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5 Ways to Improve Forecasting for Channel Sales

Improve Channel Partner Sales Forecasts

Sales forecasts leverage past performance and rolling pipeline data to estimate future revenue. These insights prove key to reallocating marketing budgets, timing product roll-outs, and determining staffing and sales incentives. The only problem? Forecasts are seldom accurate, especially for channel partner sales. 

As a channel manager, you don’t have to throw in the towel just yet. You can improve the precision of your sales forecast with the following tips. 

Solutions for Improving Rolling Forecast Accuracy

Gain Full Visibility Into Your Past and Present Pipeline

Sales patterns established through past years’ performance can create a roadmap for the upcoming quarters. However, it’s crucial to have an in-depth understanding of factors that may no longer apply. Examples include:

•  The participation of a particularly strong sales partner who no longer promotes your products

•  A SPIFF campaign that motivated additional sales

•  The release of a new product targeted primarily towards existing users

•  A co-branded marketing campaign that reached new audiences 

 

Consider the context behind past years’ performance ebbs and flows rather than impulsively believing the upcoming months will follow similar patterns. 

The optimal way to bridge determinants and registrations is a partner portal that houses both data sets. It should automatically render reports that connect registrations to specific sales strategies, participating partners, and marketing campaign spending. 

Similarly, the portal should grant insights into your past and present pipeline and conversion trends. 

Does one type of partner tend to attract higher-converting prospects more than others? Does a particular product have an unusually long sales cycle? Such learnings can help you frame your current pipeline with increased accuracy. 

Enhance your understanding of your pipeline by reading 5 Partner Program Metrics to Measure Channel Performance.

 

Get on the Same Page as Your Partners 

A partner portal will grant you real-time visibility into individual partner pipelines for you to quantify. Still, it’s valuable to hear their qualitative perspective about the deals they registered. After all, one prospect may have been eager while another hesitant, and the two should not be weighted the same. 

When collecting a partner’s sales forecast, make sure that you two align on the following:

 

•  Quality standards for prospects – If a partner’s pipeline consistently has low conversion rates, it would benefit both you and them to clarify what type of audience qualifies for your products or services. 

•  Concrete measurements of a lead’s BANT (budget, authority, need, and timeline). Don’t assume that you and your partners automatically place the same emphasis on different measurements of lead quality. If your experience suggests that a Chief Technology Officer is more likely to convert than a Marketing Manager, share this with partners. 

Your partner portal should ideally offer sales playbooks targeted towards different verticals and points of contact. This won’t only help partners accurately measure the BANT of a lead, but also navigate conversations with greater confidence. 

•  What are the different stages of the sales journey and how to weigh them accordingly. The stages of a sales cycle are not universal and can be up to interpretation. Come to an agreement with your partners about how to classify ongoing opportunities and how each stage should be factored into the forecast. 

For example, if they generated 20 co-branded content downloads, what percentage of these early-stage prospects can you estimate will eventually convert? And by when? 

•  Don’t expect all partners to fully adhere to your internal definitions. If a company partners with ten different technologies, they won’t want to adopt ten different ways of forecasting sales. Therefore, use your partners’ definitions when possible. Also, make sure that you see the raw data that informs their calculations. 

 

For greater insights into sales cycles, read our post, The 4 Stages of B2B Buying Behavior

 

Err on the Side of Caution

Optimism is a powerful tool; it helps get us out of bed each morning, as well as face new challenges both inside and out of the workplace. However, it also leads to frequent overestimations of sales forecasts. To compensate for everyone’s natural instincts to overpromise and underdeliver, do the following: 

•  Consider the source when factoring in partner estimations. The hard truth is that most partners will overvalue their own performance. Therefore, consider reducing their projections when factoring them into your own. 

Compare the partners’ past projections against the outcomes. If they have a solid track record of delivering the results they promise, their forecast can hold more weight than a partner who repeatedly falls short. 

•  If testing a new marketing strategy, don’t factor resulting leads into your forecast. It’s better to regard the related sales as a bonus rather than set an overly ambitious standard for success without historic data to back it up.

 

 

Failed to Meet Your Last Forecast? Figure Out Why and Adjust Accordingly

Everyone falls short of their expectations on occasion. However, if you greatly missed the mark or see a clear pattern, put on your detective’s cap and figure out why. Possible causes include:

•  Inaccurate assessment of pipeline conversion rates

•  Diminished quality in leads

•  Modifications in marketing tactics or sales messaging

•  Product or pricing changes

•  Competitor activity

•  Shifts in market interests

 

Identifying the source of the problem can help you change your calculations. More importantly, it pinpoints new opportunities for improvement. For example, if the conversion rate after demo requests decreased compared to past years, it may be time to upgrade your presentation or product itself. If a quarterly sales competition has increasingly diminishing returns, it may be time to change tactics. 

 

Accurate Forecasting Comes Down to Partner Communication and Data 

Your good ideas aren’t helpful unless shared with partners. Your analysis isn’t helpful unless based on accurate measurements. Invest in a partner management solution that strengthens both communication and tracking to improve forecasting accuracy. 

PRM software like Allbound consolidates the many elements of the partner sales pipeline for enhanced performance tracking and information-sharing. 

Request a Demo to find out how Allbound can improve your channel forecasting efficiency and accuracy while improving the bottom line. 

 

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