Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), also commonly referred to as Account Planning or Territory Reviews, are about to fill B2B sales calendars across the globe but what is marketing’s role in quarterly business reviews?
QBR preparation, and the Quarterly Business Review itself, serve as important indicators as to the health of a company’s sales and marketing alignment. For B2B organizations with synchronized sales (direct, inside and sales development) and marketing (field marketing, demand creation and demand management), the QBR is a joint process to review, update and gain additional revenue plan support for a direct sales rep or sales region.
For B2B sales and marketing teams without an integrated plan to acquire new customers and retain and up-sell customers, it’s the right time of the year for marketing to initiate collaboration. Without sales and marketing collaboration, the sales team holds QBR meetings behind closed doors, reinforcing the narrative that marketing is not correlated to revenue and is simply an expense to the business.
From a sales point of view, it’s imperative for marketing to put some skin in the game. And from a marketing point of view it’s crucial to be an active participant on the team. So, what can marketing do to earn the respect of sales and impact the company’s financial metrics in a significant and positive way?
How a B2B Direct Sales Person Spends Their Time
First, it’s important for B2B marketers to understand a day in the life of a direct sales rep. There continues to be a great deal of interest and research on how B2B direct sales reps spend their time. While every situation is different, in general it is reasonably accurate to assume that a B2B direct sales rep spends time on the following activities:
- Direct Selling 33%
- Research & Account Planning 25%
- Travel 12%
- Administration 10%
- Order Processing 10%
- Planning 10%
The two largest time draws on a B2B direct sales rep are selling and research and account planning. Specifically, the activities included in these core-selling areas include:
- Account research & planning for meetings
- Meetings with prospects and customers
- Meeting follow-up
- Responses to proposals
- Proof of concept
- Orchestration of internal resources
- Communications with the sales pipeline
- Account planning
- Account reviews
In preparation for the QBR, there are several areas in which the field marketing, demand creation and demand management teams should work with a B2B sales rep or sales director. These include account intelligence (account research) and evangelism, demand generation programs (prospecting), the website (communications) and leveraging other people’s pre-existing relationships or access to customers and prospects (prospecting and references).
QBRs and Account Intelligence and Account Evangelism
Account intelligence should be prepared for each target at each company. This is done by leveraging existing and public data sources to understand the business issues, technology infrastructure, financials, the hook, the business message, organizational charts, spending and business priorities. Marketing should take the lead to ensure that all relevant data sources are purchased for targeted companies and titles.
Account evangelism is when marketing resources are provided in an existing account to a strategic account champion so they can showcase their work internally and externally. Marketing resources may help the champion publish internal newsletters and blogs, sponsor lunch and learns, hold webinars, secure speaking slots or build micro-sites to update and showcase the project. Field marketing should dedicate resources to drive customer or account-based marketing for customers that are strategic or contribute significant revenue.
Quarterly Business Reviews and Demand Creation Programs
A demand creation plan outlining the various demand generation programs should be developed at the sales rep level. This plan takes into account the style of the sales rep, the compensation plan, specific industries, accounts and geography. In addition, the demand creation plan needs to be reverse-engineered from the sales reps’ quota and correlated to:
- Where in the sales funnel (top or middle) the need exists
- When the qualified opportunities are required (one, two or three quarters out )
The field marketing manager needs to work hand-in-hand with the sales person to develop, execute and manage the demand generation plan to ensure that the focus is on generating opportunities that become closed won deals and not an exercise in generating leads.
QBRs and Other People’s Pre-Existing Relationships
Leveraging other people’s pre-existing relationships is a co-create strategy. The marketing concept is to take advantage of a person’s or organization’s brand recognition and/or relationships. In short, someone has a strong connection with the individuals within the organization targeted by a sales rep. The goal then is to identify who has those relationships and craft an agreement that provides the rep access to those titles. This will be the most efficient path to new opportunities and can be created as either one-off introductions or as a strategic initiative by transferring brand qualities / thought leadership from whoever has these relationships to the organization or sales rep. The basic premise is that someone has established their brand positively in the eyes of the target audience and that by associating with them it is possible for the positive image or affinity to transfer. Skilled field marketers can identify, drive and nurture such relationships for the sales rep or sale director.
Quarterly Business Reviews and The Corporate Website
The corporate website is another asset that marketing can use to help sales reps acquire new customers as well as up-sell and cross-sell. All digital assets on the site can potentially be used in nurture paths for the sales rep. Often times the corporate blog contains a great deal of domain expertise that is overlooked and could be relevant in a customer conversation. Also, visitors that do not register on the website but peruse specific content or spend a set amount of time on certain pages and are on the sales reps’ targeted account list should be escalated for immediate contact. In addition, the website can be customized to create a micro-site for an individual or account based on the content most frequently viewed or downloaded to facilitate consumption inside the account.
Quarterly Business Reviews – Summing it Up
Quarterly Business Reviews should not be looked at by marketing as an interrogation of a sales rep or sales director but as a forum for collaboration between sales and marketing. The QBR is an opportunity to review past performance, discuss the current state and present integrated go-to-market strategies and tactics that, once executed, will meet or exceed the objectives of the sales rep or director. It’s vital for marketing to focus on co-development of an integrated sales and marketing plan that will contribute the incremental gain required above the current run-rate to make a sales rep a top performer. Likewise, attention to the customer base is required to prevent churn, as well as effective on-boarding so that the value proposition purchased is fully realized (from a customer’s perspective) and marketing can help a sales rep accomplish all of the above.