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The Modern Leader's QBR Playbook
The Modern Leader's QBR Playbook
February 18, 2022
16 min read
Topics covered in this article
Defining and agreeing on the purpose of QBRs is the first step to having an effective and strategic QBR meeting. The purpose shouldn’t be focused on support and bug fixes but rather strategic meetings with a plan and a purpose. QBRs should strengthen the customer relationship and lead to expansion opportunities which are so critical in high-growth SaaS models.
In this month’s “Revenue Masterclass” we sat down with top Revenue Mavericks leading us into Rev3. We recently had to pleasure of speaking with an esteemed panel of change agents.
- Lucas Lam, Product and Solutions Director at BoostUp.ai
- Christine Dorrion, VP Global Revenue Operations & Enablement at Degreed
- Carmen Seep, VP of Commercial Operations of Seismic
- Saad Shaikh, VP of Revenue Operations at BigPanda
These experts discussed best practices for planning, implementing, and running effective and strategic QBR meetings that deliver value. During this ‘Revenue Masterclass’ they discussed:
- Internal vs. external QBRs
- The components of practical and strategic QBRs
- Who should be involved and how to prepare
- How to turn a good QBR into a great one
- How to leverage customer metrics and insights
Internal vs. External QBRs
Lucas kicked off the Revenue Masterclass and set the stage for Christine, Carmen, and Saad. He shared a high-level overview of the differences between “internal” and “external” QBRs. He states that the internal QBRs should:
- Get cross-funcional leadership buy-in and participation
- Align on the common goal
- Come in with a learning mentality
- Put the customer at the center
Whereas external QBRs should:
- Foster strong relationships
- Review success metrics and highlight return of investment
- Have open, honest discussions
- Reinforce partnership
- Open up discussions for renewals and expansion
The sales QBR aims to deep dive into everything that occurred in the previous quarter and creates actionable strategies for the next quarter. He recommends that you go into the QBR with these three questions in mind:
- What happened? This is where the reps should deliver a cause-and-effect review.
- The deals we won last quarter and why
- What we could have done differently — and when — to turn around losses
- The deals we could have won, if we had been in the running
- Can we win? Reps should review their pipeline health.
- Coverage (pipeline divided by quota) for the upcoming quarter
- The right mix of long-shots and low-risk deals
- Deals stuck in a specific stage (or can be brought into the current quarter.
- How will we win? Reps should discuss their forecast and commit deals.
- The deals in their commit, best case, and worst case
- For each of those deals, the results to date and the plan to close
- What could cause the deals to fall through
In a customer QBR, you should:
- Review of implementation or product usage goals.
- Assessment of performance against goals.
- Discussion of strategic obstacles.
- Planning for the future.
- Preview of upcoming product enhancements.
By doing these things, the benefits to you and the customer are: Alignment (or realignment of goals), understanding of product value, reinforcing partnership relationship, and identifying early warning signs of risk (churn).
Companies large and small use the QBRs playbook to align on purpose, measure, and track success. That’s why Lucas indicates that you must ‘build a repeatable framework and playbook to gather alignment and accountability across the organization. The model could look like this: Learn > Plan > Launch > Drive > Improve.
The last thing Lucas touched on was the importance of leveraging sales and customer insights to drive value. For customer insight-driven QBRs focus on: Overall usage of the product, depth/breadth of use, growth of the account, length of time as a customer, NPS type account health, executive relationship strength, time managing the account, and overall engagement activity and sentiment.
For sales insight-driven QBRs, Lucas indicates you should look at relationship and engagement risk, opportunity risk, pipeline risk, and overall forecast strength.
The Plan. The Process. The Play.
When thinking about QBRs and preparing for this presentation, Christine decided to simplify the QBR process among three main themes: The Plan, The Process, The Play.
Christine says, “Don’t wing it. It needs to be well-orchestrated and executed.” Christine shares the top 6 characteristics of a successful QBR.
- It should not be a surprise. A cadence should be in place and scheduled well ahead of time. It’s all about being proactive and well-prepared.
- It should have a defined set of goals. Ensure you align on performance indicators, KPIs, or metrics to be discussed during the QBR, whether internal or external.
- Have a clear agenda in place. For each type of QBR, an agenda should be communicated and set well ahead of the QBR to ensure all audience members are prepared, and the meeting is productive.
- Ensure you have the right audience involved. You want an audience that can provide feedback, guidance, and, better yet, coach. You don’t want too many or too few, but you want the right audience.
- Make sure the presenters are prepared. This allows for more productive and time-efficient meetings. As Christine says, “it shouldn’t be a show-up and throw-up exercise.”
- Have an action plan. QBRs meetings are successful when there is an action plan on what needs to be done or changed, what is realistic, and setting proper expectations.
In Christine’s mind, the process is as crucial as the plan. She says it starts with the single source of truth, Salesforce and BoostUp.ai. Next, the data must be clean and reliable. If you are questioning the data, your QBR will not be successful.
QBRs must be ‘data-driven.’ Data-driven QBRs lead to better decision-making. Data helps you understand the current situation and diagnosis for a better outcome. She says, “Could you imagine deciding on how many quota-bearing sales reps you need for the year if you are relying on inaccurate data?”
