Human After All. Feel the Pulse. 🤖👨‍🎤 📈

Human After All. Feel the Pulse. 🤖👨‍🎤 📈

Breaking down a CFO's three major complexities of predicting sales.

Antoine Thébault

Antoine Thébault

CFO - March 15, 2021

My favorite band Daft Punk recently called it day after 28 glorious years together. This got me thinking about tech—and robots!—in my role as Chief Financial Officer at SalesScreen, and the importance of the human ‘pulse’ to sales teams.

Being a CFO is a difficult, sometimes unrewarding job. We are expected to know everything about our company down to the smallest detail and provide visibility to all leaders about its direction. We need to plan for all future revenue and have control over any upcoming costs or investments. Sometimes it feels like the responsibility for any decision that implies a cost or investment rests solely on our shoulders.

We deal in questions:

  • Have I taken the right assumptions?
  • Are these sales targets achievable?
  • Are we over-investing...?
  • Or basing investments on unreachable results?

So how do we find our answers?

On the cost and investment side, good routines and processes (budget, procurement processes, operational reviews) allow CFOs to keep good visibility on where the company stands. But it also lets CFOs have almost full control over how these lines develop over time.

However, on the revenue side, the equation is more complex. Let’s face it, as CFOs we have zero control. And as the CFO of a growing business, who reinvests revenue back into the investment machine, not having visibility on sales means that the critical control on cost can become useless if it’s based on the wrong top-line assumptions.

The complexity of predicting sales can be broken down into two elements:

1) Analyzing history doesn’t help much. Sure, predicting the future based on trends and benchmarks works for old commodity industries where top-line variations are minor, or for established B2C companies where revenue is liquid(high volume, low price per deal), or for mature businesses that have 10 years of past history.

But CFOs working in SaaS, high growth, and Scale-up companies do not have these reference data points to rely on. In these high-growth companies, you have to deal with revenue increase curves that make data from 12 months ago irrelevant. You have to deal with new product launches and market entries that you have no history of. And, you have to deal with constant new sales employees whose onboarding timeline is unpredictable.

Even if you have dashboards, AI-powered tools, the works, there is no magic formula to predict the next four quarters when you have no comparable data to analyze from the past.
2) Looking at current sales pipeline metrics can also be difficult. Sales processes are complex, so it can be hard to get an overview of the situation. To help predict income for the next quarter you can break down your sales cycles into factors like the number of cold calls last month, the percentage conversion to SQL, or the number of demos.

Doing this at scale requires heavy sales reporting and Sales Ops analytics. Large corporations can afford these reporting processes, with weekly updates based on bottom-up estimate exercises involving the whole sales organization. But in a growing business, in scale-ups, it often requires time we simply can’t afford. And if you are working from home, with an international presence, this becomes even more difficult.

Given the limitation of the two elements mentioned above, your sense of how the business is doing and your intuition become very important. The CFO will still look at history and pipeline data, but they will have to put their own salt on it, based on their feeling, “How will the quarter land on our target? "What is the likelihood that we hit 90% of our targets?“Are we close to signing a large deal?” This is what I call feeling the 'pulse' of the organization. Not being part of the sales floor and witnessing the level of energy and activity, it can be difficult for CFO's to find the right intuition. Plus, this very human sales floor ‘pulse’ is much harder to find when everyone is working from home, across multiple locations and countries.

SalesScreen is designed to solve these very issues. Here are two ways it can help:

A. SalesScreen’s platform integrates with all CRM systems and aggregates data points from all business sources, triangulating insights to give new answers. For the CFO this means you can get the best out of the available facts to help you predict future trends. This data comes live from all platforms and can be used to track status against targets.
B. More importantly, SalesScreen gives you the pulse of the sales floor. While you are sitting working on your “CFO-things”, you get pinged through the platform with everything that is going on with the Sales team. For instance, a demo is booked with a massive client, you get a push notification on your mobile. Or if your VP Sales US is sending a $50k offer to a prospect, an animated video is pushed to you on your screen. Or if a customer success manager books a meeting to talk about renewal with a $10k MRR customer, a song is played on your desktop.

All these interactions really enhance your knowledge of how things are progressing day-to-day. And when it gets quiet, SalesScreen helps your CRO to set up competitions between salespeople to make some noise again!

As Daft Punk once expressed, we are Human After All. But the key thing that differentiates a human from a robot is the pulse. Can you feel the pulse?

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