This blog focuses on the fourth part of the Sales Management Process, the quarterly business review[QBR]. These meetings are held at the beginning of each quarter and in lieu of the monthly sales strategy meeting discussed in the last blog. These meetings are an integral part of the sales management cadence described by this blog series.. The QBR meetings are individual presentations by the sales rep. Each rep is given 30 to 60 minutes to review their performance for the previous quarter and their game plan for the new quarter. The previous quarter review should include a few opportunity postmortems of both close-won and close-lost opportunities. The QBR meetings are usually done within the first two weeks of the new quarter and set the stage for hitting the current quarter goals.
B2B Best Practices - Quarterly Business Review Summary
Successful QBRs start with the correct mindset. Sales reps and SDRs often view QBRs as another obligation rather than a critical event that could be a game changer for sales. The sales reps need to have a mindset that they are running a million dollar business. This is their business review and their business plan for the next quarter. If they have a territory, this is why they deserve the territory and what they are going to do with it.
QBRs should not be a “show up and throw up” event. Effective QBRs are a forum for discussion, learning and decision making based on analysis of the sales reps’s go-to-market execution from the previous quarter. If done right these meetings uncover new insights that accelerate business growth and strengthen the sales culture. QBRs should be data driven and consistent across all sales reps, using the same presentation template, metrics and definitions.
In addition to sales reps reviewing past and present business plans they should also be armed with hard questions for management to help them hone their sales skills and maximize their sales pipeline.
QBRs are a time for sales management to understand what worked last quarter, what didn’t and what needs to change. It is a time to take a hard look at individual and team performance via consistently defined and calculated sales metrics. Sales management should also be prepared to arm the teams with additional insights to take sales to the next level.
If Left Unattended
If the QBR is left unattended, sales reps and sales managers present their own sales report and performance in the best light, maybe by rounding up or re-framing their performance. They deliver their best version of the past. Each presentation looks a bit different and uses different metrics and different metric definitions. Presenters pick and choose their best and worst deals to review and slant the presentation to the story they want to tell. There is no ability for the audience to check numbers or drill into detail to understand what really happened. The problem is issues slip under the radar or can be hidden when everyone presents what they chose to present.
If left unattended, QBRs doesn’t take sales to the next level. For sales reps it is something to get through. Once the QBR is done, people go back to business as usual: back to: their silos; their own personal standard sales routines; struggling with forecasting every week; and hitting their number.
If left unattended, sales reps, managers and leaders deliver their forecasts. Management collects them, and not much else happens. Leadership may ignore what was presented and put on their rose-colored glasses and talk about why it is required for them to meet their lofty forecasts as if that will make it happen.
To mitigate these problems, there must be a consistent agenda everyone follows with specific instructions on what areas to focus on and which close-won and close-lost opportunities are reviewed.
Second, the data must be consistent and metrics consistently calculated for all sales reps. If at all possible, the presentations should require zero preparation and be driven from the sales pipeline management and sales forecasting systems. If zero prep is not possible, all participants must use a standard template to insure consistency across the presentation. QBRs must be data driven. TopOPPS has prepared a series of standard QBR templates if you don’t have a sales pipeline management and forecasting system.
Third QBRs need to include cross functional leadership, including Marketing, Customer Success and Sales Operations. This coupled with access to all the detailed information allows for everyone in the room to discuss and resolve hard questions and topics.
Fourth, action items along with how their progress and outcomes must be written down and reviewed during monthly strategy meetings and tactically during weekly forecast review meetings.
The most powerful QBRs have leaders and sales reps asking hard questions and digging into deals, details and probing for critical information to understand where things went right and where things went wrong.
When done right, sales QBRs can achieve three critical objectives:
- Understand the market and sales process from the past and the past accuracy of the sales forecast. What is working, what isn’t, what needs to be done.
- Assess the team
- Drive learning, and action plans to mitigate problems of the past and accelerate sales in the future
Sample Agenda and Content Examples
Step 1: Start With the Big Picture
QBRs delivered by each sales rep and manager typically start with the big picture. They review how they did compared to the quota and forecast and how they managed the gap.
Step 2: Review Last Quarter
Next they go into a bit more detail and review closed deals, average sales cycles and any trends in those metrics. In the example below you can scan across columns and understand:
- Average time to win deals is going down
- Average time to lose is lumpy
- New Opportunities are trending well
- Pushed deals are getting more under control
If there are questions regarding deal composition, the sales rep can click on any of the deal numbers and see the opportunities in that grouping and their current stage.
If there are detailed questions on any of the individual opportunities they can click the name and review all the details on that opportunity.
This is where the presenter could also pick a close-won and close-lost opportunity and do a postmortem by displaying the detailed opportunity information on the Opportunity 360 screen below.
