December 12, 2019

Sales Execution

3 Key Questions to Ask in Your QBR

Michael Lowe

Michael Lowe

Michael Lowe
Michael Lowe

Senior Content Marketing Manager, Clari

Qbr Compsm

Your Quarterly Business Review (QBR) is a time for your sales team to come together and take a hard look at the metrics associated with individual and overall team performance. By analyzing the numbers together, you can identify what went right and what didn’t, as well as optimize performance in the quarters to come.

Your QBR presents the perfect opportunity to arm your team with the insights they need to take their sales game to the next level — but it’s important to make sure you’re asking the right questions to help you get to the right answers.

What Is a QBR?

The QBR is leadership’s opportunity to reconnect with sales reps. It typically involves looking at important sales metrics, analyzing the numbers, reviewing what went right and what could have been done better, and discussing how to improve for next quarter.

Whoever is running the meeting will typically ask each sales rep to walk through their quarterly results and briefly explain what happened and why. The leader will also ask for a forecast of the upcoming quarter and discuss with the team strategies, goals and any other important information about the upcoming months.

Customer Success QBR vs. Sales QBR

As a quick clarification, when we use the term QBR, we’re referring to a sales QBR, as defined above. A customer success QBR has a similar purpose but involves an entirely different set of people. In this meeting, it’s the customer success team that is hosting a review with a customer. The goal of the meeting is to understand how the business’ product or service has benefited the customer in the last quarter, what issues they faced, if any, and how they can gain even greater benefits in the upcoming quarter.

What Is the Purpose of a QBR?

A QBR is a key opportunity for sales leadership to help measure and assess the performance of the business and the team. It also presents an important moment for leaders to coach and guide their sales reps, as well as help grow the business quarter over quarter.

A sales QBR should have three primary objectives:

  1. Understand the past quarter’s performance. What happened and why? This will help you hold your team accountable, as well as pinpoint problems that need to be addressed. The QBR also helps leadership gain a better understanding of what’s going on at the sales-rep level, which can be especially valuable if you have a large or remote team. For instance, by reviewing each rep’s quarterly performance, you may discover areas where some may need more coaching or training.
  2. Qualify the upcoming quarter’s forecast. A QBR is a great time to dig into forecasts and ensure your team is basing their numbers off realistic data, instead of wishful thinking. This can help improve the accuracy of your quarterly forecast.
  3. Provide coaching and training. By asking key questions and focusing on critical data, you teach your team what is important and drive home what they need to care about. For instance, by reviewing the forecast and discussing what is truly a committed deal, you help ensure each member of your team has the same understanding of the word “commit.” Plus, reviewing each rep’s struggles and issues can help other reps avoid the same problems in the future.

What Questions Should You Ask During a Sales QBR?

Here are the 3 crucial questions to ask sales reps in every QBR:

What Happened?

Numbers and metrics tell the final story, but understanding activity behind the scoreboard is critical to developing a world-class sales organization.

You might ask: If your hard commits lagged, why did that happen? Was it a result of not forecasting correctly? Were there external challenges on the prospect side that forced the close date to push back? How could you have commanded control of the situation to guide the deal to meet commit?

Pausing to replay the call and understand why deals didn’t go according to plan can help you get a better read on how well your sales team is forecasting, and if there are process challenges and/or external issues at play that are preventing deals from closing in a linear fashion.

Conversely, if one of your reps pushed through more deals than anticipated, find out what went right and how that performance could be replicated in future quarters.

QBRs are also a chance to celebrate victories and share learnings — It’s just as important to go over what went right and what your team did well. This will help ensure the behavior is continued in the future.

Either way, it's critical to be delicate, positive, and focused on the numbers, rather than on any mistakes your team may have made. The goal is to keep your team motivated and focus on doing better next time, not pointing fingers and placing blame.

Can We Win?

Beyond looking at the deals that have already closed, it’s important to review existing pipeline opportunities and evaluate their strength. Do you have a good mix of smaller, higher-probability deals with a few less-certain, but highly valued “whales”?

You can also use this meeting to look for opportunities to pull deals forward to meet the current quarter commitments, if your numbers are looking low. And always hold reps accountable for their commitments to the team goal. Assure your reps are constantly prioritizing new business development alongside closing out existing deals (or deals that have slipped from the previous quarter). This practice should be a part of everyday good sales hygiene.

Quarterly business review questions focused on sales linearity can help drive home the importance of setting up and nurturing opportunities in a balanced way, so that they close regularly throughout the quarter rather than all your reps’ deals closing in bulk at the end of the quarter, which can have detrimental effects on revenue and operational efficiency.

How Will We Win?

Finally, it’s vital that you review with your team the likely commits in the pipeline — how will your team turn commits into inked deals? Work closely with your sales reps to make certain they have a business plan as “CEO” of their territories, and employ best practices for staying accountable to the process and methodology they have committed to delivering.

You and your sales leadership team must be able to validate activity on an opportunity and not simply rely on what a rep is telling you is happening. Work in partnership with your reps to develop strategies that not only guide commits to close as forecasted, but also increase the likelihood of pulling deals forward.

Each quarter, take the time to regroup with your team to ensure they are treating their book of business like their own business. How are they leveraging company resources — such as marketing, product and sales development reps and executives — to manage their business plan to success? Approach the QBR as a valuable opportunity to develop and reinforce methodology and process rigor, spur best-practice sharing and optimize team performance to set up winning future quarters.

Quarterly Business Review Best Practices

To get the most out of your QBRs, here are some best practices to follow:

Rely on data. To answer questions like “How much of last quarter’s commit did we really close, and why?” and “Do we have enough pipeline coverage to be able to hit our numbers?” you need to have accurate data readily available. Otherwise, you’re relying too much on people’s opinions and storytelling.

Use a standard format. To ensure every rep is focusing on the same metrics and forecasting in the same way, use standard tools and templates. Every rep should follow the same outline and talk about the same key points when discussing their last quarter outcomes and their pipeline.

Ask the hard questions. It may feel uncomfortable to call reps out in a meeting, but the tougher questions you ask, the better you’ll be able to make your forecast. Don’t be afraid to dig into the status of a deal, ask for details and probe for critical information.

Provide learning opportunities. You can help your entire team improve by using the QBR to not only discuss what went wrong but also brainstorm how to avoid similar pitfalls in the future. If one rep experienced a setback this quarter, discussing it as a group could help someone else avoid suffering from the same thing next quarter.

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