The Ultimate Sales QBR Playbook for Sales Leaders

The end of the quarter is a daunting time. The outcome of all our efforts from the past 90 days stares back at us while we try to make sense of what really happened and why.

While you may feel pressure to focus your team on immediately starting to close opportunities at the start of each new quarter, you’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of your past if you don’t take some time to review. Insight into the nuances of the previous quarter’s results is critical for everyone from reps to leadership to ensure even more marvelous wins in the new quarter.

This is where a Sales QBR or ‘Quarterly Business Review’ comes into play.

sales qbr meme

What is a Sales QBR?

A QBR is an executive business review of the previous quarter’s sales and a strategic planning session to build playbooks and forecasts for the upcoming quarter. It is also a crucial sit down between stakeholders to address issues slowing revenue growth.

A winning QBR is two-fold:

  1. Reviewing wins and misses in the previous quarter and any lessons learned [25% of the duration]
  2. Forecasting, strategizing and planning for the next quarter [75% of the duration]

Related: How to Prepare for a Sales Development QBR

What a QBR isn’t:

QBRs are sometimes treated as another routine stand-up meeting with the team wherein there are updates given and some roadblocks are addressed. That is not sufficient to achieve meaningful change you’ll see in next quarter’s results.

Some misguided leaders also treat QBRs as a chance to review every mistake made, or motivate their teams. While it can certainly be motivating to understand exactly what drove results last quarter, and what you’ll improve for next quarter, this meeting is not intended to be for motivation.

A sales QBR:

  • isn’t a status update meeting
  • isn’t criticism
  • isn’t short-term planning
  • isn’t tactical in nature
  • isn’t ad-hoc
  • isn’t fact-checking data in sales reports
  • isn’t evaluating your company’s impact on customers’ business

QBR goals:

Sales managers could use these meetings to show the last quarter’s results of their team to leadership, project the forecasts, plan for future quarters and gain critical leadership buy-in. It also serves as an excellent moment to appreciate the reps’ wins and effort, provide constructive criticism and actionable advice. 

Sales reps can use this forum to showcase their key selling skills, strategic and critical thinking capabilities in the past quarter. They can also show up with a plan for Q2 and make requests to their managers and leadership to support your efforts.

As far as executive leadership is concerned, they get a complete view of the team’s capabilities and an idea of what to expect in Q2. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll also get clarity on how they can best support their revenue teams. 

In a nutshell, everyone who is part of the meeting should have a robust understanding of what they need to do in the next quarter and a predictable plan to overachieve the revenue target.

Action Plan: How to run a Sales QBR

Sales leaders at high-growth organizations conduct successful QBR meetings in a way that maximizes every single minute of the session. Before getting everyone together and interacting with your sales reps and leadership, spend some time figuring out the QBR’s flow. It’s easy to deviate from productive conversation if you do not set a clear and strict agenda.

You can also consider having multi-level QBRs to cover all angles of the performance evaluation and forecasting. So, start off with prepping everything that you need to have handy for the meeting:

  1. Compile all the required information from sales reports, and ensure its accuracy if needed
  2. Think of who you would like to invite to the meeting. Include representatives from any stakeholder teams (sales enablement, marketing, customer success, leadership, sales development, product, etc.)
  3. Some teams run a retrospective QBR, while others are almost entirely forward looking. Consider how much time you want to spend on either side of this spectrum, and allot space in each QBR presentation accordingly.
  4. List business goals for your next quarter with potential spillage to the following quarters.
  5. Set clear expectations with each stakeholder and attendee for their contribution to the meeting.

Also, make note of all the information you’d ask of various stakeholders.

  • What questions do you want answered and by whom?
  • What insights do you want shared with the revenue team?
  • What outcomes are you looking for?
  • What KPIs are you going to measure in the next quarter?

Part 1: What happened last quarter?

The first part of the QBR starts with a comprehensive look back into the last quarter: the closed deals, slipped deals and average sales cycle. Your goal here is to summarize key truths behind what drove last quarter’s results and how your buyers received your efforts.

  • Wins: Discuss what worked well for individuals and the team collectively. You can evaluate how well reps did against quota.

    Make sure you review every stage of the sales funnel that may hold insights: inbound leads, cold-calls made, emails sent, meetings held, opportunities created, target accounts touched, demos given and deals closed. Here, you can also highlight specific best practices and strategies that worked particularly well in closing deals and upselling.
  • Losses: Talk through the areas of improvement for each rep, territory, or product: what is causing lost deals? Study the reasons and figure out what could have been done better. Remember, this is a discussion for reps and stakeholders to improve. Be careful to not turn this bit into a blame-game. That’s not productive.Additionally, you can also look at the pipeline and see the opportunities that were overlooked, those that fell through, leads that weren’t contacted and so on. Here, you also look at the customer churn rate and get to the bottom of where the team fell short in retaining the customer.
  • Setbacks: This is where you can offer some excellent mentorship and guidance. Find out directly from your salespeople what has been their biggest struggle while closing deals last quarter. Evaluate them on a case-basis and offer solutions and suggestions to try in the new quarter.
  • Marketing support: Take a look at how marketing has fared in the way of providing good-quality leads. Have they done enough? Make sure not to just form your own opinion, but hear theirs. After all, together you form one revenue team!
  • Sales organization: The quarter’s success isn’t just determined by how much revenue you brought into the company. It’s also about how strongly your team is growing and performing. Take a close hard look at the hiring you’ve done for the next quarter.

