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How to Stop Sandbagging and Overly Optimistic Forecasts

How to Stop Sandbagging and Overly Optimistic Forecasts - Janice Mars, SalesLatitude

How to Stop Sandbagging and Overly Optimistic Forecasts - Janice Mars, SalesLatitudeAs a sales manager or sales leader, you know which of your reps are sandbagging or overly optimistic when it comes to forecasting. I have never understood why we, as sales managers and leaders, allow sales people to believe this is an allowable best practice. It hurts everyone, including the sales rep.

The Sandbagging Hero 

If a sales rep is constantly sandbagging, then it means they are either not very good at forecasting or think they can game the system. You’ve seen this before. A sales rep does not want to tell management a deal is coming in, so they can surprise everyone and be the hero.  Or, maybe they don’t want too many eyes on their deal. So, they prefer to just sneak it in without anyone noticing.   

The Overly Optimistic Sales Rep

Equally bad are sales reps who are overly optimistic about their forecasts. Again, they are probably not proficient at forecasting. Furthermore, their sunny disposition, by looking at things half full rather than half empty, can be annoying to the organization. It does not allow management to properly plan on how to run and grow their business.  

In both cases, management will look at upcoming deals in the forecast (or not) and try to match them with the right internal resources. They also need to plan for major expenditures such as new hires, travel, new facilities, etc. It is a complicated process that both sandbagging and excessive optimism will disrupt.

5 Questions to Ask

So, what can you do about it? Start by coaching your sales reps to forecast more accurately. There is nothing more important than predictable revenue for any organization since it provides a basis for how the company is run.

Here are five key questions to ask your reps when you believe they are sandbagging or lack the right skills to forecast accurately. The earlier in the sales cycle you ask these questions, the better.

  1. Is this deal a priority for you, your customer or both?
  2. How does the deal you are projecting to close help the customer’s senior executives attain their priority business goal(s)/outcome(s)?
  3. Do you know the executive team’s other priority goals and desired timeframes for implementing different products and services (to determine priority to the customer versus yourself)?
  4. Who is truly impacted and do you understand the specific business outcomes they cannot currently achieve?
  5. Have you collaborated with the customer early in the sales/buying process (and then validated it along the way) to understand and document the desired timing of when executive management expects these business outcome(s) to be attained? And, then worked the dates backwards?

These five questions alone will get these sales reps thinking a bit differently. They will struggle at first to get the information early on in the sales/buying process. But with a bit of coaching and some up-skilling where needed, you will see your forecast accuracy increase.

Investing in Success

Customers (or better yet, executives at those accounts) who want to buy something also want to know that you, the sales rep, are invested in their success. Those who share that commitment typically ask the right questions and get the answers early on. Why?

Most executives get involved early in the sales cycle to ensure their team evaluates companies that are best equipped to help them be successful. If you lose sight of that, then you lose the ability to forecast with the accuracy of a professional. But, since you cannot change everything overnight, how would you tackle coaching your reps who are sandbagging or overly optimistic?


Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter


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