Sales tends to be a numbers-driven process. How many leads can a salesperson generate? How many of those leads can be converted? How much revenue can they drive for the company? This mindset may lead to the creation of a short-term mentality among sales leaders, as they are looking for numbers now rather than later – they are trying to maximize sales growth with the next reporting period in mind.

However, sales leaders also need to look to the future in order to truly maximize revenue. The Harvard Business Review reports that many successful sales leaders are thinking at least 10 quarters ahead to identify potential trends. This will help them discover new directions for their products and emerging markets, as well as demographics that they can target.

Take, for example, the Indian auto market. Several studies have suggested India is home to a rapidly emerging middle class, one that currently relies on crowded public transportation to get to work. While several big-name car brands already have dealerships in central urban centers, there are dozens of untapped, second-tier cities in which potential buyers may reside. This offers a significant opportunity to the salesperson who thinks ahead of the curve.

Identifying trends

Successfully identifying profitable trends is key to bolstering future performance and improving the sales management process. While this may sound obvious, sales leaders need to leverage relevant data to best pick out these various patterns.

Trends are driven by correlation. It's easy for companies to drive the wrong conclusion without enough data to string together cause and effect. For example, a company that sells printers may notice one model picking up in popularity. However, without a full picture, the sales team won't be able to determine why the new model is growing more popular – it could be anything from lower prices to better output.

"One trick is to look back 10 quarters to see whether the datasets you're monitoring now would have correctly predicted growth. If not, that's a sign that you're looking at the wrong trends," the Harvard Business Review added. "If you can't make that direct connection, you're looking in the wrong places."

Salespeople need to be able to think critically and use the information available to them to make these inferences.