By Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland
A new year is a good time for planning — especially when it comes to financials. Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to forecast sales for the new year.
A new year means it’s time to start planning for the future. For small businesses, this often involves last-minute tax preparation items and projecting revenue streams for the upcoming year to best prepare for what lies in store. This kind of planning not only demonstrates good financial practices but also keeps your business aligned when it comes to transparency and trust in your organization.
If the idea of running full-scale financial forecasts is a little overwhelming, you’re not alone. Generating a forecast can be a blend of art, science and guesswork, forcing business owners to rely on past trends to predict future performance. And it’s important, too – poor forecasting can sabotage even the best business plan and compromise an otherwise promising company.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to forecast sales for the new year.
Create a sales breakout
To start outlining the most realistic estimate possible, break down your goods and/or services. Determine what your base will be. Some options to consider are revenue accounts, individual services, product types and product units. If you sell multiple items or services, lean into categorizing them; this will cut down on the time it takes to forecast your sales. Whatever you choose as your financial base, make sure it aligns with your accounting structure when tracking your actual sales against your forecasts.
Determine a starting point
So, for brevity’s sake, let’s say you made $100,000 in sales in the past year. Even though this year was particularly high for U.S. inflation, the rate is expected to drop to approximately 3%, according to Reuters. Therefore, provided all elements of your business remain the same, your sales figures will increase to approximately $103,000.
However, most businesses do not see flat revenues from month to month, so from this point, you’ll need to incorporate seasonal trends to determine a quarterly, monthly or weekly breakdown. If you tend to see a spike around the holiday season, weigh your sales more toward November and December. If your primary products are summer-related, consider adjusting your forecasts to favor June, July and August. Once you have established a distribution, your periodic sales projections can be allocated accordingly.
Adjust based on anticipated changes
Few businesses stick to the status quo year after year with no strategies for growth and change. These strategies could be a fresh marketing campaign, phasing out a specific product or focusing on a new product line. Whatever the case, if you have any plans to grow your operations in the new year, factor these into your forecasts. Be sure to pay attention to trends. If you had a slump in a previous best-seller last year, it might have been a one-off. However, if you’ve seen several years of decline, then factor that trend into your estimates.
Incorporate outstanding items
No two years are the same. If you have any indication of extraordinary events on the horizon, incorporate them into your annual forecasts. Some examples are expiring sales contracts, analyst projections for your industry, new tax or tariff adjustments, and overall projected changes to the economy.
While revenue matters, it’s not the only factor that makes a difference. It’s possible for a company to make plenty of revenue and still end each year in the red. Calculating your expenses throughout the year will help you better project profits.
First, start with your fixed expenses, or the things that are relatively flat, like rent, electricity, water and property taxes. Then, consider your variable costs and/or irregular costs – some of these could be places to cut costs should expenses exceed sales. Any increased inventory or product costs should be included as well.
Taking all these elements into consideration will allow you to create your weekly, monthly and yearly sales forecasts. As with the other financial statements mentioned, there are several online templates available to make your sales forecasting process easier.
Remember: There’s no perfect way to project sales, but including as much information as possible, building off a solid financial base and staying up to date on upcoming changes can help you prepare.
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