Anyone that has anything to do with Sales Management has probably been there… attempting to provide the business with a reasonable forecast, only to have “the business” strong-arm Sales into over-committing, because that’s what they need…
This begs the question, “why would a seasoned sales manager allow this to happen?”
The answer though, is not quite so simple and is dependent on a few factors, the most significant being an immature business. By business, I mean the finance team that are going to try interpret these forecasts to upward revenue reporting and capacity planning, often with very little understanding of the stages of a sales-cycle or more likely, complete contempt.
Contempt for Sales
Where does this contempt for sales originate? Well, probably from the many earlier forecasting cycles that have resulted in their reporting being overly optimistic or wildly wrong! They told Sales what they needed… Sales agreed it was possible… they reported and banked on it… someone got slapped ‘cos it’s all wrong. They don’t trust Sales much, anymore.
This problem lies in vicious cycle created by the finance team pressuring the Sales team into upgrading their forecasts – often optimistically spinning it up – to tell them what they want to hear. Then not having the experience or understanding enough to question and qualify what is being given to them to allow for some basic contingency coverage to be included in their own reporting.
Who started it?
Nobody in particular. What this illustrates is a symptom all to common in businesses today, one coming from a culture of fear, distrust, lack of ownership and accountability and most of all, respect. Respect for people’s specific experience in their roles and their role’s accountability. You start second guessing your professionals in their jobs, you not only foster a culture of dis-empowerment, you set yourself and everyone around you up for a darn hard slap.
Who’s the victim?
Yes, it is a trick question, because everyone involved in the business will feel the effects of this roller-coaster ride, but there are some that will feel it far more personally.
Finance will feel the effect of their lack of consistency and inaccurate reporting they provide to their business, making it impossible for the business to plan its future. There will be plenty of stuff hitting a fan here and much of that is going to go downhill.
Sales management look like fools when they consistently overestimate their position and demonstrate their inability to assert control and reason on their part of the business. For their continual dis-empowerment and distrust of their staff, some of that fan hitting stuff will land quite hard here, but it’ll still be moving downhill.
At the bottom of the hill, they may have forecast accurately, for the stage the deal was at, the probability of closure and even highlighted the risks and erred on the side of caution…
But, for the Salesperson, that means nothing. It was their fault that that business wasn’t all won, their fault that their manager looks like a idiot and their fault that the business is managed erratically.
In the sales world, a business that starts counting chickens before they hatch only drives sandbagging behaviour, suspicion and discontent – and an ever-churning sales force…