At the end of every quarter, sales VPs the world over start getting pestered with questions. Specifically, everyone and their mother wants to know “How’d we do?” and “How can we do better?” If only those questions were as easy to answer as they are to ask.

Some would argue that the first question is simple to answer. You either hit your goal or you didn’t, and that’s that. On to next quarter. If you take that approach, you risk missing vital information that will enable you to steer your sales team more successfully in the future.

The challenge is even when you get the numbers you need, they lack meaning until they’re put in context. Sure, maybe you had a down quarter, but was that a function of poor execution or a result of seasonality in your market? If you exceeded all your goals, is it a sign of increased demand for your product, or simply a result of your new sales reps completing their ramp?

You can’t answer questions like these unless you take the time to break down your performance over time and understand the deeper trends that affected your sales performance for the previous quarter.

The value of the quarterly business review isn’t to simply report the results of what just happened — the point is to take advantage of the new experience you’ve gained and figure out how to apply those lessons going forward.

The Importance of Context

When you conduct quarterly business reviews, you have to minimize subjectivity. You can’t afford to base your future plans on false assumptions.

That means you need to get the full context for why your sales team produced the results it did, regardless of whether they were positive or negative. That means digging going a step beyond, “Did we hit our goal or not?” to “Were we aiming at the right goal?”

Goals are aspirational. Even when they are well set and drive your sales team to peak performance, they are still developed based on where you want to be, not where you expect to be. The end product of a successful QBR is an answer to the “how did we do?” question, combined with an actionable plan for what you should do next quarter.

To start answering those questions, you have to hold your previous quarter’s performance up to prior quarters and prior years.

InsightSquared compare mode
Bookings comparisons give you background context to frame your previous quarter’s performance

Looking Backward

As your team prepares for your QBR, the focus will be on bookings. The main plot point of the story you tell will inevitably revolve around whether bookings were up or down. You already know the answer to that question, and frankly, it doesn’t help you much.

To get to the answers that will enable you to set yourself up for success in the future, you have to go back further than one quarter. Go all the way back and see how you did in Q3 last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Were bookings consistently up? Down? Is one month better or worse than the others?

Visual side-by-side comparisons make it easy to pinpoint both trends and the actual and percent changes of key metrics.

Next, identify the variables that you believe had the greatest impact in your team’s performance (new hires, additional training, product shortages, etc.), and use the same method of comparison to validate your hunches.

Once you’ve acquired all that information and combined it into a manner that you can actually use, you can begin figuring out whether or not you had enough reps, requisite training, and enough resources to hit the goal you were aiming for.

By taking this approach you get much richer answers to the question of how sales are progressing, which lead to better thought-out, more effective long-term solutions.

Looking Forward

By extending your analysis forward into future quarters, you take the guesswork out of improving your sales performance. You’ll understand the key factors that contributed to your success (or your failure).

More importantly, you’ll be able to provide the one thing every CEO craves at the end of a QBR: an actionable, data-driven plan for how to make the boat go faster next quarter.