How can you more realistically determine future incoming orders?
If you run a business with ongoing deliveries to customers, one possibility is to simply extrapolate the past into the future. After all, you have the order patterns of your existing customers and you also know what percentage of new customers have been added per time unit so far. You even know which items your customers usually order when and in what quantities. You can also determine seasonal fluctuations. You can use this experience as a useful basis for planning. This applies to companies that sell into supply chains, i.e. many industrial suppliers, brand-name manufacturers, and even technical wholesalers.
If you run a project business, for example as a machine or plant builder, in the construction sector or as a project service provider, forecasting becomes much more difficult. You have a comparatively high dependency on individual customers and individual orders. Try to estimate as realistically as possible the degree of maturity of potential orders from project customers that you have in your order pipeline. What stage are you at with your customers? Which requirements do you still have to fulfil, which ones does your customer still have to fulfil until the order is signed? Seek close exchange with your project customers; not only to arrive at a realistic plan, but also to encourage contract signings.
If you are in the consumer business, you do not have a high dependency on individual customers and individual orders. On the other hand, you know much less about your customers. You know the previous sales volume and distribution of product groups and products. This is your planning basis for your future sales – and thus for your goods purchasing, your personnel planning and, if necessary, also for your production planning.
Include changes in your marketing activity in your sales forecast. This will be most relevant for brand owners and retailers, less relevant for project business where orders require longer lead times.
Basically, the closer you are to your customers, the better your sales forecast will be. This is not limited to real dialog with your customers, but also extends to virtual points of contact in social media applications and in Internet-based trading platforms and specialist forums. Who in your company is conducting this dialog with your (potential) customers? Who is really actively involved in customer relations? Activate the intensity of your operational customer relationships to get better sales forecasts. This is a topic for operational sales management, but also for key account management.