Sandbagging Might Be Ruining Your Sales Pipeline Visibility

What a Hero!

Last day of the quarter. He’s pulled another rabbit out of the hat. Closed a big deal out of nowhere. Turned our below budget forecast into an above target winner. He’s saved our bacon.

And not for the first time. Warren the Hero.

But is he truly the hero? Or the pantomime villain? In other words, is he a sandbagger?

Recognise the behaviour but not sure what the term sandbagging means? It means “hiding the strength, skill or difficulty of something or someone early in an engagement”. The term was popularised in one-to-one games and sports such as pool, boxing  and wrestling. Lull your opponent (or your manager in this case!) by hiding your true strength then deliver the killer blow when he’s least expecting it.

Have you ever seen this in any sales teams?

For some sales people, the last thing they want on a large deal is the VP of Sales breathing down their neck. Keep it off the radar. Leave it at an early stage in the Opportunity lifecycle. Push the Close Date out a couple of months. If the deal doesn’t work out, quietly close the opportunity. Chances are no-one will notice.

And if it does work out, you’re the star!

So why is sandbagging a problem? After all, our hero has delivered the goods.

It’s a problem because managers should influence sales team behaviour based on a judgement of whether there’s enough sales funnel to achieve the revenue target.

If the sales funnel is too small, the sales team needs to focus on identifying new opportunities. If there’s enough funnel to meet the sales target, there’s more emphasis is on closing existing deals. Having an incorrect view of the pipeline as a result of sandbagging is going to drive an emphasis on one course of action; when in fact you should be taking another.

Spot sandbagging using Salesforce reports

So how do you use Salesforce reports and dashboards to spot sandbagging?

Here’s how.

Have a look at the Salesforce report below. It shows, for the last quarter, the “From” Opportunity Stage for all deals that were set to Closed Won.

We can see that in 8 cases, the Opportunity was set to Closed Won from the Negotiation Stage. Another 4 made it to Closed Won from the Proposal Made and one from the Investigation Stage.

But 3 Opportunities were set to Closed Won directly from Prospecting. You can see this in the top row of the report and the first column in the chart.

So what is this report telling us? It’s telling us we might have a problem with sandbagging.

In every business there are deals that seem to jump out of nowhere. The customer calls and says “I need to buy from you today”. It happens. But if your typical sales cycle is several months, it doesn’t happen all that often.

So the report is a starting point for identifying sandbagging. It tells us we need to investigate further. Drill down to each Opportunity to see whether it relates to a new or existing customer. Have a look at the Created Date. Examine the Stage History and Activity History. There’s probably enough information there to determine if this is a case of sandbagging, or whether the deal legitimately moved directly from the first stage to the last.

But can the report be spoofed?

If the Owner moves the Opportunity Stage from Prospecting Stage to the Negotiation Stage and then onto Closed Won, it’s not going to show up on the report. But there is a way to spot-check this.

Have a look at the screenshot below. It’s the Stage History taken from the page layout of an Opportunity that moved from Negotiation to Closed Won.

The Stage History shows that this Opportunity moved from Prospecting to Negotiation and then to Closed Won, all on the same day. In this case, all the space of a few minutes.

Quite possibly a sandbagger at work!

Clearly it’s not realistic to do this spot-check on every single Opportunity. But reviewing a few at random, and checking those that close toward the end of the sales period, will quickly reveal whether there are incidents of sandbagging. And the fact that sales people learn your reviewing these deals is likely to be enough to prevent it happening.

Hero’s do exist in sales teams. Lots of them.

But that doesn’t mean you have to let sandbagging ruin your sales pipeline visibility!

PS No rabbits were harmed in the creation of this blog!

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