Sales forecasts are an important part of your business plan. If done correctly, they can give accurate projections of your business’ cash flow, and let you better prepare for the year ahead. They can also make it easier to find the right investors. While it’s easier for existing businesses with plenty of data, you can still calculate a sales forecast for a new business.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

  • What is a sales forecast?
  • Why do you need a sales forecast?
  • How do you write a sales forecast?
  • How can you manage your forecasting?

What is a sales forecast?

A sales forecast is a prediction of your business’ future revenue. In order to be an accurate prediction, the forecast is based on previous sales, current economic trends, and industry performance. Having a sales forecast is a useful tool, because it gives you a better idea of how to manage your business. 

Why do you need a sales forecast?

Having a sales forecast is like using the past to have a peek into the future of your company. It might not be 100% accurate, but it can help you plan any future spending, or prevent any cash flow issues from occurring. 

You can also use your sales forecast to monitor your business’ progress. For instance, if your business regularly performs better than your forecast, it could be a sign that your business is continuing to grow. On the other hand, if your actual sales are frequently less than expected, this could be a sign that your business is struggling and needs adjustment. 

It’s important to remember that any projections you make aren’t guaranteed, there can be advantages and disadvantages of financial forecasting

How do you write a sales forecast?

Now we’ve run through why having a sales forecast can help you run your business, let’s look at how to write one. 

Top-down or bottom-up?

While there are two types of sales forecasting (top-down and bottom-up), one is a lot more accurate for small businesses than the other. A top-down forecast looks at the market as a whole and attributes a portion of the market to your business. 

A top-down approach may work for large businesses that already own a significant chunk of the market. When forecasting for a small business, it’s easy to overestimate your market share. For example, a 1% market share may not seem like a lot, but a small restaurant owning 1% of the £89.5 billion UK market is extremely unrealistic.

The alternative to top-down is bottom-up. A bottom-up sales forecast starts with existing company data (like customer or product information) and works up to revenue. Since this starts with the company, it’s easier to 

Writing your sales forecast

Your sales forecast is ultimately a prediction of your revenue over a set period. It considers the amount you think you’ll sell, and the cost of those sales. We’ve included how to calculate a sales forecast below.

Calculating a sales forecast

A sales forecast consists of three separate values: revenue, cost of goods sold, and gross profit. For estimating values in the calculations below, it’s best to use any existing business data to be as accurate as possible. 

To calculate your predicted revenue:

  • Make a list of your available goods and services
  • Note the price of each of your goods and services
  • Estimate the expected sales of each good or service
  • Multiply the price by the estimated sales to get your estimated revenue
  • Add them all together to get your total revenue

For example, if your food truck business sold pizzas at £10 and burgers at £5, you would multiply these values by how much you expected to sell. For calculating a weekly sales forecast, you might estimate selling 60 pizzas and 80 burgers. Your predicted revenue for that week would be £600 for pizzas and £400 for burgers — giving £1,000 total.

In order to figure out how much profit you’ll make, you also need to calculate your costs for those predicted sales. To calculate your predicted costs:

  • Figure out how much each good or service will cost per unit
  • Multiply each cost by the projected sales

Using the same example as above, assume a single pizza cost £3.50 to make and a burger cost £2. Using the estimated sales, the total cost for your pizzas (3.5 x 60) would be £210, and £160 for your burgers (2 x 80). Combining these two figures gives you a total cost of £370.

The last step is to work out your gross profit, and it’s a relatively simple calculation.

  • Subtract the total predicted cost from your total predicted revenue

Continuing with the example above, your revenue (£1,000) minus your costs (£370), leaves you with a projected gross profit of £630 for the week. Using this estimate, you can then plan how much working capital your business should have access to. It’s important to remember that these are only estimates, and your actual values can be higher or lower than your forecast.

How can Countingup help manage your forecasting?

If you want your forecasts to be as accurate as possible, you need to refer to all of your business’ financial data. Since collecting and collating this data can be challenging, you may want to use financial management software like the Countingup app. 

When trying to calculate your sales forecasts, having an up-to-date log of your current sales can be hugely beneficial. By combining a business current account with accounting software, Countingup is the only software that provides real-time cash flow tracking. 

The Countingup app also provides business owners with access to automatically generated profit and loss statements. These can prove invaluable when trying to stay aware of all your business’ costs.

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