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Milind Katti

COO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm

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    Before the do’s and don’ts, let us be clear – Quarterly business reviews are not for every client that an organization has. QBRs require effort from multiple members of the sales team to get a clear understanding of how the service helps customers take their business strategy forward. Quarterly business reviews show what can be acted upon based on this understanding, and can be fine-tuned with help from customers.

    They are a useful tool for B2B product companies to evaluate their performance and make strategic decisions. Company leaders can review key metrics such as revenue, customer retention, and product usage, and identify areas for improvement. They also allow for open communication between different departments and can help to identify any bottlenecks or roadblocks that may be affecting the company’s overall performance.

    For companies to stay on track with their goals and objectives, QBRs provide insights to make any necessary adjustments to their strategy in a timely manner and ensure the continued growth and success of the product.

    What are Quarterly business reviews?

    Quarterly business reviews (QBRs) for key accounts are regular meetings between a company and its important customers to review the status of their relationship and identify opportunities for growth and improvement. During these meetings, the company typically presents data on key performance indicators, such as sales and revenue, and discusses any issues or concerns that have arisen. The customer also has the opportunity to provide feedback on their experience and suggest areas for improvement. QBRs are an important tool for maintaining and strengthening key business relationships.

    Learn more: QBR Playbook for Sales and Account Management Leaders

    Why are QBRs important?

    Quarterly business reviews provide a regular opportunity to review and assess the performance of the business and identify areas for improvement. QBRs can also help product organizations to better understand their customers’ needs and preferences, and make necessary adjustments to their products and services. QBRs can help product organizations to:

    1. Monitor progress regularly. The process of QBR helps product organizations identify any areas that are underperforming or not meeting their expectations. Inputs allow product organizations to make necessary adjustments to their products and services to better meet the needs of their customers.
    2. Identify opportunities for growth and expansion, like new markets, product lines, or services that the product organization can explore to increase revenue and profitability.
    3. Improve customer satisfaction by regularly checking in with their customers to understand their needs and preferences. Product organizations can better meet the needs of their customers and increase customer satisfaction.
    4. Increase efficiency by conducting regular QBRs, and identify areas where they can improve their internal processes. This can help product organizations to increase efficiency and productivity, ultimately leading to increased profitability.

    Quarterly business reviews are important for product organizations as they provide a regular opportunity to review and assess the performance of the business, identify areas for improvement, and make necessary adjustments to better meet the needs of their customers.

    How to gauge an effective QBR?

    Apart from measuring customer satisfaction through surveys and feedback forms, progress can be tracked against agreed-upon goals and other methods. The service provider and customer organization should have agreed-upon ways to track and report that can be examined during the quarterly review.

    • Evaluate communication and collaboration: The effectiveness of the quarterly business review should be evaluated based on the level of communication and collaboration between the Sales teams and customer organization.
    • Track incident and problem resolution: Taking into account the number and severity of incidents and problems that have been resolved during the quarter, gives an indication of how the product is developing.
    • Monitor service level agreements (SLAs): Performance against agreed-upon SLAs need to be reviewed as market circumstances change, to highlight if any changes are necessary.
    • Review financial metrics: Cost savings, revenue, profitability and other financial metrics show if there are any avenues that can be leveraged.
    • Assess the use of technology: Using tools that simplify business reviews can give sales teams more time to actually engage with the client meaningfully.
    • Seek feedback: The customer organization should be given the opportunity to provide feedback on the effectiveness of the quarterly business review and the Sales team’s overall performance.

    4 Common mistakes to avoid while doing a QBR

    Business reviews should always be conducted in a strategic mode, not a tactical one. That rules out support requests and other business-as-usual practices to save time. A clear agenda keeps the discussion pointed, and keeping the discussion time-bound creates necessary urgency. Here are some common follies that can derail quarterly business reviews:

    1. Not setting effective goals

    Quarterly business reviews are meant to foster growth, and the goals should reflect this. The meeting should be about both parties (the customer and the vendor sales team) deciding on the steps to achieve their most important goals. Starting with what both teams want to achieve in the next few quarters can give a definitive direction. The goals can be as simple as presenting actionable ideas to clients and get their buy-in, to the complex facets involving finance and production. Usage statistics and event summaries should reflect this aim so that the topics are kept in the conversation for the entire quarter.

