The Three Types of Forecasters

February 3, 2010

The act of forecasting, or predicting the revenues that you or the team that you are managing will generate in the upcoming quarter, is a daunting task. Why? A forecast is a direct reflection of a sales person’s credibility, skill level and commitment. If you consistently have poor forecast figures, you are at risk of losing your job.

Sales people are some of the most competitive people on earth, and because a forecast is an incredibly transparent measure of one’s abilities, inflated forecast figures are quite common. According to Steve Martin, who writes the blog, The Heavy Hitter Sales Blog, a sales person is likely to fall into one of the following categories: Exaggerator, Sandbagger or Heavy Hitter.

Traits of an Exaggerator: This type of forecaster is typically quite naive and trusts that the customer is on their side and telling them the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The Exaggerator takes everything as a positive “sign” that the deal will close. This type of forecaster is always very positive and optimistic about the future – they convince managers that there pipeline is absolutely outstanding next quarter, even though deals aren’t closing this quarter.

Traits of a Sandbagger : A Sandbagger is secretive about their forecast and remains low on management’s radar. This type of forecaster recognizes that if they say too much, they will be held accountable.

Traits of a HeavyHitter: This type of forecaster tells it like it is. If they don’t foresee many deals closing by the end of the quarter, they don’t lie and try to make excuses. If they the pipeline is looking outstanding and opportunities are showing promise of closing on time, they share the anticipated size of the deal without bragging. The heavy hitter is honest to themselves and those who they work with/for.

OpenView invests in expansion stage companies, and advises these companies on effective business growth strategies including a best practices process for building fully-functional sales teams. Each portfolio company is held accountable to reporting their forecasts, and at the end of the day, inflated numbers help no one – not the sales people, managers or the investors. Honesty is key, even if the forecast is not looking as amazing as everyone had hoped for at the start of the quarter. OpenView Labs, the strategic consulting services arm of the VC, is committed to building sales teams full of “Heavy Hitters” and this can be achieved through through proper recruitment, training and ongoing sales management.