    Are the new hires ramped up already? If not, how long until they can hold their weight of the quota? Was there any regrettable attrition? What could have been done differently?

Part 2: What’s the current quarter looking like?

Evaluating the has-beens is just one part of the QBR process. Next, you take a hard and look at where you’re currently at. This is a reality check for how much of the yearly revenue goals you’ve accomplished and how much more you’ve to go.

  • Pipeline health: Look at the existing pipeline to analyze the number of deals, average size of a deal, engagement rate, close ratio, and of course the sales velocity. Do any of your previous quarter’s challenges present themselves here again? How will you change your trajectory?
  • Top accounts: Pick out named accounts to go after in the current quarter based on how much they help you get closer to the revenue target. Establish a plan to engage and set goals to achieve in order to close them at a realistic timeframe.
  • Incentives: Take advantage of the QBR to show your sales reps how much they can potentially earn by closing specific deals. (Though I’m biased, I of course recommend you use a tool like Everstage to forecast commissions.) When your reps know which deals will deliver the biggest commissions, they’ll be motivated to sell smarter.
  • Winnable deals: Identify promising deals wherein the prospect has shown interest or there is a significant need for your product.
  • Next steps: Bring in a mix of strategic and tactical nuances to the conversation by hashing out a set of next steps to go after the top accounts and the winnable deals. Everyone should have a clear idea as to what their role is at this point, and every stakeholder should be involved in the plan.
  • Assistance: With next steps clear, check where you can offer help. How can you facilitate deal closures for your reps? Are there any deals stuck in one stage of the pipeline for too long? How can you fast-track deals through the sales funnel?

Part 3: Sales forecasting and plan of action for Q2

This juicy section is all about taking all your learning from your last quarter and your current status to turn them into predictions.

Ask your reps about their targets for the next couple of quarters, discuss areas of improvement, proactive solutions and expected sales projections. Clarify why these goals matter and what their plan is to achieve them.

Now, as a sales leader, you must decide on the practicality of your reps’ plans. Hash out the best and worst case scenarios for all the deals they’re planning to go after. Figure out clear plans to close said deals.

If for some reason, their deals fall through the cracks, what would be plan B? Which deals should they go after? Here, you should also be able to define the sales metrics that you’d want to closely track moving forward.

Get clarity on the course of attack based on the status of last quarter’s results:

  • What didn’t work last quarter: Say, your reps had a bad quarter. Once you’ve evaluated the learnings from their performance, you can start planning for the next couple of quarters. Not only should they focus on bringing deals in Q2 but also start planning Q3 based on the average sales cycle.
    There are chances that a rep might not close as many deals in Q2 to hit quota so they should have a long-game mindset to not rush through deals and lose them as a result. After all, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  • What went well last quarter: When your reps hit quota, be sure to take the time and celebrate their accomplishments. And, while they’re still on a high, you can use the timing to motivate them into closing deals and outdoing themselves. Give them direction on how they can maintain their momentum and hit their quotas again in the following quarters.

As a team, don’t forget to also look through demand gen efforts, branding opportunities, industry events to capitalize on, referrals, partnerships and outreach sequence.

Sales QBR Best Practices and Key Tips:

QBRs are an excellent opportunity to regroup, align and advance towards your next shared goal. To make the most of it, here are some tips that make for excellent QBRs:

  • Keep the meetings data-driven.
  • Always have an eye on the big picture. How is each rep’s target playing into the company’s objectives?
  • Have a coaching mindset. Refrain from criticism as QBRs are hard enough for sales reps but if done in a supportive manner, it can really push them to do better in Q2. 
  • Offer meaningful solutions. Have discussions instead of giving instructions. This is an open form for everyone to talk and address their setbacks. 
  • Keep it as simple as possible. Steer clear from discussing day-to-day operations.
  • To avoid deviating from the agenda, schedule separate meetings to address other conversations that come up during the sessions.
  • Follow-up after your QBR. You’d think that a QBR is just a routine nuisance of meeting but once done, you always have to go back to what was discussed and closely analyze whether reps are progressing as per plan.

Final thoughts:

Yes, some of us dread QBRs. But even though QBRs may include some tough conversations, it makes the team more capable and each salesperson much better at closing deals.

And it keeps sales managers and leadership in the loop of all the efforts made and their outcomes. At the end of the day, everyone needs to leave the room with a complete strategy and commitment to run towards that one common goal.

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