UpShot InVisions Sales Forecasts

As many technology companies learned the hard way last quarter, the lack of accurate sales forecasts exacerbated by the slowing economy.

As many technology companies learned the hard way last quarter, the lack of accurate sales forecasts exacerbated by the slowing economy can blindside a business when revenue shortfalls materialize late in the quarter.

With that scenario in mind, hosted SFA (sales force automation) application provider UpShot Corp. is rolling out a sales forecasting module called InVision Forecasting.

The module, available this week, gives sales executives an up-to-the-minute look at the sales pipeline to ensure accurate forecasting. It also provides optimization capabilities to allow sales executives to change forecasts based on changing business conditions and track the accuracy of their forecasts, said officials at UpShot, of Mountain View, Calif.

In addition, InVision Forecasting is configurable, with users able to add or modify existing fields based on their business needs.

After beta testing InVision Forecasting for about eight weeks, officials at the CAD Resource Centre in Toronto said its too early to say what kind of results InVision Forecasting has provided. But Mark Esdale, president of the company, said the service is giving management a better awareness of how the companys sales are going.

"Its very easy to drill down and see what the current numbers are and get a 30-, 60- or 90-day picture of whats coming," Esdale said. "You can see this months funnel as well as forward-looking periods."

Esdale said he also likes InVision Forecastings sales management capabilities, specifically its ability to track how individual salespeople and sales territories are performing.

"We have a lot of branches and regions and sales representatives to keep track of, so it made sense for our organization," he said.

Lon Lohmiller, senior vice president of sales for Plurimus Corp., a Research Triangle Park, N.C., company that sells online marketing data, said that although most sales forecasting tools arent designed for companies making large enterprise sales, InVision Forecasting is. Lohmiller also said the new module is easier to use than most other forecasting tools hes used.

"Its a lot more intuitive and in line with our organizational structure," he said.

Lohmiller added that he likes being able to change field names to suit his companys nomenclature and track deal status as well as forecast history.

"We can alter the business rules at different points in time and see how that changes the forecast," Lohmiller said. "It points out what we did to bring a deal to close and where were still stuck."

InVision Forecasting can also help him get a better sense of when salespeople are overplaying or underplaying their forecasts.

"Theres two types of forecasters—the overaggressive and the sandbaggers," Lohmiller said. "We can flush those people out by seeing how theyve changed their forecast histories. ... The salespeople really dont like it, but its a very powerful tool from the executive decision-making standpoint."

InVision Forecasting is offered as part of UpShots SFA services, which are priced at $55 per user per month.