If you’ve ever worked with The Mann Group, you’ve likely heard us talk about forecasting. It’s one of our favorite skillsets and communication approaches, but it’s one that tends to stir up resistance, discomfort, or flippancy. We’ve long made the case for forecasting—here’s why:
What It Is
Forecasting is really simple: it’s the act of communicating your next actions and intentions to the listener. We use it in training (when the teacher communicates to the students the course of the training), in our sales processes (when the salesperson explains their next steps to the customer), and even in our own work (we always forecast our upcoming actions and experiences to our clients).
Assumptions & Resistance to Forecasting
Forecasting tends to make people a bit uncomfortable, and we hear a lot of common assumptions in regards to the term and its actions, including:
- It’s too pedantic or redundant.
- It’s elementary.
- It’s controlling.
- It’s condescending.
When folks have an initial negative reaction to forecasting, it’s with the concern that it could be perceived as a form of condescension—that the subject could feel like they’re being spoken down to. But being explicit and clear in your upcoming actions is only a good thing.
The Truth About Forecasting
Despite the concerns about forecasting, it’s actually one of the most helpful tools to have in your communication arsenal. Forecasting serves to create a comfortable and knowledgeable environment for the subject. Without it, they have no way to know what’s upcoming, which could engender feelings of nervousness, discomfort, confusion, or mistrust. In being definitive via forecasting, the speaker cultivates a level of comfort for the listener by eliminating any confusion or doubt. The speaker also builds a foundation of trust with the listener, because they set expectations and then follow through.
Don’t believe us? Examples of effective forecasting abound outside our own industry. Waiters, for example, forecast their process and experience to the customer:
“The chef is just finishing up your plates; I’ll be back with your food in a few minutes.”
“If you’re all finished, I’ll take these plates out of the way and return with your dessert.”
When a waiter forecasts, he doesn’t leave you feeling disrespected or spoken down to; instead, it allows you to relax into the experience. You know exactly what’s coming next. The same is true of your interactions in training or in a sales process. The trainee or customer wants to know what’s coming next, and telling them so only increases their comfort in the process:
“The next part of the training will be a simulation. I’ll play the role of the salesperson, and you’ll be the customer.”
“I’m going to go grab that shoe in your size from the backroom, I’ll be back in just a jiffy.”
“If you’re ready to check out, I’ll just take these up to the register and start preparing them for you to take home.”
None of these statements feel elementary or demeaning, they simply clearly communicate the next steps to the trainee or customer.
Forecasting is also advantageous in that it demonstrates confidence in the process—you clearly know what’s going on and why—and in turn develops the student/customer’s confidence in you. It allows the listener to relax into the process and keeps the interaction moving forward. It also establishes you as a reliable resource: you clearly communicate your intentions and follow through. In other words, it develops the listener’s trust, which is beneficial long after this interaction has finished. Trust developed through forecasting could keep the employee dedicated to the business and inspire the customer to return.
We’re big fans of forecasting because it’s one of the most straightforward and positive forms of communication out there. We think you’ll be a fan, too.