The purpose of this article is to provide information to Outreach Users about forecasting best practices, and how a minimal forecasting process might be adopted and configured to work with Outreach's standalone Commit product.
For guidance on the latest Outreach platform-native Forecasting & Pipeline Management features, click here.
- Outreach Users
- Outreach Admins
Getting Started with Basic Forecasting
If you have no established forecasting process today, you could start with a simple overlay on top of your existing sales operations.
Forecasting the deal in the CRM
The first item you’ll want to address is how you would like your reps and managers to call certain deals at various levels of confidence based on their assessment. This is often done using forecast categories in most major CRMs.
Alternatively, you could also simply create a custom field picklist with your preferred categories. The benefit to this direction is that CRMs like Salesforce often force you to tether Forecast Categories to Sales Stages, rather than allowing users to select any category at any point in the sales process.
Either way, the goal is to identify just a few categories that represent increasing levels of confidence that an opportunity will become won. Commonly, the following categories are leveraged:
- Pipeline: This value typically represents a deal that doesn’t yet have enough information or hasn’t progressed enough to be forecasted with any confidence.
- Best Case: This value typically represents a qualified opportunity that needs more work to close, and represents a lower confidence that it will become closed-won. Most organizations use guidance of around a 25-30% confidence level for this category.
- Commit: This value typically represents mature deals with a high confidence level of closing. Usually, these deals are in the late stages of the sales process or represent deals that already have a verbal agreement. Most organizations provide guidance that this category should represent a 90+% confidence level to close.
- Closed: This is the category deals should move to once they become won. This represents 100% confidence because we’ve booked the business!
- Omitted: This is a category used to omit deals from the forecast. This could be because they are lost, or that they’re of a type that isn’t forecasted (renewal deals, placeholders, etc.).
Configuring the forecast in Outreach Commit
The second step to building the forecast for your business, is to set up a collaborative format that allows each individual involved in forecasting to call their respective portion. Outreach Commit makes this simple by giving every user the ability to review their pipeline, analyze and update it, and then submit their forecast. Every forecast submission is tracked, so changes over time can be analyzed and the business always knows what the latest forecast call is, for the entire organization and for each team.
The recommended forecast configuration within Outreach Commit is to directly mirror the forecast categories you enabled in the prior step, and to have Outreach Commit automatically aggregate all deals for every rep and every team into summarized forecasts.
For example, a basic forecast would consist of:
- Forecast call: This is an amount which is entered by the user that is used to actually submit a forecasted amount of closed won business.
- Won: This is business that is already won and included in the forecast to record what’s already booked.
- Commit: This is an automatically aggregated summation of all deal amounts in the “Commit” forecast category in the CRM. This helps give line-of-sight to what the rep or team has high confidence in closing.
- Best Case: This is also automatically aggregated from all deals in the “Best Case” category.
- Pipeline: This is the remainder of the pipeline that hasn’t yet been forecasted to any confidence level, but helps give a sense of total pipeline coverage that may contribute to the final forecasted number.
In addition to the basic configuration above, Outreach Commit can also provide a projection on the intra-quarter or intra-month business that would normally be won. These are deals that don’t yet exist in the pipeline at the time of forecasting, but based on historical trends for that team or individual, Outreach Commit predicts they will become qualified deals and still close in the current forecast period.
This type of projection helps teams with high-velocity deals add an item to the forecast which represents this source of bookings that make up part of the forecast.
Submit your first forecast
Once everything is configured in the CRM and in Outreach Commit, it’s time to have your team submit their first forecast. The Forecast section should show the amount of pipeline they have across each category and they’re able to submit a forecasted call for their quarter (or month).
Getting into a regular habit of having teams submit their forecasts ensures that the pipeline is constantly evaluated for correct status and that leadership has an up-to-date picture of what the sales team is planning to bring in.
After the team has submitted their forecast, there will be a history record viewable under the “View History” link at the top of their Forecast page. This helps review what was being called at any point during the forecast period, and to what degree the forecast evolved during it.