If you can’t anticipate revenue, you can’t anticipate your business’s future and what you should focus on next. Knowing how much money you’ll have next week, quarter, or year is essential for planning future goals and growth.
An effective sales forecasting process allows you to predict revenue by tracking sales data. With this information, you can make informed spending decisions. For example, if you anticipate that you’ll earn $10,000 in sales next month, your company might plan to invest that money in future marketing campaigns.
But sales forecasting can be intimidating, especially if you're a small business just growing your sales department. That's why we've created this introductory sales forecast template—to help you easily get started with the sales forecasting process. Use our Excel sales forecast template to know how much revenue you'll bring in, and then set more informed sales metric goals.
How to use the sales forecast template
Many Excel sales forecast templates online pack in tons of information, but they aren't necessarily helpful. More information isn't always better, especially when you're a small-business owner looking to grow.
That's why we've intentionally kept our template simple. It's designed for businesses with small sales operations, where managers want to spend less time in front of the computer, and more time closing sales.
Our sales forecast template includes three columns: actual sales results by month for the previous year, projected sales results by month for this year, and growth rate.
Gather past sales data
First, start calculating your predictions by gathering past sales data. Next, place the revenue from the past in the “Actual” column. Enter those sales as “sales to date” per month.
Predict future sales
Choose what growth rate you are likely to obtain (we’ve used 10 percent as an example), and add it to the box we’ve highlighted below. Based on this information your projections for each month of the upcoming year will be shown in gold. In addition, the graph will update with past and future sales projections.
Tip: Update your spreadsheet regularly with new data in order to keep its projections as accurate as possible.
Acknowledge failure to reach sales predictions
The fact remains: We can’t predict the future. You’ll never have a sales forecast spreadsheet that is right 100 percent of the time. However, that doesn’t mean those months are worthless. That’s why, as you update your spreadsheet, you’ll see the “actual sales growth rate” change. If you discover at the end of the month that actual results didn’t align with your forecast, don't be discouraged.
Rather, take a look at how you can use your data to improve your sales forecasting. Maybe your pipeline needs cleaning, or maybe your sales reps need more coaching. For example, if you were supposed to get 500 sales but got only 300, there’s a chance you’re losing customers in the pipeline as they become bored, or perhaps it doesn’t give them the product information they want. Fix the pipeline, and see if that gets you back on track.
Tip: Use failure as an opportunity to improve your sales forecasting process so your future performance is more aligned with your projections.
Let’s say that you sold 100 of your company’s service subscriptions in October 2020. You estimate that you’ll grow 40 percent year over year.
That means you’ll sell roughly 140 subscriptions in October of 2021.
The number of deals (or subscriptions, in this case) predict future revenue.
Use a CRM to make fast, accurate sales predictions
When it comes to sales forecasting, a CRM like Zendesk Sell is invaluable. Our platform automatically collects and organizes sales data into forecasting reports to help your sales team save time. This feature allows teams to make accurate predictions in no time, no matter how much customer data they’re juggling.
Besides forecasting, reps can also use a sales CRM tool to connect with prospects and automate outreach. With robust communication features, the tool helps sales teams build stronger relationships with prospects and close more deals.