Today’s high-performing revenue teams are those who are focused heavily on retention, not just new client acquisition. (It’s the whole reason they’re called revenue teams, and not sales teams, in the first place.)
The thing is, they’re working in a constantly changing environment, with new data, goals, products, and budgets to work with each quarter.
For customer success teams, then, that means it’s crucial to meet regularly with key stakeholders to assess product usage, review performance, and align on strategic organizational goals.
The QBR (quarterly business review) is one of the frameworks CS professionals use in pursuit of this goal.
In this article, we’ll unpack what the typical quarterly business review looks like, and provide a few examples of QBR agendas that you can use in your own customer conversations.
What does the typical QBR agenda look like?
While every QBR meeting agenda will look slightly different (depending on your company, your product, and your customers’ plans and objectives), most will cover these six broad points.
1. Review implementation and product usage
The first quarterly business review you hold should include a review of product implementation and usage.
- How implementation of your product has gone. Include both wins and hiccups, and cover what you’ve done about those challenges.
- Onboarding and adoption. What percentage of the team is using the product? Who has had issues with onboarding? How is the team using the product?
- Next steps. Does the client (or specific user segments within the company, like managers) require additional training? How will your team support remaining implementation tasks?
2. Review performance and quantify value delivery
Here, you’ll be looking at performance in the previous quarter. How has your product or service met expectations? What benefits are key customers experiencing?
Where possible, quantify this value delivery (e.g., using our product, you’ve saved $150,000 this quarter).
3. Align with strategic goals
Goals change. Don’t expect that what your customer told you about their objectives three months ago is still valid today.
In this section of the QBR, ask:
“Last time we spoke, your key organizational objectives were A, B, and C. Is this still the case?”
This is a great place to get the customer talking. Follow up with questions like:
- How are you tracking toward those goals?
- In what ways have your organizational objectives changed since we last spoke?
- How would you say [your company] is using [our product] to drive progress toward that goal?
4. Discuss obstacles and challenges
The QBR is not an avenue to reiterate all the reasons your customer should love you, and ignore what’s not going well.
Things are never so perfect that there are no obstacles or challenges to discuss. Perhaps your customer has had a series of support issues, or has had trouble getting team buy-in, and so adoption hasn’t been as fast as expected.
This is the perfect opportunity to get ahead of the curve. Include:
- What went wrong (don’t be afraid, they already know)
- What you’re doing about it
- Potential obstacles you’ve identified (that the customer may not be aware of)
5. Plan for future growth or changes
Now, you’re going to look at what you can do to support your customer’s growth in the upcoming quarter.
It’s wise to come to the table with a few ideas, but this section of the quarterly business review meeting agenda should be very consultative.
Ask: “Could you tell me a bit about your growth plans and future goals moving forward into the next quarter?”
6. Sneak peek of upcoming product developments
In the last section of your quarterly business review, you can discuss any upcoming features that might be relevant to the customer’s growth goals.
This can help to make them feel valued (“Hey, this is a secret, but I want to share it with you now since you’re a valuable partner”), and also helps with retention because they’re looking forward to seeing how the new feature can support their business objectives.
What’s the difference between a QBR and an EBR?
QBRs and EBRs (executive business reviews) are pretty similar.
Both focus on developing the business relationship, reviewing performance and product adoption, and looking at future opportunities for improvement.
Where EBRs differ, however, is that they’re focused toward the top end of the organizational chart.
That simply means that customer success managers who hold EBRs are speaking with the executive team at a customer company, and so they’ll focus on aspects that are most relevant to them (results and high-level performance) rather than actionable insights, which might be more relevant to an end-user.
Sales QBRs vs. customer success QBRs
The acronym QBR is also used among sales teams, but it means something different.
A sales QBR is an internal quarterly meeting. The sales team gets together to discuss performance over the last quarter, looking at aspects such as:
- Sales pipeline reviews
- Expansion opportunities
- Comparing performance against goals using KPIs (key performance indicators)
- Territory plans
Customer success QBRs, on the other hand, are customer-facing. They’re not about sales performance, they’re about product/service performance.
