Planning for more wood...and more sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Wed, Jan 22, 2014

describe the imageGuiding the brand new Subaru carefully out of NH and into Boston through yet another snow storm and blasting cold wind this morning. Steel gray skies and and tough sleddin' everywhere, but that's why they invented 4 wheel drive.  

Even though it seems like we're already two or three months into this winta' season, the calendar technically notes that it's just 30 days. All I know is that I'm burning way more wood than usual in the stove in Vermont, and right now it looks like all my careful planning isn't working out that well.  

This morning it's a full blown storm in the low teens in Boston, while last Friday, when I was in Amherst for a sales meeting, the temps were in the mid 50's, and students were walking around town sporting shorts and parkas.  Hard to forecast the impact of the weather in New England at any time of the year, but, like the guys running the snowguns tonight at Stratton, someone actually does need to forecast everything: the weather, retail sales, medical device sales and sales projections for every other B2B product and service...or, in my case, the use of firewood.  

With all of the ups and downs in this season's weatha' so far, in fact, I was more than a little surprised this past weekend to discover that there's only about a cord left in the wood tent that gets erected every November outside the front door. 

  • Did I really burn that much?  
  • Maybe I'm a victim of wood rustlers?  
  • Maybe it's because of those two weeks I took off in December? 
  • What's the weatha' going to be like in February?  

All good questions, but the reality of it is that it looks like my careful planning and forecasting was just plain wrong, and I'm not going to make it through February, let alone March.

Way back in October, I tried to balance having just enough wood for the winta', but not having so much that I would end up like last spring having to haul that remaining cord and a half (stick-by-painful-stick) back into the woods when the wood tent was disassembled for the summer.  Of course, I also had "double the pleasure" of hauling that same wood back again (stick-by-painful-stick) out of the woodpile  up on the ridge into the newly assembled tent this past November.  

sales supply and demandNow, it's pretty apparent that I'm going to run out of wood during February, so one would argue, "Who cares? Just have the boys deliver some more"  Perfect answer, but the laws of supply and demand also apply in Bondville (or Winhall-same town, different names-population 725), Vermont.  What would you guess is the premium paid on seasoned dry wood in February compared to October?  Ouch!

Vermonters are very good businesspeople when it comes to "taking care" of the flatlanders, and even though I have seven generations of Vermonters on both sides of me, dry, seasoned wood, delivered and stacked is going to cost me dearly.  The alternative is being cold in February and March, which certainly isn't going to work, so most likely, I'll call the caretakers down the road a piece to drop off another cord no matter what the price.  There's just not enough sweaters and blankets in the house.

That same level of objective reality should be settling in right about now for your sales forecasts that you carefully put together back in early December. Essentially, one month into the quarter, you should have a pretty good idea as to how Q1 is going to end up. Just following the reality of the metrics of...

  • your average sales cycle for 2013 measured in days
  • your history of average deal size for 2013
  • your metrics of your CRM steps...whatever they are
  • your forecasting analytics...whatever they currently project

One thing that I would suggest for 2014 is that we make this...

                 The year of Sales Process, Sales Tools and Sales Analytics.  

sales process crm

Think about the myriad of sales tools that you already have available today from your existing CRM and CMS platforms to a wide variety of automated apps and plugins that you may or may not be using.  With Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics, there's literally hundreds of analytical and effectivity apps that you could be using to improve your forecasting. 

The questions you should objectively answer are... 


  • With all of these tools, what's my level of forecasting accuracy?
  • Where do I need more training?
  • What do I need in order to improve my forecasting ability?
  • What tools can I use to effectively reduce my sales cycle?
  • How can I use process, training and technology to enable my guys?

Only with questions such as this fully answered are you going to make sure that you don't run out of wood by the end of the winta'.  Effective planning, researching your sales funnel analytics and using a variety of technology tools as process and metric wrappers definitely beats relying on "The Strategy of Hope", which never works out very well and usually leaves you out shivering in the cold.

Happy New Year & Good Selling !!!

 Jack Derby 

 Head Coach

Linked In and Sales

No better way to put some new thinking into 2014 and learn about these new sales and marketing enablement tools from speakers such as Greg Flynn, the President of Brainshark and Mike Volpe, the SVP of Marketing from HubSpot than to attend our upcoming Sales Management Boot Camp.  To learn more...

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