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How to Use Data to Stop Sandbagging

 In the sporting world, sandbagging is a highly frowned-upon practice. The problem is rampant in the pool where a player may misrepresent their skill level by deliberately missing shots. In turn, they maintain a higher handicap and get more innings (turns). It creates an unfair advantage against opponents during games. 

In business, sandbagging is not entirely frowned upon. It’s even encouraged and strategically used by salespersons, entire teams, and organizations. For instance, after achieving quarterly sales targets, a sales team may push deals to the next quarter to save face in case of poor performance. 

Now, what does sandbagging mean?  

Sandbagging definition: “It's the deliberate attempt to misrepresent one’s capabilities or undersell the size of deals. It often takes the form of failing to achieve results now, even when it’s entirely feasible to achieve them.”

Is Sandbagging a Bad Thing? 

While sandbagging has a negative connotation, it can be useful for salespersons. Now, it’s only advantageous if the salesperson applies it to realize their full potential. For instance, they may be working on a deal with a lot of money at stake. Disclosing all the particulars may attract extra pressure from management. By sandbagging, they can ease off the extra stress and deliver better. 

Still, sales sandbagging poses more of a threat to businesses than the slight benefits it may afford individual reps. That's because it contributes to problems such as: 

Undermining team & business performance 

The effects of sandbagging may be compounded if many team members are implementing the practice to avoid risk. It can severely hurt the bottom line and prevent the business from functioning at its fullest potential. The eventual outcome is a compromised business that can't keep pace with competitors or overcome market forces.  

Creating a negative business reputation 

A business may intentionally downplay its expected performance for the current quarter. When it finally posts above-average returns, the announcement may make the stock more attractive, spiking demand and increasing stock prices. Press coverage may be more favorable. 

If the same business keeps repeating the practice, it can earn the reputation of a sandbagger. Shareholders and investors may catch up and demand real performance in upcoming quarters.

If the business fails to deliver as expected, the underperformance may strain stakeholder relations. 

Failed deals, wasted time, and missed opportunities 

Sandbagging may prolong the time it takes to close the deal. Now, a lot can happen in that period. It's not unheard of for eager clients to lose interest or choose another alternative. So, there's less guarantee that the deal may close.

More time will be spent in the new quarter trying to close the deal, resulting in a lot of time wastage. Salespersons may also miss the opportunity to pursue new deals, further jeopardizing the company’s financial position.   

Identification of Sandbagging with the Help of Data 

Sandbaggers will always hide their actual progress on deals and may not answer questions forthrightly. Fortunately, raw data doesn’t lie, and it may be the way out. So, which data can your organization track? Pay attention to ready-to-buy signals such as subsequent follow-up meetings, more phone calls, or revised quotes. 

Because many interactions are now taking place digitally, you can even watch out for sales-talk in calls, emails, or text interactions. For instance, the prospect may be asking price and discount-related questions or inquiring about service and delivery dates. 

To analyze data from calls feasibly, you can use AI-powered analytics to spot ready-to-buy signals. For instance, an AI analytics tool can collect data about common user requests, call frequencies, call topics, or durations. An AI analytics tool equipped with NLP capabilities can detect semantically-related terms that indicate the final stages of closing a deal. 

Other employees may be misrepresenting their actual skills or underperforming. Think of collecting and analyzing more relevant data, for instance, task completion rates, call resolution times, and more. 

Responding to Sandbagging 

As in the world of pool & cue sports, you need to deploy multiple safeguards to guard against sandbagging in your organization. You can build safeguards directly into the systems that don't need any execution on your part to be effective. For instance, you can set up workflows with processes to help employees get more things done consistently. 

Consider having clearly defined rules prohibiting sandbagging and imposing consequences for the practice. Using software can also help defeat sandbagging. For instance, automated sales forecasting and assessment tools can help with sales sandbagging.  

Aim to reduce the pressure on salespeople. Give them ample room when working on large projects and drive them to deliver their best with no fear of future results or consequences. 

The Bottom Line

Sandbagging means mispresenting one’s skills or failing to perform optimally. It’s an issue to take seriously. 

A business that performs its best time and time again tends to maintain its momentum. It’s always ready to take advantage of new opportunities with no excuses. 

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