How to prevent sandbagging in sales

Palette Team

Sandbagging can occur at the individual rep and team level. Depending on where sandbagging is occurring in an organization, different approaches and interventions are necessary.

At the rep level

First and foremost, sales leaders should have clear expectations and clean reporting and forecasting to share with reps. Organizations where reporting is broken and sales numbers often need to be adjusted can sometimes struggle more than necessary with sandbagging. Clean reporting also helps build a culture where reps recognize the importance of accurate demand forecasting for the business. 

In cases where there are systemic issues with reporting, regular pipeline reviews can help sales managers identify potential instances with sandbagging, especially when there is a trend with deals being held up at the end of the quarter with a particular rep. 

Sandbagging at the rep level can often be addressed by designing an incentive structure which rewards sales teams for closing additional business after hitting their quota; such as implementing a spiff.  Recognition and rewards for reps who consistently exceed targets can also build a culture where sales reps are hungry to exceed quotas. 

At the team level

At the team level, sandbagging tends to be a response to deep cultural norms within an organization. High pressure sales teams without realistic goal-setting processes can put sales teams in an impossible situation where they are forced to sandbag in order to maintain performance expectations. 

Sales planning should include bottoms-up demand forecasting as well as top-down goal setting, and allow for feedback from sales reps themselves. It’s important for the leaders who set goals to have a realistic understanding of current market conditions, in order to set realistic goals for their sales teams. 

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