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The State of Revenue Planning

2024

The last few years have proved challenging for the world of tech, as global economic headwinds grew alongside fundamental shifts in operating states, brought on by the reduced availability of funding & the drive towards more capital efficient operating rhythms. We wanted to see what this meant for tech businesses and their approach to planning, and how important they feel it is to get it right.

With predictions that as much as 75% of tech businesses will not survive this current phase, it has become more critical than ever for businesses to ensure that the decisions that they make today are the right ones for the future. 

The results give light to a better path forward, and highlight the devastating consequences of continuing in the new era with the historic growth at all costs mindset.

The Dataset

We directly approached a broad set of business leaders, aimed primarily at tech companies, to get a fair representation of how businesses plan and how it evolves through their lifecycles. We managed to gather responses from a wide range of business stages, covering from Seed through to Series E+ and revenues in excess of $50M annually.

We approached key stakeholders across hundreds of businesses, to gain an understanding of how they and their wider business goes about revenue planning.

255

Tech Companies

Annual Revenue

bn

$4

Responses came from companies of all stages and sizes, responsible for providing solutions to business worth billions in revenue annually.

51%

Other

C-Suite

 

2.8%

34.1%

VP/Director

12.5%

Manager

%

85

Of respondents were senior business leadership, of Director level or above

Only

%

31

saw revenue align with their plans over recent years

69%
31%

Leadership were broadly spread across roles, however 44% would primarily classify themselves as belonging to the sales function, with finance and operations making up a combined 33%

C-Suite

VP/Director

Planning isn't working

The survey findings might be surprising to some, not necessarily for some in the end result but more in the scale of the problems created with bad planning. It's evident that the difference to business outcomes can be massively swung when revenue planning is carried out properly, but it's clear that for most proper planning is out of reach of their departments with how planning is currently run. 

The Findings

The survey findings might be surprising to some, not necessarily for some in the end result but more in the scale of the problems created with bad planning. It's evident that the difference to business outcomes can be massively swung when revenue planning is carried out properly, but it's clear that for most proper planning is out of reach of their departments with how planning is currently run. 

Sales still owns Sales Planning

Sales and Revenue Operations own a combined 60% of sales planning processes, with Sales directly owning 38.6% of total processes.

Finance are the next largest entity after sales to own the process, with marketing and leadership rarely having complete ownership.

Ownership typically evolves with growth

As businesses grow, the ownership of the plan is transferred to more technical departments, primarily finance and also revenue operations.

The maturity & overall capacity of RevOps & Finance teams grows with company size also, which leads to more transfer of sales planning ownership away from sales.

Everyone feels confident

On average, 83% of those surveyed felt that they were skilled enough to actively participate in planning.

Amongst C-Suite confidence was even higher, with 88% of leaders feeling like they possessed the right skills, with COO's and CFO's both feeling confident in more than 9 in 10 cases.

​Confidence that translates to misses

Despite peoples confidence in planning, it was clear that it frequently failed to translate into plans that were capable of hitting target.

Less than 1/3 of people who felt they were skilled enough actually saw plans hitting target, however those that planned monthly saw a marginally higher success rate at 40%.

Out of all the departments, Finance fared the worst with over 72% of them missing target with their plans.

The planning approach matters

(But probably limited by the tools being used...)

When it comes to revenue planning, there are several ways to approach it. In the previous world of Growth at all Costs, an approach of top down modelling was an accepted way of chopping up a company target, essentially dividing it by individual rep targets to calculate how many reps are needed to cover the target (often called quota coverage) 

Bottom up modelling is a different and more time intensive approach that seeks to understand what the end output of opportunity generation activities will result in, however it often points out the gap between current reality and ambition, which is where traditional "number massaging" typically happens to make revenue meet target.

Top Down models are still failing 

Despite it being widely discussed that growth at all costs is dead, top down modelling as the sole planning motion is still the default for 25% of businesses.

When leadership are the ones owning the planning process, top down is more prevalent being 71% more likely to take a top down approach than anyone else.

As a result of taking such a simplistic approach to modelling, only 10% of businesses that utilised top down models felt that they were capable of scenario testing their revenue plans, leaving them at the mercy of change.

Still entirely reliant on spreadsheets

Unsurprisingly, spreadsheets remain the prevalent approach to planning, involved in over 95% of processes.

Whilst some businesses have begun to adopt financial and planning software as part of their planning cycles, 72% of the businesses that responded were solely reliant on spreadsheets for their planning.

At C-Level, CRO's are the slowest to look for an alternative, with less than 1 in 20 using planning software as part of their strategy.

