It’s QBR season again. Normally this would mean getting all of your sales reps and sales leadership into one room for 8 hours (sometimes for more than one day) to recap the previous quarter and plan strategies for the next one.
But this year, things have been different. Due to COVID, many teams will be running virtual sales QBRs.
Sales QBRs don’t have a great reputation even at the best of times. They are not always known to make waves, and many leaders and SDRs often view them as an obligatory exercise that comes with the job, like the occasional dinner with your in-laws. This will make your virtual sales QBR all the more challenging.
But your sales QBR can add tons of value. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with your team, which is even more important in socially distanced times. It’s a place for leadership to provide direction and vision, and for the entire organization to learn from the experiences of your sales reps who are on the frontlines.
What is a sales QBR?
QBR is a quarterly business review. It is a meeting / bunch of meetings held every quarter, for key members of the sales organization to discuss deals that were won and lost, trends, lessons learned, and priorities/opportunities for the next quarter.
Usually these meetings are held in person, and that has its advantages for sure. For many sales teams it is an opportunity to bring together reps who spend a majority of their time out in the field, and for the frontline salespeople to mingle with the leadership.
But sometimes, mitigating circumstances make physically meeting difficult or impossible. COVID is just the most recent (and drastic) example, but teams may not be able to gather for a variety of reasons. Luckily, a virtual sales QBR is always a viable option.
Here’s how to get the most out of your virtual sales QBR.
1. Get your data and people ready well before the meeting
- Stakeholders should establish a set of metrics that will deliver a holistic view of organizational performance. These metrics can be used to create a high-level dashboard to provide a bird’s eye view of the situation and provide a starting point for discussion.
- The metrics might be different for different stakeholders, like sales leaders and individual sales reps.
- The data needs to be accurate. A sales leader may need to spend time with his or her reps to ensure this, but this exercise will make the time you spend during the meeting well worth it.
Preparing each stakeholder with data that is relevant for them will help the team to focus on why something happened instead of what happened (because that data is already on a slide).
2. Make your virtual sales QBR asynchronous
One of the gifts of the digital age is its ability to make conversations asynchronous. Important information can be consumed in small chunks, whenever it suits you.
- Have people record their presentation beforehand and share the videos so that people can go through this information before the meeting.
- The value of a virtual sales QBR is in collaboration, not presentation. Use that time to brainstorm instead of listening. (Plus, active participation prevents mid-meeting snoozing).
- Since there will be many people presenting, and reps and leaders may have to attend multiple meetings, make sure that everyone is using a standard format for visual presentation of data. This should be pre-decided and communicated to the team before they make their presentations.
3. Meeting facilitators should do dry runs beforehand
- Facilitators should check that the chosen meeting software is working and not giving any technical problems. If anyone is experiencing any problems, these can be addressed before the actual meeting, and will end up saving tons of time and headache.
- Managers and leadership can do dry runs to ensure that their messaging is concise and focused, and the plan is engaging enough to keep people’s attention throughout the day. This exercise doesn’t need to involve everyone.
4. Spread out your virtual sales QBR
“I’m really looking forward to the 8 hour Zoom call!”… said no one ever.
It’s unreasonable to expect people to pay attention through long meetings at the best of times. It’s even more unreasonable to expect them to pay attention through long virtual meetings, especially when it’s so easy to open a cat video in another browser window.
But it is often necessary for QBRs to run for a long time. The previous 3 measures will help you save a lot of in-meeting time. Now here’s how you can make the most effective use of that time.
- Break it up into smaller sessions and spread them out over a longer period of time.
- Keep your meetings short – but have more of them. The ideal meeting time is 15-18 minutes. As the brain takes in information, it is consuming a lot of energy, so listening beyond this time limit can lead to exhaustion. (fun fact: that’s why TED talks are limited to 18 minutes.)
- Cap each speaker's time to 15 minutes. This will make it easier to break things up naturally, and keep everyone pointed and concise.
- If you’re doing a virtual QBR synchronously, toggle between listening and more collaborative brainstorming.
- Use break out rooms to split people up into smaller groups. Have them discuss findings or proposals and come back with consolidated ideas.
Figure out what works best for your team. You want to get the most impact out of your meeting time, which means that the information needs to be retained by everyone.
5. Have a meeting plan, and stick to it
It’s human tendency to meander and get lost in infinitely interesting side discussions. If you have a meeting plan, you can maintain focus and limit segments with hard stops.
This encourages everyone to stay on point and not waste precious meeting time.
6. Take the findings of your virtual sales QBR forward
What you learn during the meeting or series of meetings is meant to bolster the productivity of your sales force. Don’t let it just sit on the shelf!
- Adjust accordingly. Use the learnings and apply them to current opportunities.
- Train your reps on the new methods or experiments you have discussed.
- Take success stories and scale them across your organization.
Virtual sales QBRs are here to stay
But they don’t need to be seen as a box-checking exercise. They are an absolute gold mine of insights to help drive your sales forward.
If your sales QBRs have been a drag in the past, then here is an opportunity to shake things up and make your QBR an occasion that creates a lot of value. In fact, in-person meetings can benefit from these tips too, once we get back to them.
To summarize, here’s what you need to do:
- Have the team share their stats and progress ahead of time. Record presentations if necessary. This is so the meeting time is spent on brainstorming instead of listening.
- Facilitators need to test the virtual meeting infrastructure, and leadership should test the messaging flow.
- Plan the meeting. Make sure to include short informal breathers between segments to prevent information overload.
- Break the meeting up into smaller chunks. Give team members a cap on how long they can talk. Stick to the schedule.
By shifting a lot of focus and energy to pre-meeting preparation and making proper use of technology, you’ll be able to get the best insights and learnings out of your team and make your virtual sales QBR an occasion to look forward to.