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January 04, 2020
The Ultimate Guide to Every Type of Sales Meeting
Even with world-class talent, weekly sales meetings can feel less than productive—especially when on back to back Zoom calls all day, every day. Who hasn’t, at some point, scrolled through email and Slack messages while a colleague gives an update?
We’ve all been there. According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers surveyed say meetings were unproductive and inefficient. Another 62% say meetings miss opportunities to bring the entire team closer.
At Clari, we’re constantly exploring how revenue operations teams can work together more effectively, whether in person or remote.
In this guide, we’ll cover four key types of sales team meetings—the one-on-one, forecast call, QBR, and board meeting—and offer tips from chief revenue officers, chief marketing officers, sales thought leaders, and revenue operations leaders on how to run each in the most productive, efficient, and effective way.
What’s the purpose of sales meetings?
From quick check-ins to all-day onsites, it's these repeatable and defined cadences that create the rigor revenue teams need to execute on their number and drive predictable revenue.
Why is driving predictable revenue important? Without it, business leaders can’t make important decisions about personnel, operations, growth plans, or investments.
It's during each of these touch points that revenue leaders come together to align on the sales forecast, identify risk and define the next action items.
How should sales leaders prepare for sales meetings?
Preparation for effective sales meetings always begins with data. Plan ahead by reviewing relevant sales metrics. This will differ depending on the type of sales meeting and the sales-management objective, but doing so will help you skip the surface-level questions and dive right into sales strategy.
Relying on data also helps you handle potentially difficult conversations. For example, if the latest sales forecasting metrics tell a different story from what a rep is telling you, you can use the data to validate what's fact and what's fiction. Taking a data-driven approach to deal inspections before the meeting means you can come in with a point of view on the next steps needed instead of wasting precious meeting time looking through every deal or debating your gut feel versus your rep’s gut feel.
The one-on-one sales meeting offers a critical opportunity for reps and managers to strategize on moving deals forward. In an ideal one-on-one, sales managers have already reviewed sales metrics and data in advance and can spend the time developing a personalized action plan with each rep, as well as providing coaching and motivation.
The purpose of the one-on-one sales meeting
The one-on-one sales meeting is your opportunity as a manager to dive deep into helping your reps identify risk, sales pipeline acceleration opportunities, and actionable next steps for deal execution.
“Reps crave coaching,” Alex Kremer, sales manager at Outreach, tells Clari. A white paper by Zenger Folkman found that 60% of reps said they’d leave a company if their manager wasn’t a good sales coach. “[Reps] want to know how to close better. They want to know how to demo better. They want to learn how to ask better and stronger open-ended questions.”
That’s where the one-on-one sales meeting comes in. A mix of strategy and tactics, the discussion should help your reps overcome roadblocks and give them clarity on next steps in order to reach their sales goals—and, possibly, their long-term career aspirations.
Who should attend your sales one-on-one?
Typically participants of one-on-ones share a contributor and manager relationship. In this instance, it might be a sales rep and a sales manager, but one-on-ones likely go up the entire chain of command to VP of Sales and CRO.
Tips for running a one-on-one:
- Inspect sales data first. By reviewing important sales metrics and analytics in advance, you come to the meeting with a point of view. That way you’re not wasting time having the rep rehash information or asking generic and unfocused questions.
- Focus on the most pressing deals. Use the data to prioritize which deals require the most attention, rather than discussing each one based on deal size.
- Strategize. Spend your time strategizing ways to either manage at-risk deals or accelerate deals that may be highly engaged and qualified.
- Be collaborative. The best one-on-ones take a collaborative approach between the sales manager and rep. This isn’t an interrogation. Letting the data lead the discussion will help create an atmosphere free from cross-examining and finger-pointing.
- Meet regularly. According to research by CSO Insights, only 47% of managers coach their reps for more than 30 minutes a week, says Grace Tyson, sales manager at Chorus. Aim to meet at least weekly. Kremer adds that Outreach’s sales teams have weekly pipeline reviews, biweekly coaching calls, and regular mentorship meetups.