To review sales pipeline trends, the Pipeline Performance graph [below]provides information including end of quarter status, pipeline composition by sales stage or forecast category and sources of the sales pipeline. The example below shows sales pipeline status. If more information is needed on opportunities, the sales rep can click on any of the bars and display opportunities that made up that bar. From their they could also drill into the Opportunity 360 view (above).
Because the graph shows the total pipeline, the profile of the graph does not change as you change to the different views, just the composition of the stacked bars change. In the example below we are looking at the source of the opportunities in the sales pipeline for each sales quarter.
Step 3: Review current quarter pipeline and pipeline to be built
Once everyone has a sense of last quarter, the next step is to review the current sales pipeline and forecast sales. There are different places to start this review, the primary two are Sales Pipeline Summary and Sales Pipeline Report.
The sales pipeline summary shows the total opportunity dollars and count by stage. It also shows the historic win rate for each stage and the average days the current deals in this stage versus the average length of time of “closed-won”. This provides a way to understand if there are a lot of old deals in the pipeline.
Clicking on the blue numbers in “#Opps” column displays a listing of all the opportunities in that stage and allows the user to also display the Opportunity 360 view.
The second view is a more detailed view of each opportunity in the sales pipeline. The columns are organized by sales stage in the example below, but they view can be changed and viewed by sales category, or sales rep to have a team view of the sales pipeline. Each tile represents an opportunity. The percentage number on each tile is the opportunity health score. At a glance it is easy to understand the health of the opportunities in the sales pipeline and collectively the health of the sales pipeline.
Clicking on an opportunity tile provides the Opportunity 360 view which shows all the detail on the opportunity. By reviewing opportunity detail the group can see where deals are getting stuck, if there are certain themes along the buyer journey and discuss mitigation strategies for any issues in the sales process.
Step 4: Qualifying the forecast
In a QBR, management doesn’t just collect the sales rep and sales team forecast, they also qualify it. At the detail level this requires asking hard but simple questions that should be documented in the Opportunity 360 view: Who is the opportunity champion at the prospect? Who is the economic buyer? When has been the last correspondence initiated by them? These questions should all be answered in the previous step.
Beyond qualifying the opportunities, it is important to have different views of the forecast:
- The sales rep/sales manager roll-up, i.e. what they say they are going to do (commit/upside)
- The sales leadership roll-up, i.e. sales rep/sales manager roll-up with adjustments based on past experience and performance as perceived by sales leadership
- Sales stage forecast - applying standard percentages to all the opportunities scheduled to close in this sales period based on the stage they are currently in.
- AI Sales stage forecast - applying artificial intelligence to the standard sales stage forecast to apply more accurate percentages for deals in each stage taking into consideration sales velocity by market segment, remaining time left in the period, clustering of opportunities by size.
- AI Sales Category Forecast - applying AI based experience percentages based on the overall accuracy of sales rep’s ability to forecast what they were going to do.
- Specific identification and grouping opportunities by market segments/ideal customer profile as backup if planed opportunities don’t close.
These different views help sales leadership understand the sensitivities in the forecast and determine a reasonable forecast by triangulating the above forecasts.
The screen below helps sales leadership understand sensitivities in the forecast by viewing results from different forecast methods.
Step 5: Define next steps across the cross-functional teams
The results of the QBR discussions should be activities and initiatives to help move the sales process to the next level. These activities and initiatives need to be monitored during the quarter so their status and results can be reviewed in the next QBR.
Best Practices - Baseline, Good, Better, Best
The baseline for Quarterly Business Reviews[QBRs] is a quarterly ritual, where sales reps manually prepare “their story” of how the quarter went, using slides and loosely using numbers and metrics pulled from the CRM system. The baseline level for QBRs is the status quo we’ve had for the last 20 years. It is informal and ad hoc. The sales rep’s objective is to get through it, putting as little effort as possible and looking as best as possible.
At the good level, the QBRs are more formal. Sales Operations sends out a standard PowerPoint template for everyone to follow. Preparing for the meeting is a manual process and time consuming for the sales reps. Information must be compiled from multiple sources and combined in Excel. Some numbers may be suspect but the sales rep has less flexibility to tell the story they want to tell vs covering a standard outline. Cross-functional teams rely on the sales rep’s narrative in the meeting to respond with suggestions or make contributions to the discussion.
At the better level, the CRM/SFA system provides all the information needed for the QBR. Sales reps and sales managers must manually combine the information because the CRM/SFA system does not formats the information suitable for the QBR meeting. The effort by sales reps and sales managers is reduced and the accuracy greatly increased. Detail opportunity information is not available and the attendees rely on the sales reps version of history.
At the best level the QBR is zero preparation. All the information and presentation views are available in the system. The system tells the sales rep’s story and there is no place for the sales rep to hide information. Detail history is provided through the Opportunity 360 view and it allows the group to make fact based decisions regarding the sales process, future sales activities and initiatives. This gives the sales team clear visibility on the attainability of sales in future quarters and allows them to proactively manage opportunities at risk
The next blog will begin to tackle sales analytics.