A quarterly business review (QBR) is an opportunity to check the state of a client’s business — like current sales, what is working, and what steps to take to ensure continued customer success. However, there are many potential problems you can run into while going through a QBR. You should plan early enough, coordinate everything on both sides of the table, create a powerful presentation, and execute the meeting well.
In this blog, we’ll discuss why QBRs matter, how to implement them, and 11 best practices to nail your next QBR.
What Is a Quarterly Business Review and Why Are They Important?
A quarterly or executive business review (EBR) is a face-to-face meeting with top-tier stakeholders. Think of it as a chance to build your relationship. It’s an opportunity to showcase your value for your clients. Ideally, these meetings happen after each quarter of the year, but it depends on your clients’ timelines.
A QBR is an opportunity to:
- Review performance from the previous quarter
- Provider perspective and context around performance
- Dig deep and align on goals for the next quarter.
Together, you’ll evaluate how you can best provide them with what they need to succeed. A QBR allows you to adjust as you go through the year and ensure everyone is on the same page for the upcoming quarter.
During the QBR, a company that already goes through weekly business reviews for its clients doesn’t need to focus as much on the previous quarter — you have already covered results, risks, and challenges. No more than 30% of your QBR needs to highlight the past, so 70% should look to the future. This breakdown holds even if you missed hitting your numbers. You’ll want to address the numbers but pay the most attention to what you’ll change to hit them moving forward.
Tips to Plan Your Quarterly Business Review
All successful QBRs start weeks or months ahead of the scheduled date. Here are the best practices for planning a quarterly business review.
Tip #1: Appoint a Coordinator
There are a lot of moving parts involved in a QBR, so you need a point person. Someone like a Global Account Manager, a Global Sales Director, or an Account Manager who is already involved with the client can organize all the components. This person will be in charge of harmonizing the data, attendees, slides, and speakers during the meeting.
A coordinator will ensure everything before, during, and after the meeting runs smoothly, including creating an agenda and sending it out ahead of time. A schedule helps keep the program on track and allows customers to plan out their comments and questions.
Tip #2: Get Planning
A useful QBR isn’t something you throw together at the last minute — it takes time and works to make it successful. You’ll want to know what your employees, managers, and executives want out of a QBR, and make sure you take measures to include those things.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get the substance of the meeting sorted. Several weeks in advance, run through the content you plan to present with all the internal stakeholders. Also, you’ll want to create a list of questions to ask the customer during the QBR. Figure out what you are planning to ask ahead of time.
Building an Awesome QBR Presentation
Next, you’ll need to create the slides you’ll present during the meeting. Below, we offer the best practices for structuring your QBR presentation.
Tip #3: Don’t Overdo the Slides
Your audience won’t pay attention to slide after slide, and paragraph after paragraph, of detailed information. Instead, make the presentation short — 10 to 15 slides at most — and use appendices to keep them simple. Include images, diagrams, and other eye-catching features to keep your clients’ interest.
Be sure not to get into the weeds during the QBR but instead focus on the more significant issues. Your client can then review the slides on their own time. And be sure not to reuse slides from a different presentation since this will look like you didn’t put in much effort.
Tip #4: Tell a Story with Your Data
In your QBR, you need data that support the story you are telling, which a business intelligence team can pull for you. Find data that supports the entire storyline, with a beginning, middle, and end. Also include benchmark data that shows how the client is doing versus its competition, encouraging the client to continue working with you.
Don’t wing it, either. Go through two or three prep sessions to ensure you’re pulling data from the suitable regions or teams. The coordinator should finalize how you will deliver the story to ensure cohesion with all the presenters.
Tip #5: Think Big Picture
The layout of your slides should tell your story well. A successful QBR includes:
- Performance data from the previous quarter
- The data to show a breakdown of the performance
- Concrete goals with a plan for taking the company where it wants to go in the next quarter
- Untapped opportunities you’d like to pitch the client
- What you need from the client to achieve the plan
Make sure you highlight opportunities to improve customer success for your client. Feel free to pitch more business and more outcomes for the customer. The last slide should be your asks from the client to achieve the goals you set out through the meeting.
How to Perform a Stellar QBR Presentation
Now we are on to the actual meeting, and there are plenty of ways to prepare for this part. Here are the best practices before and during your QBR session.
Tip #6: Practice Makes Perfect
Before the meeting, rehearse your material again and again. Without practice, you might spot a high-level executive watching you and panic — it has happened plenty of times. Practicing your material over and over will give you the muscle memory you need to perform without flaw, even if you are intimidated by some of the meeting attendees.
Tip #7: Send Over the Slides Early
You may think you can surprise your client with a fabulous presentation they have never seen before, but it’s not the best idea. Instead, send over the PowerPoint ahead of time, at least several days, to give them time to review. Giving your client some time to look over the slides in advance allows them to read through it, process the information, and formulate their comments or questions. That way, they aren’t trying to do all of the above during the meeting while you’re talking.
Tip #8: Invite Only Who Is Necessary
Don’t invite the entire office to attend. Sure, it’s nice to meet the client’s executives in person. But you want it to be about even on both sides. You don’t want the client to have three people on one side of the table while you are trying to find enough room for a dozen chairs. Like too many cooks in the kitchen, it’s challenging for a QBR to be productive with too many voices in the room.
Everyone there should play an active speaking role. Assign 3-4 speakers to switch up the flow of the presentation. Also, an executive sponsor should be in the room. They will give a brief intro to the meeting and go over your company’s strategy. The introduction will cover what’s happening at the executive level, so everyone is on the same page.
Tip #9: Less Is More
Keep the presentation concise, and don’t leave room for rambling. Present what you planned and practiced while allowing time to answer questions that pop up. Try to make the entire meeting last only one hour. There won’t be time to solve specific problems or nitpick data points, so instead, focus on high-level strategy while keeping the conversation flowing.
Plus, stay humble. No one wants to hear a vendor bragging about themselves. Keep things positive by focusing on the return on investment you have given your client, but let it speak for itself. Furthermore, no one wants to deal with a person being defensive if faced with criticism, so take any critiques in stride. Realize that the client is looking at a problem from a different perspective. You may have missed something that they caught, so be ready to listen and hear from their side of things. One goal of a QBR should be to understand where the customer wants to take their business and how you can help them get there.
Tip #10: Be Honest
The relationship with your client will only work if you can point out where things are breaking down. If the client had a part to play in less-than-stellar performance, you’d need to tell them. You need to explain your numbers, and a QBR offers the perfect time to address any barriers you’re running into — even if they are coming from the client. However, be prepared with a solution to fix any performance issues moving forward.
Tip #11: Know Your Audience
Ahead of the meeting, research things like your audience’s speaking style, company breakdown, and overall numbers. Look at their annual reports and include some of the same languages they use.
Also, pay attention to body language in the meeting and remain on your toes. You can tell if someone isn’t paying attention to you, and if so, adjust your pacing or ask your audience a question. Skip over some of the bullet points if you think you need to move through the slides faster. Try to keep silence to a minimum but remember not to drone on and on. A successful QBR is a dialogue, so listen to what the client says.
Finally, don’t leave without setting clear, trackable goals for the upcoming three months. Send a follow-up email that states the asks and action items discussed throughout the meeting to ensure everyone is aligned and on the same page.
Get Ahead with Your QBR
Having the right team on your side can make or break your quarterly business review. To learn more about best practices around QBRs, inside sales, customer success, or channel management, schedule a call to speak with a ServiceSource expert today.