How to de-risk your revenue plan and execute with confidence

Posted July 26, 2022

By Harish Mohan

SVP of Revenue Excellence and Operations at Outreach

The economic environment is increasingly volatile right now, and revenue leaders need a game plan to survive in an unpredictable market.

Here’s the problem: many are trying to rework their revenue plan reactively, and it’s taking tedious, manual effort.

But what if there was a better way than disparate data sources and spreadsheets?

In a recent webinar, I sat down with a few of my colleagues at Outreach to take a look at how revenue leaders can proactively mitigate risk.

Here are just a few of our biggest takeaways. Below I’ll share:

  • What happens to sales organizations in a volatile market
  • What levers smart companies are pulling
  • The three largest revenue risks to mitigate
  • My top four planning calibrations to stay on track
  • How to add coverage to operationalizing your pivots
  • How Outreach Commit can help accelerate your revenue engine
What happens to sales organizations in a volatile market

Sales cycles are getting longer. More people are entering the buying cycle, and procurement is much more active. There is increased pressure on the business case and B2B companies are seeing slower expectations of ARR growth. Across the board, organizations need to be more efficient with their spending.

So what does that mean for sales?

Revenue leaders need less risk and more predictability with their forecasts.

What levers are smart companies pulling?

The current market is different from 2020, where there were a lot of unknowns. Everything went digital, and some organizations benefited from an environment of extreme demand.

Now is a time of sustainable profitable growth.

Leaders need to understand how to pivot to the long term. To be successful, you can’t overreact. Sales organizations need to understand, plan, and execute over multiple horizons. Basically, it’s a big change management exercise.

Three revenue risks to mitigate

For almost every industry, leaders are closely monitoring the bottom line. They’re also keeping close watch on risks to revenue, such as:

  • How much new business is coming in
  • The amount of revenue that is generated from repeat business
  • Retained revenue that they can count on

To deliver sustainable growth and become profitable, leaders need to follow a process that includes thoughtful planning, execution, and operationalizing. This includes consistently updating forecasting hypotheses as the market changes to help teams land on the correct formulas without overrotating one way or the other.

My top four planning calibrations to stay on track:

1. Scenario planning

Scenario planning extends beyond the last mile (revenue); it's the whole supply chain. Understanding the impacts of volatility and fluctuations across the business, from new logo to expansion to renewals, is more necessary than ever to ensure re-planning efforts enable the business to thrive.

For most sales organizations, this can mean looking at:

  • Meetings booked-meetings held
  • Meetings held-qualified opportunities
  • Lead-qualified opportunities conversion by channel/segment
  • Selling capacity and TAM
  • Qualified opportunity-closed won

2. Backtesting

Start with a forecast model that uses your real/current metrics, as opposed to the various scenarios you've modeled. This is a step that many teams breeze past, but assessing whether or not the re-plan is feasible is what makes the effort worthwhile.

3. Change management

Once you’ve reevaluated your scenario, leaders should focus on what will work and edit out the long shots, aligning the entire organization from sales development to marketing and up through the C-Suite. 

4. Execution

Revenue leaders need to consider how to execute their sustainable growth plans at every level of the organization. If the operationalization of the change overwhelms front-line leaders, it's destined to fail.

Executive alignment and buy-in are essential, which requires shared awareness of the risks involved and traps to avoid.This way, sales leaders can focus resources on driving sustainable growth.

“Teams have to work in harmony. You can’t divide and conquer. You need alignment on the accounts that matter most to build engagement and help customers understand the total proposition.” — Melton Littlepage, Chief Marketing Officer, Outreach

It’s also crucial to involve your front-line sales managers, who are often the biggest levers — where the rubber meets the road. Giving them the tools they need to drive their teams forward, and real-time visibility into pipeline and deal health, ensures they are able to take the plan and make it a reality.

Key areas of coverage to be successful in operationalizing your pivots

Forecasting is hard and it’s critical during replanning. If you don’t have tooling or operationalization for your sales managers to look at benchmarks and adapt to change, you’ll wildly miss on your committed numbers.

Thriving in volatile economic times requires organizations to recognize efficiency gains and maintain revenue predictability, which is impossible without visibility. If it's not a major lift to test the feasibility of your forecasts, then you can constantly keep the pulse of:

  • Where you are in achieving your revenue attainment
  • Pipeline health
  • How your operating rhythm is supporting your goals

“It’s not about putting numbers in a spreadsheet; it’s about being able to constantly analyze how my team is performing.” — Adam Cuzzort, Senior Director of Product Management, Outreach

Black box analytics don't have enough data to be even directionally accurate, so sales leaders have learned to operate outside of the solutions. Giving them powerful analytics with real-time visibility into what's actually happening across their pipeline is a win-win situation. Then they can adapt to the situation, take efficient routes, and have what they need to execute independently.

Gain the visibility you need to fine-tune your forecast with Outreach Commit

Many tools lack transparency and historical data on how the AI is working. Data reveals the variance — how consistently does your team build pipeline and close deals? With revenue operations solution, Outreach Commit, you can overlay your own context and experience on top of historical data to understand the impact of the "what-ifs" – giving you the ability to forecast more predictably and adapt your plans to mitigate the impacts from external factors.

For example, you can take the Outreach baseline from your historical performance data, and layer in your own assumptions around pipeline amounts and win rates by forecast category or stage to analyze possible outcomes for any team, rep, or the organization as a whole.

With the power of AI and data, you can understand the variance of your forecast and examine how consistently your team performs and model that variability into the scenario.

Outreach Commit lets you see the breakdown of how simulations play out, and filters allow you to examine how different factors might affect your numbers. Then, you can re-run the same scenarios with new context. It helps you pivot and bring predictability back to your forecast — particularly in times of uncertainty.

Importantly, it helps you understand what has to be true to achieve your revenue goal.

Interested in Outreach Commit? Request a demo to learn how to take the guesswork out of forecasting.


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