Sample one-on-one sales meeting agenda
- Start with a big-picture view. Review overall performance, guided by mutually-agreed-upon key performance indicators (KPIs) and any progress since the previous week.
- Dive deep into this quarter’s opportunities. Use data to help you spot risk, and prioritize those deals that require the most attention.
- Evaluate the sales forecast and identify gaps. Determine whether you need to adjust the sales forecast based on your recent discussion and analysis. For example, if you see deal slippage, you can talk strategy, walk through scenarios and options, and figure out your next play to bring those deals into early next quarter.
- Agree on next steps and build in accountability. That means you should follow up with hard-data results—a single source of truth that both manager and rep can reference—in your next meeting.
Data you should bring to the one-on-one
Identify the deals that are at risk and those that have the greatest potential. Clari’s articles Identify At-Risk Deals Before They Slip and Top Sales Metrics to Identify At-Risk Deals list the following sales metrics to examine for each deal:
- Number of total pushes
- Number of days in current stage
- Sales activity and engagement data
- Opportunity age
- CRM score
Use the four-point deal inspection process for each at-risk deal:
- What changed in this deal?
- How likely is this deal to close?
- How much activity do we have on this deal?
- Is this deal following our sales process?
How Clari can supercharge your one-on-ones
There are three key ways Clari can help you run your best one-on-one sales meetings:
- Color-coding. Clari automatically updates and color-codes changes to specific fields like deal size, rep forecast, and close date in CRM. Viewers can quickly grasp where deals stand. It also ensures all the data you’re looking at is up to date and 100% accurate.
- CRM Score. Produced by Clari’s AI, the CRM Score predicts which deals are most likely to close based on historic win and loss data. CRM Scores free managers to spend one-on-ones strategizing with reps around deals that need more attention.
- Sales activity data. By automatically pulling in data like emails, calls, and meetings set, Clari frees reps from having to update CRM with sales activity data. This means the data is always accurate, complete, and in real time, and reps can spend their time in more productive ways—such as closing deals.
See how Clari can help you determine the deals to discuss in your one-on-ones—and read more here.
The forecast call and pipeline review meeting
Because the sales forecast is the most important number for every company, your forecast calls and pipeline review meetings are crucial to ensure alignment on sales strategy and execution across the entire revenue operations team. (For more on revenue operations, see Clari's Revenue Operations Framework.)
The purpose of the forecast call and pipeline review meeting
Forecast calls and pipeline review meetings give the revenue operations team an opportunity to discuss deal health and identify risk early in the quarter. Everyone shares and strategizes on their projections. The aim is to see as far into the future as possible, in as much detail as possible with as much accuracy as possible—and then to identify the most urgent course of action to take across every member of the revenue operations team.
Who should attend the forecast call and pipeline review meeting?
Tips for running the forecast call and pipeline review meeting
- Prep with data. Before your call, review key sales performance indicators, and see what your team is calling against the quota. Make sure that you have a strong grasp of each rep’s pipeline beforehand. See who’s pulling their weight, who needs more coaching, and who’s succeeding. Save the individual coaching on overall sales performance for your one-on-ones.
- Zero in on the deals that make your forecast number. With Clari, you can quickly view deals at a glance and examine sales activity data between the rep and the prospect to make sure everybody’s engaged. The AI-based Opportunity Score can help you gauge the likelihood that key deals will close.
- Rely on data-driven technology. By analyzing historical win rates, Clari allows you to spot risk, identify trends, and compare your current sales performance to the same time in previous quarters. This can help you tweak your strategy as needed.
- Standardize your processes and data. Make sure everybody works from the same guidelines. Use a sales forecasting method that’s easy to track against and provides visibility into sales activity data on both the account and rep level. Establish a clear sales process with baked-in accountability. Incentivize sales forecast accuracy by rewarding sales staff who consistently hit their number.
