Creating the Right Agenda for Data-Backed Quarterly Business Reviews

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Many organizations have adopted the practice of hosting Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) with each of their sales professionals to review what happened the previous quarter and to, perhaps more importantly, look ahead to future quarters.

While QBRs are often dreaded by just about everyone in the sales organization due to their reputation for being incredibly time consuming and invasive, they can be very helpful for not just the sales leader, but the team of sales professionals as well. In order to host QBRs that are viewed as invaluable, it all comes down to preparation and constructing just the right agenda that packs quantitative and qualitative data points into a succinct time period.

In this article, we’ll provide some guidelines about preparation, and will share a sample agenda that strikes a balance of examining KPIs without abandoning qualitative learning.

QBR Preparation Guidelines

Hosting an individualized QBR with each sales professional can be extremely time consuming for all involved. Team members must pull reports in which to glean important metrics and KPIs, scour conversation notes, create their slides, and practice their presentation and response handling for the questions they’ll receive. And while the sales professional’s job is extensive and takes away from selling time, your output as a sales leader is even greater. Rather than prepare for just one presentation, you must prepare for many, and may even be asked to present your own QBR to superiors, such as the VP of Sales or even the entire executive team. It’s your responsibility to pull reports, identify key trends, create the agenda and the QBR outline, review each sales professional’s performance, and potentially prepare your own summary for superiors.

Because of the immense preparation that goes into hosting successful QBRs each and every quarter, it’s imperative that they’re not dreaded, but rather looked forward to as a time of joint learning. In order to set the tone for a successful QBR, as a sales leader, you must keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Prepare the QBR agenda several weeks in advance in order to give all participants ample time to prepare (2-4 weeks is optimal)
  • Block out time on the sales professional’s calendar well in advance so they can schedule prospect or customer meetings around the time block
  • Determine other individuals that should attend the QBR (Solutions Consultants, supporting SDRs, other Sales Managers, etc)
  • Outline all metrics, reports, and deliverables that will be reviewed during the time and request that Sales Ops pull necessary reports
  • Provide sales professionals with a pre-built QBR presentation template so that each presentation follows the same structure
  • Respect the time allotment and do not exceed the calendar block, even if a follow-up needs to be scheduled
  • Approach the conversation with an appropriate amount of both constructive criticism of what can be approved along with praise for what is exceeding expectations
  • Never end the QBR without resolution or at least a detailed action plan or next steps in place

With these guidelines in mind, you can now create the agenda elements which will ultimately be shared with your team of sales professionals so they can begin to prepare for their personalized QBR.

Creating the Balanced QBR Agenda

Below, you’ll find an agenda example along with proposed KPIs and metrics to include at each discussion point to ensure the meeting isn’t just helpful, but data-driven.

Introduction and Pipeline Review (Sales Leader)

Data to include (both for team and sales professional):

  • Current pipeline and weighted pipeline
  • Quarter over quarter comparison (trailing 2 quarters)
  • Quota attainment and quota coverage
  • Average deal size
  • Conversion % by pipeline stage
  • # of won deals vs. # of lost deals

In the initial portion of the QBR, the sales leader opens up the meeting by reviewing top line metrics that are relevant to the following conversation. This helps to set the stage for the meeting and ensures that the sales professional and sales manager are aligned on the highest level of KPIs before diving into specific metrics and deals.

Last Quarter Recap (Sales Professional)

Data to include (as it relates to sales professional only):

  • Last quarter breakdown by pipeline
  • Weighted pipeline at quarter start vs. quarter end
  • Closed won new business $ vs. closed lost or no decision $
  • Marketing lead and opportunity contribution and analysis
  • Self-generated lead and opportunity contribution and analysis
  • Qualitative learnings recap

At this point in the discussion, the sales professional provides a thorough recap of the previous quarter, sharing factual data points and also interjecting his or her viewpoint on each element. For example, sharing perspective on why he believes marketing generated leads closed at higher rates than self-generated leads or what decision factors ultimately led to the closed lost deals. During this reflection, the sales professional can also share more qualitative learnings that aren’t necessarily data-backed, but are equally important for discussion. This may include his or her speculation as to what can be improved in future quarters, or suggestions for sales training seminars.

Future Quarter Look Ahead (Sales Professional)

Data to include (as it relates to sales professional only):

  • Weighted pipeline at quarter start
  • Breakdown of current opportunities by stage
  • Breakdown of current leads and opportunities by source (including a note of marketing generated or self-generated)

Next, the sales professional shares pipeline metrics for the upcoming quarter, being sure to cover the current state of his or her pipeline along with a breakdown of leads and opportunities. While conversations about the upcoming quarter are more difficult to base off of metrics, previous quarter learnings can provide a baseline, which is why it’s key to cover previous performance first. This discussion revolves mostly around aspects such as pipeline confidence and sales approach plan. As we’ll cover in a following point, the sales professional and leader should discuss the specific sales plans for key accounts, which is especially important for those selling to large, complex enterprises.

Key Learnings and Success Milestones (Collaborative)

While some key learnings may have already been addressed in previous agenda items, it’s a good idea to dedicate an entire section of the QBR to constructive criticism and praise. Having a dedicated time to bring up difficult conversations near the end of the meeting can accomplish two things: 1) Give the sales professional and sales leader space to air out any grievances, discuss challenges, and highlight opportunities with no interruptions and 2) Allow for resolution during the meeting itself without having to put off action—after all, the purpose of the QBR is to resolve what worked, but more importantly, plan for even more effective future quarters.

As a sales leader, have questions prepared to ask the sales professional if qualitative conversation doesn’t naturally occur:

  • What can our organization as a whole do a better job of?
  • Are there tools or resources you need in order to improve?
  • Do you feel like we spend enough 1:1 time together? How can I better coach you on a weekly basis?>
  • What topics should we cover in a future sales workshop or all-hands meeting?
  • What was the most important thing you learned last quarter? How will you apply it to this quarter?

Strategic Account Planning (Collaborative)

For sales professionals covering complex, enterprise deals, this section of the agenda is exceptionally important and shouldn’t be glossed over. It’s tempting to focus on deal mechanics versus building a business case, which is why the QBR is the perfect opportunity to discuss both approaches.

During this time of strategic account planning, the sales leader and the sales professional can work together to identify the very top accounts (between 2-5, depending on deal size) that are expected to close during the upcoming quarter and dive into the business case. During this time, discuss questions such as:

  • What problem is the sales professional solving for the prospect?
  • What is the actual root cause of that problem?
  • Why is that problem (or solution) important to them?
  • How does the sales professional know that a budget has been dedicated to solving the problem?
  • Is the sales professional talking to the right stakeholders in the department or the organization?
  • Is the sales professional aware of the security audits that may need to be conducted? Or other “gotchas” that might slow the deal?
  • What is the business driver or compelling event that will get the deal across the line in a timely fashion?

Then, during weekly 1:1’s, continue to address the status and outcomes from the previous week, all based on tangible and actionable data points.

Final Questions and Next Steps (Collaborative)

While no data points are necessary in this final agenda item, it’s imperative to ensure all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. If there are unchecked items or if the presentation runs long, be sure to schedule another meeting or determine the action items for both parties. While QBRs can be an extremely effective tool, they can also expose emotion and pent up frustration and, if left unaddressed, can present obstacles down the road. Use this final stage to address any final questions, to reinforce points discussed, and to close the loop.