    2. Assuming customer needs

    Customer input on the agenda is a crucial part of a quarterly business review. Once the agenda is set, sharing it with the customer team and asking if there’s anything else they want in the business review keeps them involved. This skin in the game leads to productive discussions, and reduces efforts of sales teams too – as they don’t have to pull stats for something that the customer is not interested in looking at, right now. 

    3. Treating all customers the same

    Customers can be broadly classified as data-positive and data agnostic, where the customers who know their program and data really well are put in the ‘positive’ column and others are in the ‘agnostic’ set. There are other classifications that determine what key accounts can be, but this initial classification directs the most of the QBR presentation: Data positive customers need insightful data that highlight granular processes, while others need an overview and a healthy interpretation. Using the wrong form for either type can result in them switching off.

    identify key accounts

    4. Focusing only on the areas of improvement

    Recognizing the work done adds fuel to the wills of people to better work in the future. Identifying the role of customers in taking the partnership further, and genuinely complimenting them for their inputs/work/assistance strengthens alliances. In the initial parts of the partnership, when there are plenty of wrinkles to be ironed out, highlighting customer contribution can actually speed things up considerably; positive reinforcements from sales teams can break down even the most difficult of customers.

    Quarterly Business Review Don’ts

    Before the actual don’ts, we have to ensure the reviews are done quarterly. While the name reinforces the cadence, availability concerns of key people and important deliverables often resign QBRs to the back seat. If this happens regularly, having a one-on-one with the customer can help sales teams establish an appropriate cadence and plan for the review accordingly.

    1. Focusing too much on the presentation

    Having a deck that’s aesthetically pleasing is important to attract the attention of attendees, but spending too much time on animations and graphs that grow can take sales teams only that far. Simple templates that feature customer/sales organization colours are more than enough. If sales teams are interested in adding ‘fun’ elements – sales teams can give goofy team member pictures a try!

    2. Jumping straight into the presentation

    Practicing the presentation ahead of time is easier said than done, but even a single speed test run to a few of the colleagues can highlight cracks. It is easy to overlook mistakes while creating the presentation – which is understandable, as using statistics requires a focus on not being wrong. Multiple runs with different teams is ideal, but even if one can run through the presentation only once, it makes a huge difference.

    3. Jumping into execution

    At the end of the meeting, it is customary to ask if the meeting was useful; while the verbal response will almost always be sure or yes, especially in the initial stages, their tone, intensity of their responses, and facial expression can point towards the true answer. 

    4. Looking for instant results

    Quarterly business reviews don’t show instant results, and this can make it difficult to get buy-ins from team members who are used to shorter cycles (this can hold more weight if key account management is a recent practice). But persistence in getting the key management accounts right can lead to exponential gains.

    How to implement QBRs 

    Key account managers, with help from customer success leaders, can infuse quarterly business reviews in the DNA of the partnership. By conducting training on the importance of QBRs, team members can align with the company objectives. Tools like professional email templates help them invite stakeholders, and simplify the task of agreeing upon and stating clear agendas.

    1. Start with Stakeholder Mapping

    Mapping stakeholders into functional categories allows for a better understanding of role based buying influences, and priorities. Sales teams can determine the potential cross-functional impact and use appropriate approaches to accelerating review agreements. Potential hurdles can be proactively identified and acted upon, to build and improve trust (and more effective participation in future QBRs).

    Stakeholder mapping

    2. Show an Opportunity Scorecard

    Execution oriented blueprints can guide account teams through the QBR process. Opportunities can be scored smarter and increase the odds of getting customer go-aheads on action items. Opportunity scorecards also provide a full view of the accounts/sales team progress on a large enterprise account, allowing leaders to take actions proactively.

    3. Create an Opportunity Playbook

    An opportunity playbook helps accounts teams keep track of every crucial piece of intelligence relevant to the customer, in one single view. Team members can understand the interplays between customer departments, allowing for a better QBR strategy.