- Establish a regular cadence. Instead of reviewing the details of individual deals, make sure that your teams have a holistic view of all deals, pipeline building activities, and coverage metrics. How? Establish a regular cadence of weekly meetings focused alternately on forecast and pipeline. Forecast calls focus on the steps to close deals while driving toward accurate close dates. Pipeline meetings focus on inspecting pipeline creation and future-quarter pipeline coverage. Yamini Rangan, chief customer officer of Hubspot, explains the cadence of pipeline and forecast calls in this video:
Sample forecast call and pipeline review meeting agenda
- Offer an overview. Provide a basic review of the latest sales forecasting and pipeline trends in the organization.
- Share individual updates. Each rep shares what they’re calling. Set time limits so you can respect everyone’s schedule. If you're using a Revenue Operations Platform like Clari, you should be able to quickly identify the deals that need the most attention and spend time on those first.
- Review quotas and deals. Examine overall quota with what your team has closed to date.
- Discuss changes. Examine how each region’s forecast has evolved over the quarter and look for lessons and insight as to why.
- Roll up. Finalize your team’s numbers and submit your sales forecast.
- Create an action plan. Spell out tangible next steps—and remember to follow up.
Data for the forecast call and pipeline review meeting
- Pipeline coverage
More mature teams will also want to include:
Clari-enabled teams have access to the following data, which they should review and have on hand to inform the meeting:
How Clari can help your forecast calls and pipeline review meetings
Clari provides real-time access to real-time opportunity data—no exporting, no configuring, no hassles. By serving as a single source of truth for the RevOps team and bolstering strategy with AI insights, Clari reduces the prep time for and overall length of forecast calls (in some cases by 50%), improves sales forecast accuracy, and boosts productivity and alignment among all teams. Read more here.
The quarterly business review (QBR)
The sales QBR is the sales team’s opportunity to benefit from hindsight while also looking to the future. The QBR allows managers and team members to better understand what worked last quarter, what didn’t, and how to set up the next quarter for success.
The purpose of the QBR
By taking a collective hard look at the last quarter and evaluating overall team performance and key sales metrics, teams can learn valuable lessons and level up their sales game for the next quarter.
Who should attend the QBR?
The entire revenue operations team should attend: sales, marketing, customer success, and operations leaders.
Tips for running the QBR
- Get everyone involved. Cross-functional leadership from all revenue operations teams should participate.
- Use a standard format for the meeting. This way, every participant addresses the same key points when sharing their last-quarter outcomes and pipelines. Team members tend to present their sales performance in the best light, even if that means handpicking some KPIs and avoiding others. Standardization is especially important when members from multiple teams attend.
- Rely on data. Struggles, mistakes, and shortfalls from individual team members can be difficult topics to approach in a group setting. Reframe these discussions as lessons learned, so everyone can benefit. Discussing these problematic scenarios in a non-combative way, with data to support your points can help team members prevent those scenarios.
- Celebrate success stories. Victories can be valuable learning lessons for all revenue operations teams. Review the actions or circumstances contributed to the win so team members can apply those lessons in their own work.
- Clarify next steps. Create an action plan with goals and deadlines for the next 90 days. Identify company resources to help teams succeed. Follow up in the next sales QBR.
- Center on customers. Taking a localized approach to QBRs reinforces the big-picture and common goals, says Yamini Rangan, chief customer officer for Hubspot. Divide QBRs by region and focus each on what’s best for the regional customer. “You can say, what are the customer-driven initiatives you're looking at? And what did marketing have to do for that? What did sales have to do for that?” she says. “I really want everybody to work in a non-siloed fashion, thinking about the customer that we are serving in that meeting and making things happen there.”
Sample QBR agenda
- Start with an overview of the business. Provide the team with a state of the union and your vision for the upcoming quarter. If time permits, bringing in a guest speaker to motivate the team can be a nice touch.
- Move on to the big picture—past, present, and future. Review closed deals, average sales cycle, and deal slippage. See how much business your SDRs have closed against their quotas, and what they’re calling in hard commit for this quarter.
- Evaluate last quarter’s performance. Discuss what your sales reps committed, what they closed week over week, and their quotas. Keep in mind that the numbers are a starting point for understanding what happened. Go beyond the scoreboard.
- Assess the current quarter. Determine what’s truly winnable by assessing the following five aspects of your deals:
- Volume. Ensure you have enough pipeline coverage to hit your quarterly number.