Annual Planning cycles remain

Despite operating in an increasingly volatile environment, for 24% of businesses annual planning is the default motion.

Of those businesses, 26% of them never returned to the plan to review, meaning that planning was entirely a once-a-year activity.

75% of these businesses reported missing their revenue targets.

Frequency slows with business growth

Whilst the data shows that monthly planners managed to hit their targets 30% more than those with less regular planning cadences, as companies grow their ability to plan in an agile way decreases.

This decrease in frequency has a huge impact on agility, limiting the ability for planning to be a strategic ally of growth.

Businesess want to have greater planning frequency and granularity, but unfortunately business complexity makes it prohibitive when using traditional spreadsheet planning approaches.

The Consequences

The results were clear - Most businesses set out to try to plan in the right way, however as businesses grow so does commercial complexity, business expectation & decision committee sizes. Growth leads to businesses planning less frequently, in less nuanced ways, albeit with some attempting to stem the decline through the use of revenue planning & financial software, which all gets in the way of further growth.

So what are the consequences to bad planning approaches?

Forced to make company layoffs

Where businesses have already missed their revenue targets, it leaves them at far greater risk in the event of not achieving 2024 plans. Those that have previously missed are almost 2x more likely to need to make reductions in force than those that haven't.

For businesses that plan either annually or bi-annually this figure is even higher, and are 40% more likely to need to make layoffs than businesses that plan monthly.

Additional funding will be essential

Businesses that had already missed were 41% more likely to need additional funding, and were 2x more likely to have financial survival as their primary business goal.

The consecutive missing of targets not only reduces optionality, but risks walking businesses into irrecoverable positions.

Must reduce company targets

Whilst missing targets in 2024 would lead 1/4 of businesses to seek a reduction to their targets, the businesses that had already missed in 2023 and before were 2x more likely to need to negotiate a change.

A reduction in the growth ambitions of a business runs the risk of derailing growth progress, putting scenarios such as downrounds or distress sales firmly into the picture.

Growth at all costs is still not dead (yet)

Whilst touted by many as being dead already, Growth at all Costs might still be alive and kicking with 64% of C-Suite cite topline revenue growth as being the primary business objective for 2024, and 3.5 times as many people concerned about growth compared to efficiency drives.

There’s a divide at the table however as with 21% of COOs concerned about financial survival with alongside 18% of CFOs, with both roles considerably less focussed on growth.

Those that have already missed targets however being 2.2x more focussed on survival, and 5x more likely to be looking for a trigger event, be it additional funding or an exit.

Winning with Planning

Sales Planning doesn't need to be a negative sum game - It can drive business strategy and progress when done in the right ways, and can be a strategic accelerating factor for growth.

So what does it look like when you do things right?

Scenario Testing

leads to 4x success

90% of those that said that they missed target failed to have mechanisms in place that made for easy scenario testing, helping them to test and learn the impact of changes to core business areas, like sales conversion rates, deal cycles or average deal sizes.

Those with the abilty to quickly and easily scenario test their plans were on average 4 times more likely to hit their revenue targets, through being able to adapt faster and more effectively.

Agile planning drives growth

Frequent planning not only helps you to keep closer tabs on progress, but it keeps you more agile to change, opening up whole new business strategies and approaches.

The data showed that the more agile businesses approach to planning are, the more capable they are of centring business objectives around growth, rather than streamlining.

Ultimately, the agility afforded by more frequent planning cycles helps businesses to de-risk growth decisions, allowing for a more natural approach to efficiency, with 66% of those aiming for revenue growth seeing planning as helping with long term strategic decision making.

Planning Software
increases odds

Businesses using planning software we able to double their chances of success compared to the businesses still stuck in spreadsheets, and were 88% more capable of scenario testing their plans, ensuring that there was a plan for every business eventuality.

Not only were they twice as likely to hit plan than those solely using spreadsheets, they were the highest achieving cohort out of the entire study, beating the average by over 77%

Out of everyone, businesses using planning software were most likely to be aiming to simply maintain current performance as their 2024 objective.

​Complex Planning Made Easy

​We believe that revenue planning can supercharge business, helping to make the difficult conversations easy and a view of the future clear.


The Clevenue Platform makes sales planning quick and simple & continuous, leaving you without the task of ever having to build your plan from scratch, and always in the know of what your projected revenues are far into the future. 

Know how to grow with hiring recommendations telling you who to hire and when, building sales & hiring plans that work and scenario testing every possible business eventuality.

It's revenue planning completely reimagined.

Everything from free tools through to helpful revenue guides & articles. 

Clevenue Resources

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