The Executive Business Review (EBR) is probably the most effective meeting you’ll have with your customers, but there are a few things you may want to pay careful attention to in order to make the leap from good to great: executive involvement, value-based content and clear communication.
Ideally, aim to have executives on both sides in attendance. If this sounds really difficult, try having the executive on your side participate. Creating an executive alignment will generally make it easier to get the executive sponsor on the customer’s side to attend as well. Customer success teams that do very well in this respect, often create an executive sponsorship program for their strategic accounts.
For new customers, you want to develop a relationship with the executive sponsor as soon as possible. Get introduced to the executive sponsor as early as possible in the beginning of the onboarding process. Clearly define your role during onboarding as the resource in charge of building the relationship with the account and schedule bi-weekly calls with the executive sponsor during the first few weeks of their life cycle.
An EBR is a strategic event, not a tactical one. This is not the time to discuss how many support tickets were resolved or your newest features. Those kinds of meetings can happen without executives in the room. What kind of topics should you include? Well, here’s a list of suggestions to consider.
- How much more successful is your client since investing in your solution – add reports that show how much of an improvement the customer is showing since they started using your solution. How does their top user use the solution and how has it benefited them in driving towards company goals? If possible, add a benchmark report to other clients. For example: If your product helps improve sales productivity, deal closed faster since they started with you? More deals closed? Are prospects more engaged? Create a list of SUCCESS metrics that track the impact of your solution on the customer’s success.
- Uncover opportunities to expand the value proposition. This is a key step; ask a lot of open-ended questions during the meeting to discover what’s top of mind for the executives this year or quarter. The more you know, the better positioned you are to make recommendations on how to harness the power of your solution to achieve their business goals. Every EBR meeting is your opportunity to be a trusted advisor.
- Create a visual best practices roadmap for additional use cases – make a list of use cases that could add more value to this account and visually demonstrate which ones they already implemented and which ones represent an opportunity to gain more value from your solution. Each list should include use cases that were found to be successful or popular with similar customers. This is your opportunity to educate them not only on what’s possible, but also give them a sense of where their responsibilities lie within to be successful with your solution.
- Outline a roadmap for future implementation phases – truth be told, trying to implement everything possible in the first phase of the implementation is not only time consuming, but also hard to consume. Specifically, the more you try to do in the first phase the harder it is for the business users to adopt. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to develop a multi-phase implementation roadmap as soon as possible and review it with the executive sponsor during your quarterly meeting. This will give you the opportunity to set the right expectations from the get-go and constantly have them think about re-investing in your solution.
- New features that might help them achieve their goals – the key here is to only show features that would be beneficial for them and discuss how those are aligned with their overall business goals. For this reason, before showing new features, conduct a curiosity based discovery conversation and ask plenty of open-ended questions.
- Milestones achieved in the past 90 days – this is your opportunity to celebrate any completed milestones (for example: completed an implementation of another module) or simply celebrate an improvement of success results (for example more deals are closing, prospects are more engaged, each sales rep has more client meetings, etc.).
- Red flags and building a success plan – when signals of unhealthy trends appear, come up with strategies that would help your client turn a page. Share those with the executive sponsor. Listen a lot and work towards building a success plan for getting back on track and focusing on achieving their business goals faster and better by using your technology.
Communication – Prep, Discovery, Follow Up
To make sure your client’s executive is excited to attend those EBR sessions, you don’t only have to have your own executive in the room to talk about things that are important to the executive… you also want to show up to the meeting fully prepared. This means that you want to learn as much as possible about the client and not just focus on preparing the slides with content that matters to your client’s executive and their success.
To be fully prepared, I recommend reviewing the customer’s state from different perspectives (this will help you look really good, but most importantly, use the data to back your recommendations for value expansion and obstacle resolution).
- Support Tickets
- Open add-on opportunities
- Services projects
- Key contacts engagement
- Recent usage trend (if usage data are available)
- Next renewal date (if they have multiple contracts)
- Recent survey scores and comments
- Recently attended webinars
- Email engagement rate
If you already have a solution like Gainsight in place, most likely this would only take you a couple of minutes of scanning through your Customer Success 360 page.
I know you have a lot to cover and you’re excited to share your success with adoption, support resolution, or your new and exciting product roadmap… but seriously, if you want your executive sponsor to be excited about these quarterly meetings you want to have a major mind shift and make this meeting about them. This means that the more open-ended questions you ask, the more you’re going to be able to create an alignment between their business goals and needs to what your solution can offer. In other words, the more opportunity to increase the perception of value and hence the possibility of value realization.
Bottom line, focus on questions that start with What, How, Why, Tell me… avoid questions one can answer with yes or no. Overall, it’s less important to stick to a rigid agenda where you do all the talking. If you talk, make what you choose to say, count, make it relevant, make it helpful.
When you finish the call, take the time to document a meeting summary and share it with all the attendees. At the end of the summary, add action items with owners and a suggested timetable. Ask the attendees to review and validate (maybe you misconstrued something or perhaps they have other suggestions for an action plan).
Your next step is to create (or update) your account’s success plan. Update what your recommendations are, what you’d like to achieve, and by when. Quantify your goals (use financial metrics, adoption metrics as well as success metrics). Finally, communicate the plan to whomever you need to work with to make it happen. Escalate if you need help – sometimes it takes a village.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the customer success manager to come fully prepared, deliver above your client’s expectations and use your meetings with the executives to create a trusted advisor relationship. Take the time to constantly improve your EBR template and feel free to customize it to tailor it to what your customer needs. One way to get started is by using Gainsight’s QBR template. Pay specific attention to the value-based slides and start incorporating those in your meetings with executives.