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The 3 Questions That Turn Good QBRs into Great QBRs

Bird’s eye view of reps asking managers: What is a QBR and how does it work?
Sales managers should be focusing on deep thinking and easy takeaways during the QBR, not elaborate presentations. [Adobe]

With the right questions, you can make the most of your quarterly business reviews and ensure future rep success.

For those who may be newer to business leadership, QBR stands for “quarterly business review.” The QBR is a great forum for sales managers and enterprising salespeople to separate themselves from the pack. After all, the best reps are CEOs of their territory, thinking holistically about their business and knowing what makes their patch unique.

Yet too many managers and reps think of QBRs as simple account reviews, instead of a forum where reps and sales management align on territory plans, and reps weigh in on their ability to execute those plans.

Since all of us in sales are goal-oriented, I’ll give sales managers a concrete goal: Your reps should look back on your QBRs, quarter after quarter, and say, “Those were the toughest meetings of my life, but I sold more and earned more because of them.”

Below I’ve outlined three high-level questions every sales leader should ask to ensure effective QBRs for their reps and region.

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Question #1: What happened?

While last quarter’s performance is still fresh, reps should deliver a cause-and-effect review. The big, overarching question, “What happened?” can be broken down into three smaller ones:

  • What deals did I win last quarter and why?
  • What could I have done differently — and when — to turn around losses?
  • What deals could I have won?

Sales managers should be focusing on deep thinking and easy takeaways during the QBR, not elaborate presentations. Before you meet, send out the questions you expect each rep to answer. Don’t throw curve balls, especially when other managers and executives are in the room. You need confidence in their plan, and they need confidence that you’ve got their back.

Question #2: Can we win?

At the end of the quarter, reps can easily lose sight of pipeline health. With this in mind, the QBR is the time to review your pipeline for:

  • Coverage (amount in pipeline divided by quota) for the upcoming quarter
  • The right mix of long-shots and low-risk deals
  • Deals stuck in a specific stage of the sales process
  • Deals forecasted out two to three quarters that can be brought in
  • The needs of prospects who match your value prop and channels

Realign with your reps on your ideal customer profile. Don’t be surprised if your first QBRs with rigorous pipeline analysis result in a slimmer, and even scarier, opportunity set. Forty real opportunities are better than 150 dart throws.

Additionally, don’t wait until the QBR to discuss pipeline. In the first two months of every quarter, make pipeline health part of your one-on-one conversations. Overcommunicate about how to balance near-term selling with pipeline building and know your minimum pipeline coverage ratios. Be skeptical when a rep focuses exclusively on deals far above your average size, as they may put the next two quarters at risk.

Question #3: How will we win?

Every QBR should include a forecast discussion and commitment to it. A manager must decide whether their reps’ plans deliver confidence, based on the following:

  • The deals in their commit, best case and worst case
  • For each of those deals, the results to date and the plan to close
  • When some of those commit deals inevitably fall through, which deals will take their place
  • Where the rep can find new deals that can be opened and closed in the same quarter

These questions may feel intimidating, but deal and activity questioning has to be built on a foundation of trust — both a manager’s trust in getting the straight story and a rep’s trust in the manager to help.

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Somrat Niyogi, former General Manager, Gusto
Somrat Niyogi Former General Manager, Gusto

Somrat Niyogi is an expert in sales team management. Most recently, he served as general manager at Gusto. Before that, he was VP of business development at Clari and co-founder/CEO of both Stitch, a mobile-first sales productivity platform, as well as Miso, an early pioneer in the social TV space. At Miso, he led the overall vision of the company through multiple rounds of financing with top-tier investors, including Google Ventures, Hearst, and Khosla Ventures. Niyogi has worked at early-stage startups most of his career in various roles, including business development, sales, and product. Niyogi started his career at Salesforce in 2003. Somrat graduated with a BS in computer science at the University of Texas at Austin.

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