Best Practices to Conduct Productive Business Reviews
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The pursuit of revenue targets is a constant game of strategy. No matter how much planning is done, unanticipated moves in the industry or changes in market dynamics often arise, requiring quick adjustments to overcome obstacles and stay on track. This means that to bring a sales forecast to fruition, careful monitoring and management are necessary to make effective decisions on the best courses of action.
Sales enablement practitioners can play an important role in ensuring that revenue-facing teams are equipped to not only produce accurate forecasts, but also to make the right play calls to meet the commitments set out in those forecasts through effective business reviews.
While the responsibility to conduct these reviews ultimately falls to frontline sales managers and the reps themselves, enablement practitioners can set them up for success by outlining the anatomy, format, and purpose of effective business reviews. In doing so, managers will be better prepared to coach reps through strategic decision-making to proactively manage their book of business and reach their revenue goals.
“Doing a [business] review, we can get [reps] to think about how they might approach the [situation] differently and help them in developing more impactful strategy,” said Dave Brock, author of “Sales Manager Survival Guide”.
Anatomy of Business Reviews
An effective business review does not just occur during a single conversation at the beginning or end of a month. In order to address challenges as they arise and course-correct where needed, managers should strive to review the health of the business through multiple types of reviews throughout the year with their reps.
In his book “Sales Manager Survival Guide”, Dave Brock outlines six types of business reviews that frontline managers should conduct with their reps at a regular cadence, with coaching throughout:
- Deal Review: These are brief, weekly meetings that are used to assess current opportunities being pursued for each rep. While these should occur often, they only need to be about 15 to 30 minutes long in order to understand the status of key deals. This conversation should include a brief overview of the deal’s background, as well as a discussion of how the deal is progressing in terms of where the buyer is in the sales process based only on what they have actually said or committed to. A majority of the time during these meetings should be used to strategize next steps.
- Pipeline Review: It is important to ensure that the pipeline remains healthy, but given the amount of fluctuation that can occur as opportunities progress, it is important not to over-index on early forecasting. To make the most of these reviews, focus the conversation on the pipeline’s integrity, shape or volume, and velocity.
- Sales Call: Approximately once per week, managers should aim to shadow their reps on a sales call. In addition to observing the call itself, such check-ins are most effective with a brief sync both before and after the call. Before the call, managers can help reps strategize an action plan and agenda as well as desired outcomes. Upon completion of the call, managers and reps can assess whether or not those outcomes were met, and create a plan for next steps.
- Account Review: The purpose of this type of review is to craft a structured plan for prospecting with reps, typically at the start of each quarter or new business cycle. These reviews are an opportunity to set ambitious performance goals, as well as strategize a specific plan to engage with prospects and customers.
- One-on-ones: In addition to the various business reviews, it is also important to have some dedicated time set aside with each rep on a regular basis to check in on specific things not covered in reviews that could be impacting performance or productivity. For example, managers can help their reps effectively prioritize their time and ongoing projects, as well as discuss their personal well-being. In a virtual environment, it can help foster camaraderie and connectivity to have these brief check-ins occur at least weekly.
- Team Meetings: In addition to individual reviews, managers can also utilize team meetings to keep the team on track toward revenue goals. However, managers should also be careful to keep these from turning into a group deal review, where everyone simply lists their current opportunities with no strategic purpose. Rather, managers can leverage activities such as strategy brainstorms, role-playing, and more to ensure these are relevant, focused, and ultimately productive.
Meetings without clear purpose can quickly derail productivity and bottleneck decision-making. However, with purposeful reviews that are focused and meaningful, managers can help reps take proactive steps to achieve their goals and keep the business running smoothly.
“As you begin to think about ways that you can help sales managers become more proactive, one of the recommendations I have is to think about a cadence of meetings,” said Matt McClendon, CEO at DSG Consulting. “What does it look like on a weekly basis, a monthly basis, a quarterly basis and annual basis…Whether that’s a deal review, whether that’s a pipeline review, whether that’s an opportunity or an account review, establish that expectation and rhythm across your team.”
Format for Conducting Reviews
Regardless of the type of review being conducted, a structure focused on ample preparation, open discussion, creative action planning, and follow up can help maximize effectiveness and ensure all parties benefit from the review. Sales enablement can provide a guide for how managers can facilitate such meetings, and work with reps to ensure they come armed with the information necessary to make the most of it. Brock suggests using the following format for business reviews:
- Preparation: Both reps and managers should come to the review prepared with the information they will discuss. At a minimum, this should include any updates on action items from the previous review, as well as an agenda to guide the conversation set by the rep. To enhance this step even further, enablement can provide reps with a questionnaire to fill out and submit to their manager for a pre-read prior to the meeting covering any necessary background or introducing new information.
