How To Create A Sales Forecast

Published on October 28, 2023 by Sawyer Middeleer

How To Create A Sales Forecast

Creating an accurate sales forecast is like navigating a ship in the open sea. Without a precise course and a sharp lookout, the journey to revenue growth can be fraught with uncertainty and risk. For businesses of any size, the ability to predict future sales is crucial, as it guides strategic decision-making and helps manage expectations of stakeholders.

A sales forecast is essentially a projection of the sales a company expects to achieve over a certain period. There are many best practices and variables to consider when forecasting sales, and it can be a complex process, especially as a company scales and the market environment changes. Yet, it remains a fundamental aspect of strategic planning, resource allocation, and financial management.

Below, we'll break this complex process down into understandable steps, discuss different methodologies for sales forecasting, and give you tips to enhance the accuracy of your forecasts.

Understanding Sales Forecasting

Sales forecasting is an indication of what a sales team expects to achieve, in terms of sales volume, within a certain period. This prediction is based on historical data, market analysis, and sales reps' insights about their deals in the pipeline.

Why is Sales Forecasting Important?

Sales forecasting helps identify potential shortfalls or growth opportunities, providing the chance to pivot strategies to align with market dynamics. It ensures that resources such as inventory, workforce, and capital are appropriately allocated to meet projected demand. It also serves as a performance benchmark for sales teams, informing the organization about how the sales department is tracking towards its goals.

Forecasting sales is just as important for startups as it is for established companies. For a fledgling business, a trustworthy sales forecast can secure the confidence of investors and lenders, while also steering the direction of marketing campaigns and product development.

The Elements of Sales Forecasting

When putting together a sales forecast, consider the following components:

  • Time period: Whether monthly, quarterly, or annually - choose a forecast period that suits your business cycle.
  • Revenue streams: Break down forecasts by product lines, services, or market segments to gain sharper insights.
  • Market conditions: Analyze current market trends, seasonality, economic cycles, and competitive landscape.
  • Sales stages: Incorporate the probability of deals closing based on which stage they are in your sales pipeline.
  • Historical data: Utilize past performance as a basis, adjusting for any anomalies or one-time events.

Methods for Sales Forecasting

There are several methods for forecasting sales, each with its own advantages:

  1. Judgemental Approach: This is where sales managers and reps estimate sales based on their experience and knowledge of the market. While subjective, it's quick and can be surprisingly accurate when managed by experienced personnel.

  2. Historical Data Method: This involves looking at past sales data and projecting forward while adjusting for known variables. It's most effective when past performance is a good predictor of the future, which it often is not by itself.

  3. Pipeline Analysis: By examining each deal in the sales pipeline and assigning probabilities based on the sales stage, you can predict sales volume with a weighted pipeline analysis.

  4. Regression Analysis: This is a more complex statistical method that examines the relationships between sales and different variables (such as marketing spend, price, market trends) to make a forecast.

  5. Length of Sales Cycle: Understanding your average sales cycle's length can help predict when current efforts will likely result in sales.

  6. Machine Learning Models: Advanced predictive analytics can use machine learning algorithms to make forecasts based on a large set of variables.

Crafting a Sales Forecast: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Gather Your Data Collect historical sales information, knowledge from your sales team about current opportunities, and additional data such as market research and economic forecasts.

  2. Determine Your Forecasting Model Choose based on your business needs and the complexity you can manage. As a startup or small business, a combination of methods might work best.

  3. Segment Your Sales Break down your sales by different categories – sectors, product lines, or geographic markets – to get detailed insights.

  4. Create a Time Series Analysis Look for trends, cyclical patterns, and growth rates in your historical data, adjusting for unusual events or one-time deals.

  5. Use Pipeline Analysis If you've got a CRM or similar sales management tool (like Aomni), use it to analyze your current sales pipeline. Assign probabilities based on sales stages and calculate expected value for each deal.

  6. Run Regression Analysis If you have the resources, run a regression analysis to correlate sales with different factors, like marketing activities or seasonality.

  7. Consider External Factors Incorporate industry trends, economic projections, and competitive actions that may affect your sales performance.

  8. Review and Revise Start high-level and iteratively refine. Use judgments from your sales team to adjust, especially if there's a lack of concrete data.

  9. Apply Error Margins Remember that no forecast is perfect. Apply error margins to account for uncertainty and create a range of scenarios (worst, best, and most likely).

  10. Document Assumptions and Methodology Clearly recording your rationale and methods ensures that your forecasts are transparent and can easily be updated or modified as needed.

  11. Monitor and Review Continuously Regularly assess your forecasts against actual performance. This will help refine your methods and improve accuracy over time.


Forecasting sales is part art, part science. It requires a blend of data analytics, market intuition, and a solid grasp of the sales process. Importantly, sales forecasting is never a set-and-forget task. Continuous revision and realignment with actual sales outcomes are necessary to keep forecasts relevant and useful.

The process might seem daunting, especially for startups and SMEs who deal with less data and experience. However, utilizing a robust tool that aids in data collection and interpretation, like Aomni, can vastly streamline the process, provide actionable insights quickly, and assist in making your sales forecasts as sharp and reliable as possible.

Take your workflow to the next level