Quarterly Business Reviews
Both business acumen and business planning are becoming a much more necessary skill for sales reps and sales managers. Company’s business planning processes require sales reps to build annual business plans. To have an effective business planning process, it is important that companies build in proper follow-up and follow through to ensure execution and establish accountability to the business planning process.
Quarterly business reviews consist 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 frontline sales managers. 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 quarterly business review nor do sales managers usually share best practices on running a QBR with their peers. As a result, many quarterly business reviews are not as effective or impactful as they can be.
6 Effective Practices for Effective Quarterly Business Reviews
1. Keep the Process Simple
Maintaining a simple but relevant process is critical. Head office should prepare any sales report or dashboard. It is critical that both the manager and the rep are looking at the same data. You don’t want your salespeople spending hours looking for data. I prefer that they spend their time understanding and thinking about how they are going to drive their business. A meeting should be no longer than 3 hours if you go over 3 hours it becomes a killer process. Conversely, if you don’t spend enough time it doesn’t do justice to the process.
2. Multi-Level Performance Reviews
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 quarterly business review with the level below. If there are 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
3. Commitment to the Process
For the QBR process to work, management must maintain a commitment to perform reviews on a quarterly basis. It takes discipline and a commitment of time, but if you miss a quarter, you lose the positive impact that it can have. For example, if the company has a stellar quarter, there is a 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 quarterly business review to reach even higher levels of performance.
4. 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 but rather facilitate their business thinking. There is no hocus-pocus. It is important to set clear expectations of the 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 the 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. For example, if part of the sales rep’s plan was to run customer five events in Q1 and only completed 3, the manager’s question should be something like “OK Joe you set out to do 5 when are you planning on completing the other 2?” Assuming Joe came prepared he would have covered that off in his comments. “I completed three events and had the next two scheduled this month.”
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.
5. Focus Forward
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 quarterly business review is twofold;
1. Reviewing successes and misses from the prior quarter and what you have learned; and
2. What is the plan for the next quarter?
Some managers spend 80% of the quarterly business review, reviewing and 20% focused on the next quarter. Many managers divide the time 50/50. The best managers focus forward on performance. 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.
6. Use a “Coaching Mindset” to Create a Performance Culture
A coaching mindset stems from the belief that the sales rep has the solution. The skill of the coach is to facilitate the problem-solving process. 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. Many sales managers’ fall into the trap during a quarterly business review of thinking they are or need to be a “super rep” and have all the answers.
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 I hope that the sales rep comes prepared with an answer to that question. During the quarterly business review when a sales rep says I am very happy that I am at 115% to quota and this is my plan to get to 120%, I know I have done my job building a performance culture.
Quarterly business reviews 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 identify your successes and misses. It is a great process to reprioritize your challenges, opportunities and make sure you have plans to address each. Sales managers 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.
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