The Differences Between Qualitative and Quantitative Forecasting Techniques

by Sam Ashe-Edmunds; Updated September 26, 2017
Five Business People in a Meeting

Quantitative forecasting requires hard data and number crunching, while qualitative forecasting relies more on educated estimates and expert opinions. Using a combination of both of these methods to estimate your sales, revenues, production and expenses will help you create more accurate plans to guide your business.

Quantitative Forecasting Techniques

Quantitative forecasts often use historical data, such as previous sales and revenue figures, production and financial reports and website traffic statistics. Looking at seasonal sales data, for example, can help a company plan next year’s production and labor needs based on last year’s monthly or quarterly figures. Quantitative forecasting also uses projections based on statistical modeling, trend analyses or other information from expert sources such as government agencies, trade associations and academic institutions.

Qualitative Forecasting Techniques

Qualitative forecasting techniques come from the experience and instincts of seasoned business experts. These forecasting techniques aren’t just guesses; they include interpretation of data combined with professional expertise developed during years on the job. For example, a company wanting qualitative information for projecting sales for the year might estimate the impact of a new ad campaign or promotion the company is planning, look at the effects that new technologies might have on consumer purchasing and take into account recent social fads and trends. A business might forecast demand by holding focus groups of customers to discuss and gauge their reactions to several new product features the company is considering.

Forecasting for Sales

Quantitative forecasting techniques for sales include looking at census data for a geographic area, reviewing historical seasonal sales reports and reviewing sales reports to see which products are maturing and showing recent slowdowns in sales and which products have recently begun selling at higher volumes. Qualitative forecasting techniques include asking sales reps for their projected sales for the coming year, asking customers about their upcoming product needs and asking distributors what other products are selling well or poorly.

Forecasting for Cash Flow

Cash flow forecasting is important for businesses because it helps them project when they will receive money and when they will have to pay bills, rather than recording income by the date of a customer order or payables using a monthly average. Quantitative forecasting techniques for projecting cash flow can include looking at last year’s bank deposits and checks or credit card payments. You can look at last year’s payables reports or invoices to examine when customers were supposed to pay and when they actually did; this helps you create a cushion for planning on income. Qualitative methods for planning cash flow include asking your salespeople to project their sales for the year by month or asking your distributors if they foresee any upcoming slowdowns or buying increases during certain times of the year.

About the Author

Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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