- Dialogue: Following the agenda set by the rep, managers should allow reps to speak openly. While it is important that the conversation is a two-way dialogue between both parties, managers should place a higher emphasis on listening intently and asking probing questions to help guide reps through critical thinking and spark creativity.
- Action Items and Next Steps: Spend a few minutes at the end of each review aligning on next steps and agreeing upon an action plan to complete prior to the next review.
- Follow Up: Using the action items as a guide, managers can hold reps accountable to their commitments. This means that it is important to implement some process for follow up on action items, whether that be an agenda item for the next review, carried out with a project management tool, or another method.
“I think a lot of things that we can do as enablement practitioners is to provide our leaders with what you want them to be [reviewing] and how to do it, with the forms and the feedback and everything, and then it’s much simpler for them to actually do it,” said Steve Maxwell, senior director of field enablement at Cloudera.
Impact of Business Reviews
The ultimate purpose of conducting business reviews is to ensure that revenue-facing teams stay on track to meet or exceed their goals and drive revenue growth for the business. However, reviews themselves do not determine whether or not an organization can make its number. Here are a few ways that structured business reviews can have impact:
- Accountability: The impact of effective business reviews lies in the increased accountability that results from successful coaching throughout the review process. Close tracking of goals helps ensure reps feel responsible for the progress made, rather than the feeling of disconnect that can often result from reps being left to their own devices to contribute to overarching revenue targets.
“If there aren’t goals, if there isn’t a level of accountability that comes from it, then I just don’t think that you see that progress,” said Stacey Justice, vice president of sales strategy and enablement at Workfront.
- Ownership: When managers leverage every opportunity in reviews to coach their reps and hold them accountable to the overarching goals for the revenue organization, reps are more likely to feel a sense of ownership in those goals and take proactive steps to meet them.
- Accuracy: When managers are there to guide reps through the sales process, it can help enhance the accuracy of reporting and forecasting efforts at the leadership level. In turn, this can help leaders make more informed decisions when defining desired outcomes and strategies to reach them, while simultaneously helping reps invest their time and efforts wisely in opportunities that will actually yield impact.
“You can assume a lot of things when you’re hearing things and you put the happy ears on,” said Patrick Buckley, global sales development leader at Twilio. “Giving [reps] perspective and reminding them how to approach things and make sure that they’re internalizing things correctly is incredibly important.”
Enablement’s Role in the Review Process
Since the responsibility to conduct business reviews lies with the frontline managers and revenue leaders, enablement must ensure that they have the support and resources necessary to lead them productively. Consider these strategies to help guide managers through effective business reviews:
- Create a Business Review Play: Guide managers through what they need to know, say, and do in business reviews in order to drive progress against revenue goals and improve rep behaviors. This can include templates for prep work, sample agendas, examples of key questions to ask, and tools to leverage to ensure accurate reporting. Then, assess how these materials are being utilized and whether they are helping to drive the right behavior in order to refine over time.
“Inspect what you expect,” said McClendon. “If you’ve created a deal review guide…or given them content and tools around deal reviews, then the expectation would be that they would use that deal review coaching guide.”
- Compile Best Practice Examples: Identify stand-out managers that conduct excellent business reviews and ask to sit in and record some of their reviews to capture best practices. These recordings of what good looks like can then be made available for other managers to view to glean insights to leverage in their own reviews.
- Lead Training for Managers: Consider putting together training for all managers to teach them about the different types of reviews and best practices for each, giving them an opportunity to practice their skills and receive feedback from peers in a safe environment.
- Review Results with Managers: Regularly assess progress on key metrics as it relates to business reviews and sales performance in order to help managers more effectively coach their teams as well as adjust enablement materials as needed to maximize impact.
“If you have a cadence in which you are reviewing sales performance together with your sales leader, all of a sudden you become a business partner to changing performance,” said Cameron Tanner, head of field enablement for global verticals and strategic accounts at AWS.
Enablement can have a significant impact on sales performance by ensuring that managers have the support they need to monitor revenue goals, make strategic decisions, coach the right behaviors, and ultimately drive progress toward the desired outcomes for revenue growth.
By equipping revenue teams with the knowledge of types of business reviews, their unique purposes in driving revenue growth, and how to make the most of each to maximize impact, sales enablement can help remove friction in internal processes. With more streamlined and focused efforts from revenue-facing teams, the potential results are more accurate revenue projections and improved efficiency and effectiveness of revenue-facing reps.