- Mix. Determine your ideal mix of higher-probability small and medium deals and lower-probability elephants.
- Health. Analyze these top sales metrics to identify at-risk deals and see what you might be able to save as well as pull into the current quarter.
- Timing. Ensure you have a regular cadence for closing deals, so that they are spaced out throughout the quarter and help you achieve sales linearity.
- Prioritization. Identify critical deals for the current quarter so you can coach your reps to focus on the right opportunities.
- Ask about winning the next quarter. Set specific goals, generate new ideas, create an accountability plan, and identify company resources to help team members reach these goals.
Data you should bring to the QBR
You’ll want data from the previous, present, and upcoming quarters. From the previous quarter, you’ll want:
From the present quarter, you’ll need:
For the upcoming quarter, you’ll want:
How Clari can help your QBRs
One of Clari’s most popular features is Flow, which gives you visibility into opportunities moving through the pipeline in a certain period of time. Use Flow to examine last quarter, this quarter, and next quarter. Because Clari automatically captures all the activity data and displays it to be easily digested, you and your team never have to waste time cobbling together spreadsheets ever again.
This video demonstrates how Flow can help you run more productive QBRs—and read more here.
The board meeting
The board meeting gathers the company’s top executives and board members to review the overall company performance. It's an hours-long, high stakes opportunity for revenue leaders to showcase the progress they've made and chart their vision for the future.
The purpose of the board meeting
The board meeting is your moment to apprise the board of what’s going right, what’s going wrong, and what you need from them. This is your chance to get the buy-in and backing you need to grow the business. Board members expect to hear the latest developments to help them make informed business decisions. They want to know where the risks lie and how you plan to reduce those risks.
Who should attend the board meeting?
Board meetings are attended by company executives and the board of directors.
Tips for running the board meeting
- Cut to the chase. You have a lot of ground to cover with your board and you won’t have much time. You’ll want to keep your presentation brief and focus on strategy. Highlight the key business opportunities, flag anything that puts your revenue roadmap at risk, and explain with confidence where you think you’ll land at the end of the quarter.
- Ask for help strategically. Depending on how active your board members are in the company, they may not dive into the strategy discussions with specific solutions. Be clear about what they can do to accelerate critical deals. For example, if you need to leverage your board’s connections at key accounts, make that sales pitch here.
- Keep your board members engaged. Provide clear evidence of how your organization is moving closer to your goals. Arouse their curiosity about the progress you’ve made lately by coming armed with real, hard data points. When board members leave energized and excited, that’s a good sign they’ll support your initiatives.
Sample board meeting agenda
- List goals. Present the sales team’s goals for the quarter. Offer an up-to-the-minute view on how the quarter is progressing in relation to those goals.
- Strategize. Highlight your top-priority deals—those at risk, of high value, or with the most potential—and explain your plan to close them.
- Wrap it up. Net everything out for the quarter, summarize key takeaways, and explain next steps you plan to take.
- Open the floor. This is the time for Q&A. Incorporate any takeaways from this session into your next steps.
How Clari can help your board meetings
Lose the static reports, spreadsheets, and the presentation deck you normally spend hours preparing for board members. You can run your board meeting from Clari, where you can access the data and predictive insights you need in real time.
Additional reading on sales meetings
As you can see, meetings have a special place in our hearts. But it's up to the meeting leader to make sure they are productive and worthwhile and not a waste of time. There's just no replacing a successful sales meeting.
When done right, these revenue cadences will create a culture of rigor that leads to effective execution and predictable revenue. They're absolutely critical to growing the business. Read more below.
- Clari's Revenue Operations Cadence: The One-on-One
- Clari's Revenue Operations Cadence: The Forecast Call
- Clari's Revenue Operations Cadence: The QBR
- Clari's Revenue Operations Cadence: The Board Meeting
Sales Leadership Lessons from Carl Eschenbach
Follow Carl Eschenbach, Former COO of VMware, in a step-by-step approach to sales forecasting that will set up your organization to achieve greater efficiency and earn more revenue.
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