A business owner without a sales forecast is like a ship's captain without a destination: Both operate on whim and reaction. A better approach is a sales forecast set at the beginning of each year and looking as far down the road as is practical. A sales forecast becomes essential to your business plan when you seek a loan or other financing because it predicts how well you expect your company to do. To create a vital sales forecast, you'll need to take this approach:
- Analyze your company's current situation — its strengths and weaknesses; competition now and in the future; keys to success; customer demographics; and anticipated changes and opportunities in the market.
- Look at past sales figures to predict future years.
- Use your sales forecast as a roadmap to your productivity goals. Will you need more marketing, more employees, a price increase? Let your forecast be your guide.
Profile your potential customersSources of statistical and anecdotal information can give you a good picture of who will buy your product or services. Such sources can also be used to predict the economic and population growth of your trading area.
U.S. Census Bureau examines the makeup of communities now and in the future. Claritas will segment your customers and target growth opportunities.
You can do it yourselfYou don't need to be a math genius to create a sales forecast — just a record-keeper who makes well-informed guesses.
Pull your information into forecasts and reports with QuickBooks Premier Editions.
Or you can let software lead the wayGive Web-based programs your information, and they'll return forecasts and reports to you.
OutlookSoft Corp. provides a scalable platform. NetSuite Inc. specializes in solutions for small and midsize businesses.
Follow up every dayWeb-based software that tracks your business daily can give you real-time forecasts and highlight sales tasks needing special attention.
Ross Systems Inc.'s iRenaissance was designed especially for process manufacturers. Salesforce.com offers real-time sales force automation.