FROM THE TOP
by John O’Brien
I’ve always believed you can never know where you’re going until you understand where you’ve been. Today, this is still true, but I also believe in Einstein’s theory: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Which brings me to the structure of today’s quarterly business review (QBR.) We spend so much time looking back each quarter and spend so little time looking forward. There is little we can do to affect the past but, the future – that’s where we can make a difference.
Quarterly business review
Don’t get me wrong – it’s important to understand what was accomplished in previous quarters. As salespeople and as manufacturers’ reps, we are all compensated on accomplishments. It’s critical to our business and our principals’ business that we understand our performance. We review sales numbers to see if we’ve hit our metrics and if the numbers are growing. We review opportunities to see if they did in fact close in the last quarter. We look back to see what new designs have been started and to see where we are in the overall plan for the year. These things are important to understand. As salespeople our key performance indicators (KPIs) are based on hitting these metrics that were developed. But, many of these KPIs are determined many quarters before we review them. In many cases we’re developing plans for January during the previous August/ September time frame. Our principals use these forecasts and projections to plan resources during the forecasting period, so it is important to have open communication with management on the tactics we plan to use. In effectively communicating these tactics, everyone buys into the strategy and everyone is working towards the same goals and product development. They implement R&D schedules and launch new production introductions based on forecasted revenue. As salespeople and rep firms, we develop various strategies to hit certain goals:
- Strategies to meet sales goals and grow our numbers
- Strategies to maintain and grow our current customers
- Strategies on how to engage with new customers
- Strategies to design in principals’ new product introductions (NPIs)
- Strategies to gain market share
Strategic planning meeting
The strategic planning meeting (SPM) utilizes the results of the previous quarters but focuses on reviewing the strategies we employed to meet these goals. An effective SPM recognizes the strategies implemented and reviews the list of tactics – the actions we take on a regular basis to advance the strategies and ultimately meet our goals. We all try different day-to-day tactics. Some work and some do not. What’s important in this meeting is to openly discuss those tactics. If a tactic is working, how do you do more of it? If it isn’t, what needs to change to drive the desired results? In a group setting, these discussions spark new ideas. If something is working for someone else, how do we implement those tactics elsewhere? We highlight those that are working and do a deep dive in to why they’re working. If the tactics aren’t working, it’s just as important to figure out why, to avoid repeating them. Many times, it can be a simple tweak and a tactic that was previously driving no results can become successful.
It’s also important to understand what is happening in the markets. The global market and the North American markets both have an effect on our local markets. Then, each local market has its own drivers that affect their performance. This was evident over the past two years in an unprecedented time where the intricacies of each market were magnified by a number of issues. These meetings are critical in gaining an understanding of what’s happening in each of the markets, but the focus needs to be on adapting our tactics to meet these new market drivers. Again, in a group setting, everyone is communicating and the expectations are set with common knowledge.
By looking forward, everyone is engaged in the process. Everyone is learning from one another and everyone is focused on the end results.