    4. Plan accounts end-to-end

    While CRM tools are great in helping simplify day to day collaboration and operations, they need special strategic planning focused on key accounts to provide useful insights into conducting QBRs. Account Planner can leverage data and identify whitespaces, so that key stakeholders have visibility, and allows for instant goal tracking and reporting – anytime, anywhere.

    5. Track opportunities from all ends

    Opportunities with prospective customers need a systematic and collaborative approach to planning and closing, more so with enterprise deals that are large and complex. To wade through them and emerge successful, Opportunity Planner integrates proven sales methodologies like MEDDIC, Solution Selling, or SPIN. Coupled with strong stakeholder management features, sales teams can drive faster execution to speed up deal closures and measure the outcomes of their processes. 

    Conducting effective QBRs for Digital Key Account Management

    Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) are a key part of Digital Key Account Management. They provide an opportunity for account managers to review the performance of their key accounts and identify areas for improvement. Effective QBRs should have a clear agenda and involve all relevant stakeholders, including the account manager, the customer, and any internal teams that support the account. It’s important to review past performance, discuss current initiatives, and set goals for the next quarter. These steps indicate some of the hygiene that needs to be taken care of:

    1. Set clear goals and objectives: Before conducting a QBR, establish clear goals and objectives for the meeting. This will ensure that all parties are on the same page and that the meeting stays focused on achieving those objectives.
    2. Invite the right attendees: Invite key stakeholders from both the client and the company to the QBR. This includes the account manager, digital marketing specialist, and other relevant team members.
    3. Prepare an agenda: Create an agenda for the QBR that includes a review of past performance, current initiatives, and future plans. This will help keep the meeting on track and ensure that all important topics are covered.
    4. Use data and metrics: Use data and metrics to support the findings and recommendations. This will give the client a clear understanding of the progress and performance of their digital marketing campaigns.
    5. Encourage open communication: Encourage open and honest communication between all attendees. This will allow for any issues or concerns to be addressed and for suggestions for improvement to be made.
    6. Follow up and action items: Following the QBR, ensure that any action items or follow-up steps are clearly outlined and assigned to the appropriate team members. This will help ensure that progress is made and goals are met.
    7. Be open to feedback: Be open to feedback from the client and be willing to make changes or adjustments as necessary. This will help build trust and a strong relationship with the client.

    It’s also important to be prepared by analyzing data on the customer’s usage, engagement, and satisfaction. This can help identify areas of strength and weakness in the relationship and inform the discussion during the QBR. Additionally, it’s important to use QBRs as a platform to build trust and strengthen relationships with key customers. This can be done by being transparent about the performance of the account and discussing any issues or challenges in an open and honest manner. Finally, the QBR should end with a summary of action items and next steps, to ensure that all parties are aligned on what needs to be done to achieve the goals set during the meeting. 

    The upside of getting QBRs right

    Quarterly Business Reviews are strategic activities that not only help accounts teams to assess performance during the preceding quarter with their customers, but also set them on a path to renew customer expectations. They help in finding ways to tackle forthcoming obstacles, and uncover new possibilities. By analyzing what worked for the team and what didn’t, leaders can find ways to streamline operations, adopt tools to drive quality work, and deliver results. Starting with a good document process, account teams can chronicle customer expectations made over different channels, and include them in QBRs. These requirements can be adjusted to suit the agenda of the business review, and as both parties start seeing the value in the exercise, they’ll eagerly wait for the review – as they associate them with collaboration, learning and business growth.

    Ready to discuss your Account Management Needs?

    About The Author

    Milind Katti

    COO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm

      Milind is the COO & Co-Founder of DemandFarm. He co-founded DemandFarm to build smart software technology to bring Account Planning and Relationship Intelligence into your CRM, making Key Account Management data-driven, predictable and scalable.Milind has close to 25 years of experience in sales & marketing. He is an Electronics & Communication Engineer with MBA in Marketing. He enjoys long-distance running, loves reading history, and above all else, he is a humanist.

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