When was the last time you could say your Quarterly Business Review (QBR) made a major impact in the way your individual reps go about their day-to-day, the way teams perform, and the amount of revenue generated for the business? 

If you’re stuck in a rut going through the motions of the typical QBR process, it’s time to break out of the routine. You want every QBR to be more than routine – they should drive behavior change in your reps and unlock new revenue for the business. 

Thoughtful planning and pre-work is essential, but even more important is the structure of your QBR. 

What should it look like? What steps and strategies will ensure that the quarterly session drives improved execution and performance in the coming quarters? 

Here’s how to revamp the way you approach your past performance and set your team up for future wins.

The traditional quarterly business review: what’s the issue? 

For sales teams, a QBR is a session involving sales reps, sales management, the VP of Sales, and sometimes other executives or departmental representatives. 

In a typical QBR, each rep measures and presents their prior quarter performance and everyone assesses progress, discusses the results, potential improvements, and future quarter forecasts and strategies.

What’s wrong with this? After all, it’s the way QBRs have gone for years. 

JM Wilke, VP of Operations and Principal Growth Consultant at Scott Leese Consulting, said there are two problems with the traditional QBR that she’s seen in her sales operations career: 

First, the traditional QBR format is boring. “You can’t run an effective QBR when you’re reading numbers off a screen. There has to be a human element to it,” said Wilke. 

Second, most QBRs are severely lacking in meaningful data. “[QBR presenters] might have quarterly data, but they don't have the details or leading indicators of a deal: how many dials, how many emails are getting replied to. What led to that deal?”

A new way to run a QBR for a remote sales team: the pyramid framework

The old way: focus heavily on the past. 

The new way: focus primarily on the future. 

At the top, you have the past quarter, followed by a review of the present in the middle and finally the future planning at the end. 

While each section is equally important, its place in the pyramid represents the amount of time it should take up, with the past taking the least amount of time and the future requiring the most. 

Why is this a better way? 

  • Engagement: since QBRs for remote teams typically take place virtually, the QBR pyramid helps to minimize the more mundane portion of the review, therefore reps are less likely to tune out during long presentations of the past quarter. 
  • Strategy: the pyramid approach maximizes the time spent collaborating. This structure also allows you to plan a goal-oriented session where you can develop plans to attack the pipeline.
  • Gap Assessment: open honest conversations around what’s going to stand in the way of achieving these goals. What does your team need to be successful that they don’t currently have?

Past: What happened to your sales team this quarter?

After the vice president of sales (or another sales executive) opens the meeting with an agenda and expectations, each rep should succinctly present their results from the previous quarter. 

The format is up to you (dashboards, spreadsheets, slides, etc.), but any templates, key performance indicators (KPIs) and questions should be provided to reps in advance to keep things moving efficiently.

Understanding the past quarter’s performance necessitates that you lead with an honest, cause-and-effect review of both accomplishments and losses. Some points to explore:

  • Why did we close the deals we won?
  • What was the “aha moment” that showed the customer value?
  • Why did we lose deals?
  • How did we lose deals we thought would close?
  • If there were obstacles to closing a deal, how were they overcome?
  • How did each rep do overall? Where did they excel, and where did they fail?

Anne Marie Cernera is Founder and Lead Consultant at AMC Consulting. Their mission is to help revenue leaders build strong revenue operations from day one. 

“One way I like to help revenue leaders structure a more successful QBR is not only to provide the actual numbers from the last quarter, but also to highlight key wins and key losses. I start with the losses,” said Cernera. 

“I often find that key losses are glossed over, when in fact they can help us get to a ‘no’ more quickly. We’d love to win every deal, but if there has to be a ‘no’ it’s good to identify it sooner rather than later. That way sellers can focus on the deals that are more likely to close.”

Wilke said too many sales teams focus their QBR primarily on the past – and the QBR shouldn’t just be a retro exercise. “Nothing in your QBR should be a surprise. You shouldn’t just review data. The QBR is where you talk about what’s working and what’s not.”

Present: What challenges are keeping you from increasing sales volume?

Next, it’s time to focus on current quarter performance and trends, as well as any challenges that the team is facing. Getting everyone together (virtually or in-person) four times a year presents a significant opportunity to learn from the past and each other. 

Set the stage for an open meeting, where no questions are off limits and reps feel comfortable sharing any issues they are running into. You can also invite individuals from other departments (product, finance, marketing, operations, etc.) to join this part of the session to collaborate on solutions for ongoing roadblocks or challenges.

As part of the learning experience, explore current trends driving the market, share relevant internal initiatives and analyze the insights uncovered by rep performance and behavioral data. This is also the time to dive into the current quarter pipeline performance and health and answer questions like:

  • What’s the pipeline coverage?
  • Do we have the right mix of low-risk and long-shot deals?
  • Are we clearly aligned on ideal buyer needs?
  • What deals are stuck and why? How can we move them?
  • Are there any deals that we want to add to – or remove from – the pipeline?

Future: What can you do next quarter to drive revenue?

Building on the knowledge, strategy and discoveries made in the past and present parts of the QBR, it’s time to develop the actionable takeaways that will drive revenue.

Start by reviewing the forecast, ensuring that expectations are aligned with data. Here’s where you’ll want to make sure your data hygiene is in order, and if it’s not, you may want to consider deploying data hygiene software before your next QBR. Ensure that everyone is on the same page about each deal as you cover:

  • Best case and worst case for each
  • Activity and prospect responsiveness to date
  • Strategy to close
  • Which deals would take its place if a deal fell through

For the next quarter, or even through the end of the year, discuss the targets you have set for the business as a whole, the entire remote sales team and each individual rep. Set realistic quotas, based on data around each rep’s capabilities and performance. 

And finally, outline the measurements and KPIs that will be used to assess performance. When everyone knows what’s expected up front, they will have a clear path forward to success.

After a long day of information overload, the best way to close is by revisiting the action items for both the team and individual reps or leaders. If skill gaps and training requirements have been identified, make those items (and any relevant sales enablement tools) part of the near-term plans. The more actionable the takeaway, the greater impact it will have on performance.

Wilke recommends having sales managers gather questions from their team in advance, then running a mini-training at each QBR based on any trends in the questions. This gives reps clear lessons to apply to their work immediately following the session. 

Numbers aren’t enough

Productive QBRs rely on sales data that’s insightful, understandable, complete and clean. Naturally, sales reps and teams want to present their performance in the best light possible. 

But in order to drive revenue for future quarters, leaders need full visibility – not only of what happened, but also why. Without real-time, actionable sales intelligence, the QBR won’t really reflect an accurate, complete picture of the past, present or future quarters.

SetSail uses machine learning and data hygiene best practices to extract the key buying signals and productivity patterns from the past quarter. This not only allows sales leaders to present engaging data visualizations and sales dashboards that explain the “why,” but also drives strategy and plans for the next quarter. 

If prepping for your QBR or end of year report currently involves cobbling together incomplete, static data from spreadsheets and account management software and swapping it into an old slide deck, it may be time to think about how you can make your quarterly review more impactful with data science sales analytics. Want to try a demo?

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