QBR: 5 Rookie Mistakes You Should Avoid

June 21 2016 0comment

Too often do Quarterly Business Reviews provide little, or no additional value to the client and lack focus, accountability, or incentive for your client to give this meeting a priority again. It is up to you, as the Customer Success Manager, to make a Quarterly Business Review great.

Through working with clients ranging from startups to public, I’ve put together a playbook of common rookie mistakes I’ve seen happen in QBR sessions – and how to avoid them. Lousy QBR sessions and your client relationship will sink accordingly. Step into the QBR leadership role and gain influence and a more productive customer success management experience. To help you be successful in your very next QBR, I’m going to share with you the five most common “rookie mistakes” customer success managers make in QBR sessions —and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: No Clear Agenda

A simple agenda sets expectations, keeps your QBR on track, and creates accountability. Without an agenda, QBR goals are hard to achieve and you run the risk of your client hijacking an agenda-less meeting. More importantly, key executives are busy and will likely skip the QBR all together without a clear answer to “what’s in it for me?”.

Mistake #2: Weak QBR Planning

Remember to set yourself and your customers up for success well before the actual QBR. Before scheduling a QBR, you must decide whether the QBR is needed at all. Too often QBRs are seen as a checkbox.

CSMs SHOULD ALWAYS ASK: “WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW TO HELP YOU GET MORE VALUE FROM OUR SOLUTION?”

Memorable QBRs produce meaningful and actionable insights for your customer. To most effectively create this experience, partner with your champion well before your QBR. Ask questions, get feedback, and buy-in ahead of time to uncover top challenges and priorities in advance. Enlist their help to get other influential people to attend the QBR. After aligning with your champion, reach out to other influencers and understand their current situation, challenges, top priorities. These steps will help you keep the focus of QBR on topics that matter most to your client and create an engaging atmosphere.

Mistake #3: No Built-In Engagement

We’ve all been in a meeting that is nothing but an exhaustive one-way data dump. Top customer success managers encourage a two-way conversation because it allows them to get immediate and real client feedback. One customer success manager shared a technique he uses where he asks quiet attendees their opinions and raise objections. It encourages an open dialogue around possible competing priorities or hurdles that could get in the way of helping your client achieve more value from your solution. You have to encourage everyone to speak out during the QBR. You don’t want those who disagree to walk out and undermine your ability to follow through with a success plan later.

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Active client participation is key to driving the most out of your QBR session. Stimulating an effective two-way conversation with your client that will produce valuable client insights. Ask open-ended questions like: “What are your current… ?” or “How could we… ?” CSMs should always ask: “What do I need to know to help you get more value from our solution?”.

Mistake #4: Not Deciding Anything

Your goal in a QBR session is to help the client. Gather enough information to either help the client make decisions, get a consensus on a course of action, or both. Consensus builds in client accountability to ensure that your client acts on ideas and suggestions discussed during the meeting. A CSM role during the QBR is open the conversation to discuss issues and challenges, encourage brainstorming, make recommendations, increase perceived value, synthesize the conversation, narrow the options, and then call for a decision.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish. A plan without action is a daydream.”

Mistake #5: Poor Follow Up

Quarterly Business Reviews need timely follow up with a summary of decisions and key points. This shows the client that the customer success manager is engaged, has a thorough account of the discussion, and can provide a reliable review of the meeting. Remember to actively listen to everything, and read the environment for what’s unspoken.

Remember, each meeting summary is only as effective as the action plan, the follow up, and the accountability leading to an expanded client success plan.

What have you learned from your QBR experience? Are there any tips you can recommend to ensure mistakes are avoided? Are there any tools you use to improve your customers QBR experience? Please share your experience in the comments – we would love to hear from you.

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Written By:

Irit Eizips

Irit Eizips brings deep expertise in the area of Customer Success. As an early member of Gainsight's executive team, Irit has been pivotal in shaping Customer Success methodologies and best practices. For the past 3 years, Irit has been voted as a top Customer Success influencer and is frequently featured as a speaker at conferences and Customer Success public events. Irit serves as CEO for CSM Practice, a global Customer Success consultancy firm. The firm specializes in working with customer success leaders to accelerate the creation and implementation of Customer Success strategies, derive extensive value from Customer Success technology solutions as well as certify and train customer facing teams in becoming more proactive and efficient.