Myth #5 The Best Way to Start the Quarter is With a Good Bottoms-Up Forecast at QBR

By Michael Lock

Everyone in sales management loves a good QBR. We love them because we get to huddle with our sales peers compare notes and plan the execution of the quarter. We also love them because they often happen on or near a golf course, a winery, a lake, or ocean. A typical old school QBR has the following agenda:

1) A review of last quarter’s results
2) A review of this quarter’s pipeline and key deals
3) A “what’s working and what’s not working” session to do some course correction. Product management usually attends and demos the new stuff that is coming. Sales ops does some training and finance attends to make sure we are not spending too much on wine.

The QBR almost always takes place on week 3 or 4 of a 13-week quarter. It takes place then because we take a recovery week from the crushing pressure of the previous quarter. We need a week to reconcile closing numbers and argue and booking rules, deal splits and sales compensation. We then take a week or two to scrub pipelines, update the CRM, and get a handle on the upcoming quarter. We then make some very pretty PowerPoints to tell the boss where we are (which usually includes some carefully crafted whining about territory alignment, competitive positioning and sales compensation).

The worst part of the QBR process is not the wine or the whining. The worst part of the QBR is that this is too often the first time we have a consolidated data-driven view of what is happening in the business. And if we are holding that QBR a quarter or a third of the way through the quarter, then it’s way too late to recognize we might have a problem. On the other hand, if the business is accelerating, it is way too late to add resources to take advantage of accelerating opportunities. A bottoms up forecast, developed for QBR, is inadequate for planning a successful quarter. We need a real-time view of what is happening in the business so we can adjust before it’s too late.

And as our businesses become larger, more complex and increasingly competitive, it’s not easy to be data driven. We need to look at data at a very granular level. We can’t just look at aggregate pipe or generic run-rate data. We need to see the data by geography, by product, by business segment, by industry. We need it broken up by renewal, upsell, new business. We need to see it by sales stage and by deal size.  We need to see competitive data. Then, we need to the ability to slice the data in any number of ways so that we can react quickly.

We can’t do that by manually rolling up data and presenting them in pretty PowerPoint slides at a QBR. Successful sales strategies require data science that give us insights in real-time. This will free up time at QBR for creative brainstorming about how to exploit the opportunities and fix the problems in the business. Then and only then, can we go to the golf course and the winery.


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