Don Kent and My 8 Reasons For Inaccurate Sales Forecasts

This article has a longer analogy build up then most, but it’s worth it.

Earlier this week, the forecast called for a big nor’easter to drop 8-13 inches of heavy, wet snow in our area.  We got 3 inches.  It harkened me back to the good old days before the incredible weather technology we have now.

When I was growing up in the 1960’s, I watched meteorologist Don Kent give his weather forecasts on WBZ channel 4 in Boston.  When I say pre-technology, I’m not talking about pre-Doppler radar and computer models.  I’m talking pre-satellite, pre-graphics, pre-markers, and pre computers.  Back when Don Kent was giving his forecasts, the weather map was on a chalkboard (like the image above) and he used chalk to draw the cold fronts, low and high pressure systems, write the temperatures and the 3-day forecasts, show the rain/snow lines, and more.  In hindsight, he was truly incredible because without any of today’s tools, it must have taken him hours to create a single forecast.

I couldn’t find any video from the chalkboard days, but I did find one of him doing a forecast from the early days of markers.

The thing I remember most about Don Kent was how excited he got when a big snowstorm was approaching. He was like a Chiefs fan at the Super Bowl after Kansas City scored a touchdown in the final seconds of overtime to win the biggest game of the year.

Don Kent was also wrong a lot because instead of computer models that he could interpret, he was receiving Western Union telegraph reports from weather stations across the country and had to determine the weather forecasts from there.  Excited, but wrong.

Sorry you had to wait so long for it but there’s my analogy.

1960’s Don Kent is like a 2020’s salesperson. Excited about an opportunity, but wrong. And salespeople don’t have to be wrong, shouldn’t be wrong, and honestly, can’t be wrong. The 2020’s salesperson may not have computer models, but they do have CRM technology and it’s not the technology getting the forecast wrong.  It’s the salespeople.  There are a number of reasons they get so excited and get it so wrong but here are eight good ones:

  1. Sales Process lacks many of the necessary milestones
  2. Not Reaching Decision Makers
  3. Not Building Relationships
  4. Not Uncovering Compelling Reasons Why Prospects Would Buy from Them
  5. Skipping Some of the Required Milestones
  6. Lack of Thorough Qualification
  7. Happy Ears
  8. Not Understanding Politics in the Organization

Salespeople should get excited but like the story of the boy who cried wolf, it gets old fast when the excitement is unwarranted. Before long, nobody will listen and worse, sales management won’t be inclined to provide feedback.

The reason that today’s computer weather models are so much more effective than when Don Kent was forecasting the weather, is that the models consider and analyze every possible variable.

That’s what salespeople and their sales managers should be doing – considering every variable. The adverbs:

  • Where are you in the sales process?
  • Where are they in their buyer journey?
  • When will you…?
  • When will they…?
  • Who is the competition?
  • How do we compare?
  • How will you…?
  • How will they…?
  • Why will they…?
  • Why won’t they…?
  • What if…?
  • What about…?
  • What then?

The problem is that these questions typically don’t get asked.  Most salespeople don’t ask themselves or their prospects, most sales managers don’t ask their salespeople and much like the movie, One Good Soldier, most salespeople and sales managers are afraid and can’t handle the truth.