Both business acumen and business planning are becoming a much more integral skill for sales reps and sales managers. Company’s business planning processes require sales reps to build annual business plans.
Quarterly business reviews consists of a formal review meeting between a front line sales manager and one of his/her sales representatives. It can also be a meeting with the next level where the regional or national sales manager meets with their front line sales. The purpose of such a meeting is to review the last quarter’s performance and to discuss plans for the next quarter.
One of the issues I see is that sales managers don’t receive any formal training on how to conduct an effective QBR nor do sales managers usually share best practices on running a QBR with their peers. As a result, many QBRs are not as effective or impactful as they can be.
I want to share with you 5 effective practices that will make the quarterly business review process drive high performance.
Keep the Process Simple
Maintaining a simple but relevant process is critical. It is critical that both the manager and the rep are looking at the same data. You don’t want your sales people spending hours looking for data. A meeting should be no longer than 3 hours, if you go over 3 hours it becomes a killer process.
Multi-Level Performance Reviews
In order for the process to be effective each level needs to be involved. It starts with the front line sales manager reviewing each member of their sales team. Depending on how many levels of sales management there are in the organization it is incumbent on each level to conduct a QBR with the level below. If there is a VP of Sales (VP), regional sales directors (RSD’s) and district sales managers (DSM’s) then;
- The DSM’s review the reps,
- The RSD’s review the DSM’s and
- The VP reviews the RSD’s
Commitment to the Process
For the QBR process to work, management must maintain a commitment to perform reviews on a quarterly basis. For example, if the company has a stellar quarter there is tendency to forgo a cycle. I believe that this is a lost opportunity and if management wants to build a performance based organization there are opportunities to use the QBR to reach even higher levels of performance.
Clear Roles and Expectations
The goal of the QBR is to review and keep the business on track. The goal of the manager should not be to catch the rep out but rather facilitate their business thinking. It is important to set clear expectations of roles of both parties.
The sales rep’s role is to be prepared and lead the meeting. They own their business plan and must demonstrate that they have a strong understanding of challenges and opportunities in their territory. My expectation is they come prepared with a plan of action to address the challenges and the opportunities in their territory/business.
The sales manager’s role is to ask questions using what I call a “coaching mindset”. Consistently ask the same question. As in all performance cultures the sale manager’s job is to hold the sales rep accountable for doing what they said they were going to do.
The expectation is that the sales rep and the manager are aligned on the plan of action for the next quarter and the rep provides the sales manager with a written summary of their agreed plan of action for the next quarter.
One of the biggest pitfalls untrained managers run into is that they spend more time focused on what happened in the last quarter. The real value of the QBR is twofold;
- Reviewing successes and misses from the prior quarter and what you have learned; and
- What is the plan for next quarter?
Some managers spend 80% of the QBR reviewing and 20% focused on the next quarter. Many managers divide the time half and half. The best manager’s always focus forward. They effectively cover the past quarter using 20% of the time and spend the other 80% discussing what the plans are for the next quarter.
Use a “Coaching Mindset” to Create a Performance Culture
A coaching mindset stems from the belief that the sales rep has the solution. It is about asking questions as opposed to telling the sales rep what you think or what they should do. It requires a shift in mindset from being judgmental to asking curious questions that help the sales rep self-evaluate and go through a process of self-discovery.
The coaching mindset poses questions to help the sales rep think. It sounds like:
- How are you going to do that?
- What do you think is the best way?
- How would you address that opportunity?
- What are you trying to accomplish?
One of the approaches I like best is always asking the sales rep “how you are going to take their business to the next level.” What I mean by that;
- If the rep is at 90% to quota I would ask “what do you need to do to get your business to 95%
- If the rep is at 120% to quota I would ask them “what do you need to do to get your business to 125%.
By continually asking the same key questions my hope is that the sales rep comes prepared with an answer to that question.
QBRs can be a very positive process. It allows you to take the time to think and look at your business and business plan every quarter and clearly identify your successes and misses. It is a great process to re-prioritize your challenges, opportunities and make sure you have plans to address each. Sales manager’s want their sales reps to demonstrate they have a clear understanding of what is going on in his/her business and that they have a plan of action on how they are going to drive their business.