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Then, you figure out what the average price is going to be for each unit. Multiply those two numbers together and you have the total sales you plan on making each month. What if I raise or lower my prices? Did I meet my goals because I sold more units? Or did I sell for a higher price than I thought I would?

This level of detail helps you guide your business and grow it moving forward. I recommend that you forecast monthly for 12 months into the future and then just annually for another three to five years. As you learn more about your business and your customers, you can change and adjust your forecast. My final word of advice is to make sure that you graph your monthly sales with a chart. A chart will make it easy to see how your sales might dip during a slow period of the year and then grow again during your peak season.

A chart will also highlight potentially unreasonable guesses at your sales growth. Their sales forecast becomes a management tool that helps them run their business better. Are you exceeding your goals? This way, your business numbers drive your strategy. Tools like LivePlan can help with this. LivePlan uses a smart dashboard to automatically compare your forecast to your numbers from your accounting system—no cutting and pasting or complicated spreadsheets required. This Youtube video walks you through how to set up a strategic forecast in LivePlan. Anyone can do it and you, as an entrepreneur, are the most qualified to do it for your business.

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This book, written by a year veteran in planning, market research, and running a business, shows you how to educate your guesses with real world common sense, to make practical business forecasts, and to use them to manage your business better. While it goes through some of the more sophisticated techniques as well, its focus is on what people really use. The book includes cases, stories, examples, and real experience.

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A sales forecast is an essential tool for managing a business of any size. It is a month-by-month forecast of the level of sales you expect to achieve. Most businesses draw up a sales forecast once a year.

How to avoid unrealistic projections

Armed with this information you can rapidly identify problems and opportunities - and do something about them. While it's always wise to expect the unexpected, a well-constructed sales plan, combined with accurate sales forecasting, can allow you to spend more time developing your business rather than responding to day-to-day developments in sales and marketing. Sales forecasts enable you to manage your business more effectively. Before you begin, there are a few questions that may help clarify your position:. Before you factor in a new product launch, or an economic trend, look at the level of sales for each customer last year.

Do you know of any customers who are going to buy more - or less - from you next year? In the case of customers who account for a significant value of sales, you may want to ask them if they plan to change their purchase level in the foreseeable future. Every business can also add in the new customers that it expects to attract without actually knowing who they are, or what they will buy. Simply enter "new customer" on your forecast. Depending on your type of business, you may want to specify the volume of sales in the forecast - for example, how many 3. By knowing the volume, you can plan the necessary resources in areas such as production, storage and transport.

Every year is different so you need to list any changing circumstances that could significantly affect your sales. These factors - known as the sales forecast assumptions - form the basis of your forecast. Wherever possible, put a figure against the change - as shown in the examples below. You can then get a feel for the impact it will have on your business. Also, give the reasoning behind each figure, so that other people can comment on whether it's realistic.

For new businesses , the assumptions need to be based on market research and good judgement. Start by writing down your sales assumptions. See the page in this guide on your sales assumptions. You can then create your sales forecast. This becomes easy once you've found a way to break the forecast down into individual items.

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Selling more of your product to an existing customer is far easier than making a first sale to a new customer. So the conversion rates for existing customers are much higher than those for new customers.

How detailed should I be?

You may want to include details of which product each customer is likely to buy. Then you can spot potential problems. One product could sell out, while another might not move at all. By predicting actual sales, you're forecasting what you think will be sold.

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This is generally far more accurate than forecasting from a target figure and then trying to work out how to achieve it. The completed sales forecast isn't just used to plan and monitor your sales efforts. It's also a vital part of the cash flow. There is a wide range of sales forecasting software available that can make the whole process much simpler and more accurate.