent forecasting is growing in usage. Higher frequency forecasting requires a carefully defined plan.
Second, identify capacity and segmentation. As companies continue their digital transformation journey, rigid data silos have become a thing of the past. In fact, cross-departmental collaboration is an integral part of strategic sales planning. Whether in sales, marketing, HR or operations, all areas collect data. The ability to access and evaluate it across teams is where real-time value is derived. This collective knowledge also creates the basis for decision-making by the C-suite. If your capacity and segmentation planning is off because source systems don’t talk to each other, the right resources don’t get allocated to help ensure you hit your forecast.
Third, invest in forecasting abilities. Depending on CRM tools for forecasting is no longer enough. High frequency forecasting requires investing in tools such as AI and predictive analytics that enable modern scenario planning and break down business complexity. AI-supported sales forecasts increase accuracy, decrease complexity, and provide a level of granularity that once-a-year forecasts typically cannot. Of course, it is important to rely on your sales team, but that’s not enough on its own. Predictive analytics gives you that ‘second set of eyes’ and the confidence to know whether or not you’re hitting targets.
The Case of Sanofi
The pharmaceutical industry is a very timely example of the importance of strategic sales planning. Producing life-saving medicine and coordinating global distribution efforts for essential vaccines have proven to have a significant impact on global health. With the right tools, global pharmaceutical company Sanofi has been able to improve its planning process and save time in the process.
Sanofi is a global leader in its field with yearly sales surpassing 34 billion dollars and with over 110,000 employees in more than 100 countries. Over the past 85 years, the company has been treating diabetes patients with its innovative insulin therapy. In addition, Sanofi annually produces more than a billion vaccine doses to protect half a billion people worldwide. The company required an updated, more unified planning and reporting solution for more transparency in their payroll, sales, and cost-center planning. It needed independent, cross-departmental Web-based access to plans along with more data consistency of all detailed planning models, which included costs, sales and gross margin, product-cost planning, and P&L. Furthermore, the required solution needed to be flexible, scalable, and simple to use. The company opted for an independent self-service plan entry over the Web, which allowed for multi-dimensional unified data with real-time drivers and assumptions. The result was faster corporate forecasting, budgeting, and long-range planning along with more flexible, self-service reporting. The solution’s seamless mobile access made it easier for all departments across multiple countries to access the data they needed when they needed it.
Having the ability to respond quickly to ever-changing conditions is a sign of the times and only increasing in importance for businesses in all industries. With the right sales plan and strategy in place, along with the appropriate tools to support executing the strategy, businesses will be prepared with better agility and increased resilience.
Written by Kevin Alansky.
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