Improve Revenue Forecasting Through Stronger Pipeline Intelligence

4 minutes
Jul 11, 2022
Sales Effectiveness

When the economy falters, buyer behavior changes. The key question is, “By how much?” For CFOs, the answer determines whether you can proceed confidently and maintain current business plans — or...

When the economy falters, buyer behavior changes. The key question is, “By how much?”

For CFOs, the answer determines whether you can proceed confidently and maintain current business plans — or whether you need to retrench to maintain financial health. 

It’s critical to get the answer right. Cut budgets and resources too much, and you might cripple the future growth of the business. Trim too little and the business bleeds out.

Fortunately, modern revenue technologies make it much easier to both capture and accurately forecast demand. By combining third-party intent data with artificial intelligence, you can:

  • Know how many potential customers are still in-market for a solution
  • Understand how many of them you are reaching
  • Recognize where they are in their buying journey, and how soon they might become a deal
  • Quantify likely deal value based on behavior patterns and historical data
  • Continually conduct this analysis at scale, and
  • Cut waste without lowering future growth

Here’s a closer look at how these components can help you plan for the upcoming months and quarters.

Know How Many Potential Customers Are In-Market

Revenue forecasting is often challenging for B2B companies because they don’t fully understand their market. 

Nearly 70% of the B2B buyer journey is conducted anonymously. Buyers are engaged in a self-driven process of elimination as they consider solutions and evaluate partners … and they’re often doing it far from your revenue team’s eyes. They conduct this sleuthing on third-party review sites, on social media, through news reports, and on your website.

We call this hidden part of the buyer journey The Dark Funnel™ because without the right tools, your revenue team has no visibility and very little opportunity to influence decision makers.

Potential customers often spend months in the Dark Funnel. The right tools spot which potential buyers are in-market, and understand when they’re approaching a purchase decision.

This intelligence empowers you to expand your revenue forecast window and spot demand trends months, or even full quarters, in advance.

Know When Deals Are Likely to Close (and For How Much)

6sense Revenue AI™ combines intent data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to understand the behavior of B2B buying groups.

Here’s why that matters for revenue forecasting:

  • You can see the total number of accounts that have begun their research, see how many of them you are influencing, and more accurately forecast likely revenue several months in advance.
  • You can see when those buying groups are nearing a decision, and precisely how actively engaged different buying team members are with your brand. This makes it much easier to predict near-term deal flow.
  • Since you have full visibility into the entire buying journey, you can spot shifts in demand much earlier — and adjust accordingly.

Predict Deal Value

CFOs often encounter challenges when trying to secure accurate sales forecasts. It’s not for lack of effort. CRM giant HubSpot reports that sales representatives spend 2.5 hours a week on forecasting. But those forecasts are only about 75% accurate.

A lot of forecasts are built on anecdotes and hunches. In short, guesswork.

AI harnesses data and provides more accurate forecasts by taking the following factors into consideration, and comparing them to your current and previous customers:

  • The characteristics of the accounts in your pipeline
  • Account behavior
  • Buying group behavior
  • Content consumption
  • Level of engagement with various campaigns

AI then uses pattern recognition to identify which accounts are most likely to close and for what contract value. This highly informed — and more accurate — intelligence can change the game for sales forecasting.

Missed Opportunities

Eventually, some buyers will make themselves known by calling you, responding to an email, or filling out a contact form. But even among the people who visit your website, only 3% are likely to ever fill out a form

Without the right technology, you only have visibility into a tiny fraction of the market, and you can lose deals that you never knew existed.

Missed Market Signals

With the right account intelligence solution, revenue teams can:

  • Illuminate the Dark Funnel and understand exactly how many potential buyers are in-market
  • Specifically target in-market accounts with ad campaigns and other outreach
  • See how many of those in-market accounts are being reached, and are starting to engage with your brand

During a recession, the pool of available customers shrinks. But by spotting all of the available in-market accounts, you can actually increase your sales opportunities

One Mistake to Avoid

When evaluating your revenue pipeline, it’s tempting to overemphasize upsell opportunities. Upselling to existing customers is the easiest and cheapest way to drive revenue, so during recessions, companies sometimes cut back on new customer acquisition and double-down on selling to their existing customer base.

The problem lies in the future: If you don’t keep new customer acquisition strong, you lose the opportunity for future upsells, damaging the growth trajectory of your company post-recession.

Bringing in new customers is challenging during a recession, when you’ve got a smaller pool of potential customers. That’s why it’s so critical to target only in-market accounts. You can optimize your customer acquisition investments.

And by keeping your sales — and your sales team — strong, you’ll be positioned for even more success once the economy rebounds.