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Best Practices For B2B Sales - Monthly Strategy Review

Authored by Ric Ratkowski on January 16, 2021

This blog focuses on the third part of the Sales Management Process, the monthly strategy review.  These meetings are held on a monthly basis, usually twice a quarter, at the beginning of the months when the quarterly business review[QBR] is not being held.  This is a team call with the sales manager and his/her sales team, plus sales support and marketing.  While it may not be feasible to invite marketing to all the one on one’s and sales forecast calls, they should attend the monthly sales meetings and the QBRs.  This will help align marketing and sales.

B2B Best Practices - Monthly Strategy Review Summary

BestPracticesB2BSales-MonthlyStrategyReview

Content

The content of the meeting should include:

  • The current quarterly forecast with focus on managing the gap between target/forecast and bookings to date by team and individual members
  • An update on any key opportunities
  • A postmortem or two presented on “close-won” or “closed-lost” deals
  • Highlight any major changes since the last monthly sales meeting or quarterly business review as well as new risks
  • Review of the production plan and the sales strategy - looking at coverage in future quarters

The Production Plan

The production plan is the rolling annual operating plan for sales.  It looks beyond the current quarter into the next three quarters and the pipeline coverage for each quarter.  The production plan discussion serves to help align marketing and sales by defining underlying requirements of both groups to hit the plan.  The production plan also helps align how revenue goals translate to bookings and interdepartmental dependencies to achieve the goals.

Additional Topics

While different topics will come up for discussion, it’s important that your monthly strategy review  has a repeatable agenda. Not only for structure, but it allows the sales team to prepare ahead of time and provide for a more productive meeting and helps create a culture of accountability.

Typical topics that come up during the quarter include:

  1. How quarter to date compares to the forecast and how the sales gap is going to be filled.  Are there enough opportunities?  Are there enough backup opportunities if a key opportunity is pushed?  What are the opportunities at risk?
  2. Evaluate sales milestones.  Last monthly sales meeting or QBR we said we would be at a certain point, are we there?
  3. Is the sales strategy and messaging working?  Are there particular marketing assets or activities that are really working?  Are there particular marketing assets or activities that are not working?  What did you say you were going to do last meeting?  Did you do it? What worked? What didn’t work?
  4. Discussion of key issues that could prevent goal attainment for this quarter.
  5. Discuss how the sales pipeline for future quarters are filling, is it enough, how do the coverage ratios look?
  6. How are you going to move forward?

The wrong way and the most common way sales organizations do monthly strategy review is to treat them  like a history review, looking in the rear view mirror.   These need to be treated more like here is what we did, the good and the bad, and here is where we are going.   Here is how we going to capitalize on the good, here is the strategy for handling the bad and here is where we will be in the future.   

Best Practices, Baseline, Good, Better, Best

Similar to the baseline for weekly forecast calls, the baseline level for monthly strategy reivew is the status quo we’ve had for the last 20 years.  It is informal and ad hoc.  In many cases the meeting resembles the weekly forecast call with a few more participants.  Very little attention is paid to updating the annual plan or a strategic discussion.  There is no attempt to review and update a rolling 12 month sales production plan.  

The meeting is based on “gut-feel” pyramided on top of more “gut-feel”.  

At the good level, the monthly strategy review is at a higher level than the weekly sales forecast calls.  The focus of the meeting is centered on the sales pipeline for both the current and future quarters.  The focus is beyond just current deals closing, but also on earlier stage opportunities and any changes that are driving those early opportunities.  The objective is to understand which opportunities can be advanced, which are still active and which could be moved into this quarter to manage the gap and which need to be pushed out to next quarter.  Questions are asked around the sales pipeline filling at the right rate, number of pushes into next quarter and informal gut feel regarding sales pipeline coverage in future quarters.  

Effort to prepare for these meetings is time consuming for the sales reps and the sales manager because information must be compiled from multiple sources and combined in Excel.  Because of that, information is lumpy, having a lot of supporting detail in some areas and very little supporting information in others.  This allows  participants to draw their own conclusions on the state and health of the sales pipeline.

At the better level, the effort by sales reps and sales managers for the monthly strategy review is greatly reduced and the accuracy greatly increased because of automation supporting data collection and sales reporting.  Other sales pipeline best practices are in place through automation [described in prior blogs]  to support an accurate sales pipeline.

However, there is still a sizable effort required by the sales reps and sales manager to update the production plan and calculate coverage ratios for future quarters.

At the best level the monthly strategy review is zero preparation.  All the information is available in the system supporting all the individual opportunities and the sales pipeline.  There is clear visibility of what is real in the sales pipeline.  The sales pipeline is also accurate for future sales quarters and required coverage ratios are accurately calculated.  This gives the sales team clear visibility on the attainability of future sales quarters.  Being proactive on coverage ratios in future sales quarters allows the sales and marketing teams to be proactive in marketing and sales programs to hit their goals.

The following is an example of an automated sales production plan based on the current sales pipeline: 



The production plan screen we are viewing is for Chris Cross, a sales VP.  This actual and forecast information represents totals for her team.  This screen can be filtered by multiple market segments to zoom in on specific industries, geographies, territory, sales process, company size or any other opportunity attributes and market segments being tracked by the system.  In this example we are filtering by the sales team.

To understand the screen it is divided in half.  The bottom half of the screen (3) gives an understanding of past closed sales periods.  The top half of the screen starts with the most recent closed sales period (actual) and then projects out the next four sales periods, in this case quarters, providing a 12 month rolling sales forecast.

The top half of the screen is where the forecast is managed, Quota (4) is the target

AI Projection/Actual is the actual results for the first column and the AI projection for the future periods.

Category pipeline is a perspective of what is in the category pipeline (commit, upside, best case, etc).  The user can filter which categories to include in the pipeline.

Staged pipeline is what is in the staged pipeline, the user can select which sales stages should be included in this row.

The next three rows gives the user a series of different perspectives on the sales pipeline and how it relates to the quota.

The next two rows focus on the sales pipeline coverage.  The first shows what is required to hit future sales targets based on historic coverage ratios.  The second is the current actual coverage.  Comparing the first row in this group to the second row allows the user to understand where they are at vs where they need to be.

The last row shows the current forecast called by the sales rep or sales team depending on the focus(filter) of this page.

 

 

 

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