Monday, October 17, 2011

Not Just For Nerds Anymore: Sales Forecasting and Technology


Sales forecasting includes all methods used to predict future sales by looking at sales history, customer information and demographics, and other information relative to sales trends. It is time-consuming and challenging, particularly for new companies that do not have pre-existing data to work from. It is especially imperative for new businesses to research the benefits of sales forecasting technology. These tools provide businesses with the resources they require to maintain stability – and project growth – in an increasingly fierce market.

There are many complex processes completed when creating an accurate sales forecast. With such limited time frames, it is often impossible for companies to complete such tasks and still have time to interact with customers. Sales forecasting management tools available on the web offer many solutions.
In order to create a measurable sales forecast, businesses must gain knowledge of their customers. Companies need to learn what a customer’s current interests are, a customer’s other service providers, what they are in need of, and the types of purchases they have made in the past. Web-based applications, which are run on a cloud-computing model, can make this process easier.

Cloud computing is simply a way to share and store data over multiple, decentralized Web servers instead of on a mainframe or personal computers within the office setting. When a company opts to move their sales force automation systems into the cloud, they can increase their productivity, free up reps to do more actual selling, and keep the entire company plugged into the same informational channels.

Sales force automation (SFA) has been in use for years, but many sales and marketing employees are still familiar with it as a software program which is accessible only from their office computer, or perhaps on a limited basis from their mobile device. Cloud computing can change all that, since it’s an Internet-based format that requires only a Web browser for access. This means that sales reps and executives alike can have real-time visibility of customer data, sales figures, projections and analysis, in addition to convenient business document templates, no matter where they may be.

Cloud-based SFA apps are more than just storage and templates, however; they can also be utilized to perform sophisticated analysis. Once all data is gathered, sales reporting is the next step and often, the most complicated. Creating sales reports manually, or even with out-of-the-box software, consumes a lot of time. It is difficult to share information generated from sales reports because the data is not always accessible to all staff members. Sales force automation tools, especially those that run in the cloud, enable businesses to minimize workflow issues and automatically generate reports based on submitted data.

Since these forecast and projection reports are stored using outsourced servers, there is never a worry about lost data. Reports are viewed by all authorized staff in real-time and are continually and automatically updated, which means that all departments have accurate, reliable information on hand when they need it.  By using Web-based tools, companies are able to easily alter sales projectionss based on fluctuating sales trends. Being able to change as conditions changes, instead of maneuvering through the red tape and lag time of traditional forecasting methods, can be extremely beneficial in today’s lightning-speed business world. Best of all, automation provides companies with the tools they need to satisfy customer demands without overworking sales representatives.

Sales forecasting technology is a necessity for any business, large and small. In the increasingly competitive market, companies are benefiting from intelligence tools that provide them with the data needed to determine the profitability of sales.