A sales force composite is a forecast based on estimates of sales in a given time period gathered from all of a firm’s salespeople. Salespeople have a pretty good idea about how much can be sold in the coming period of time (especially if they have bonuses riding on those sales). They’ve been calling on their customers and know when buying decisions will be made.
Estimating the sales for new products or new promotions and pricing strategies will be harder for salespeople to estimate until they have had some experience selling those products after they have been introduced, promoted, or repriced. Further, management may not want salespeople to know about new products or promotions until these are announced to the general public, so this method is not useful in situations involving new products or promotions. Another limitation reflects salespeople’s natural optimism. Salespeople tend to be optimistic about what they think they can sell and may overestimate future sales. Conversely, if the company uses these estimates to set quotas, salespeople are likely to reduce their estimates to make it easier to achieve quota.
Salespeople are more accurate in their near-term sales estimates, as their customers are not likely to share plans too far into the future. Consequently, most companies use sales force composites for shorter-range forecasts in order to more accurately predict their production and inventory requirements. Konica-Minolta, an office equipment manufacturer, has recently placed a heavy emphasis on improving the accuracy of its sales force composites because the cost of being wrong is too great. Underestimated forecasts result in some customers having to wait too long for deliveries for products, and they may turn to competitors who can deliver faster. By contrast, overestimated forecasts result in higher inventory costs.