What drives a great process? First, having a standard cadence and team alignment. And lastly, Christine says, “You must align on a common language, so there are no misunderstandings.”
Christine shares an example of a sales QBR. First, she quotes, “Lessons shared becomes lessons learned.” Next, Christine lays out some bullets that should be covered:
- Spend time on what worked with and what’s didn’t. These typically align to pre-determined KPIs intending to replicate the good and avoid the bad.
- Focus on looking at the forward-looking plan. It starts by looking at the funnel and asking questions to understand the gap. Then look at your current quarter and how we mitigate risk and allocate resources to deals that we can win.
- Look at your pipeline generation strategy. Make sure you have alignment with Marketing and SDRs - look at pipeline targets and pipeline source.
- Make sure you focus on account reviews to review their health and build a health plan to identify upsell opportunities.
- You should also touch on the NFQ outline and a path to quota attainment.
- Lastly, stick to the plan.
From a leadership perspective, Christine indicates that in a QBR, you should focus on:
- Planning and development of people
- Talent review
- GTM strategy and competitive outlook
- Enablement strategy
- Marketing strategy
QBRs, Your Customer Will, Look Forward To
Carmen started her presentation with an agenda slide highlighting her four main points. I highlighted and highlighted her crucial talking points below but trust me; you will want to listen to her video recording.
Types of QBRs for Seismic.
- Timing: Within the first 10-14 days after quarter close
- Content: Retrospective on the previous quarter plan and performance (what worked/what didn’t) plus an account plan to current quarter and next quarter quota)
- Participants: CRO, Marketing, Product, Sales, SE, Alliances, Operations, Enablement
- Outcome: Visibility, Alignment, and Ownership
- Timing: Annually, semi-annually, or quarterly, depending on your business
- Content: Retrospectiveon prior period outcomes. Get insights within recommendations on observed gaps and align current period outcomes.
- Participants: Alliance Management, Customer Success Management, Account Executives, Executive Sponsor. Product, Marketing, and Enablement as needed.
- Outcome: Visibility, Alignment, and Ownership
- Timing: Within the first 14 business days after quarter close.
- Content: Retrospective of prior quarter plan and performance (what worked/what didn’t) plus a review of current quarter objectives.
- Participants: Cross-functional Leadership + Stakeholders
- Outcome: Visibility, Alignment, and Ownership
- Define Customer Objectives: What problems does the customer want to solve?
- Use Consistent Data: Create one consistent dashboard to track key success metrics. Then prioritize what should be included on the dashboard. (Hint: It shouldn’t have every metric/KPIs but rather the most critical ones.)
- QBRs are a Team Sport: Make sure you get the right stakeholders involved. For example, if the customer has product issues, ensure your product stakeholders are involved.
- Be Proactive: Don’t tell the customer something they already know. The purpose of a QBR is to provide value, not inform them on things they are already tracking. This is an opportunity to hear from customers. [Hint: listen to your customers, let them tell you what you want.]
QBR Framework and Process. Carmen says, “Keep it super simple.”
Lessons Learned: As only Carmen can, she outlines her key learnings:
- Start small: Start with a small group of customers.
- Don’t boil the ocean: It should be 30 minutes and 3 slides.
- It’s all about the customer: If your team is doing most of the talking, something is wrong.
- Iterate quickly: Don’t go overboard with data and content. Bring the right people to the party. Do something with feedback the customer provided, and follow-through matters.
Sales QBR 101
Saad, in his presentation, focused on the internal QBR. he outlines it is one of his favorite meetings, and if done effectively, it can lead to an upward trend in your career. In addition, QBRs can really help deliver value to your organization and sales counterparts.
Saad shares that “QBRs should be process-driven, consistent, repeatable, objective and straightforward.” Keeping those aspects in mind will help you build the proper QBR process for your organization and help you scale it effectively across the organization.”
[Hint: A QBR should not be a surprise. Make sure you get alignment on what will be discussed, what key metrics will be covered, and the outcome of the QBR.]
Again, the QBR should be simple and focus on the things that matter, where you can see gaps and provide value. Focus on:
- Prior quarter results
- Leading indicators
- Conversion and velocity metrics
- Pipeline health
- Forecast for the current quarter, next quarter, and next quarter + one
Saad shares, “If you want to make your life as a Revenue Operations leader easier, you will want to make the QBR process repeatable (by rep, front-line, second-line leadership) and scalable (by geo, area, region).”
Another key component of the sales QBR is the rep/leader health assessment. He says it should blend quantitative (ARR booked, meetings scheduled, opportunities created) and qualitative (overall performance, technical aptitude, sales process execution). Saad goes on to say, “The goal is to provide actionable insights that allow your reps to improve. It’s not about identifying reps that should be let go.”
Sales QBRs should identify gaps in education, process and identify areas for improvement (process, enablement, etc.). The last thing Saad touches on is deal and pipeline review. This is where the rep picks 1-2 deals that need help with and allows the extended team to help coach and collaborate on the next steps required to move the deal forward.
To watch the full Revenue Masterclass, click here.
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