Why include quarterly business reviews in your post-sales process?
So what’s the point in holding a QBR? Is this just another one of those regularly scheduled meetings that would have been better off as an email?
In short, no. Here’s why quarterly business reviews are critical.
Ensure alignment on business goals
QBRs give customer success reps the opportunity to realign with clients on their most important business goals.
A lot can change in three months. When you’re fully aligned with your clients on their biggest objectives, you’re better positioned to help them meet them and identify relevant upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
Celebrate and reinforce successes
Rarely in customer relationships do we get the chance to celebrate our successes.
After the initial sale, most of the interactions customers will have with your company will be if something goes wrong, and they need to log a support ticket.
Running QBRs regularly gives you a chance to really sell the value you’re providing, and reiterate and reinforce how your product or service is making an impact on their company.
Develop customer relationships
Of course, there’s no ignoring the obvious opportunity to continue developing the client relationship.
While QBRs aren’t meant to be a casual catch-up session, they are an opportunity to solidify ties, particularly if you keep the conversation client-centric (e.g., focused on goal alignment).
Identify churn signals and growth & upsell opportunities
Lastly, quarterly business review meetings can be a good opportunity to identify important buying signals.
For instance, clients that indicate some discontent may be a risk for churn, and this is a great opportunity for success reps to jump in before the question gets asked.
QBRs can also be used to identify growth opportunities within an account. Learning about a new strategic initiative or a burgeoning new department are all potential signals that are valuable to understanding upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
QBR format — how to conduct a quarterly business review
Now that we’ve covered the why, let’s dive into the how of properly conducting a QBR.
How often to hold a QBR
Wait, it’s in the name, right? Quarterly business review.
Well, yes, QBRs traditionally happen every three months, but you may find that to be inappropriate for certain customers.
Sometimes monthly meetings are in order — especially for VIP accounts. Other times, pushing the review out to a six-month cadence is more appropriate. It’s up to you, though, whether or not you still call them QBRs.
Anyway, aim for quarterly as a benchmark, and adjust as required for your buyers.
How to set up a QBR meeting
QBRs should be set in advance. You know when you’re going to hold them (most likely quarterly), so best practice is to throw a date in the calendar as soon as you close the customer, and again every time you finish a quarterly review.
Make sure to use some form of automated reminder system (or do it manually if you’re inclined) to alert clients of upcoming QBRs. A week in advance is generally a good timeframe.
How to prepare a quarterly business review agenda
As the account manager or customer success manager, you’re leading this meeting, meaning it’s on you to prepare a thorough agenda, and provide access to all the required data.
Here’s what to prep:
- Key metrics — Usage, adoption, performance, growth.
- Subscription info — Number of users, cost (and how that compares to performance gains), changes in the last quarter.
- Previous sales conversations — Brush up on what you’ve talked about previously so you don’t unnecessarily ask any questions twice.
- Critical dates — For customer goal achievement, for implementation, and for changes or new feature rollouts (and of course, don’t forget the contract renewal dates).
- Strategy and goals — Your current understanding (based on previous conversations) of what the client’s core organizational goals are.
Who to invite to a QBR
This will depend largely on the makeup of your client’s company and, of course, the product you sell (e.g., if you sell a marketing automation platform, then the VP of Marketing will probably need to be present).
The rule of thumb, though, is the fewer people, the better (three is the sweet spot). There should really only be one person from your side (the customer success manager). Then, include the most critical stakeholders on the client side.
Pro tip: If you want to ensure that you land meetings with stakeholders that have a say in their org, you need to speak their language.
You’ll be relegated to the person in the org who you sound like. So to speak to executive level contacts engage with them on their strategic priorities and focus on how — at their level and for KPIs they care about — you are delivering value to their business.
Focus on creating engagement
Remember, this isn’t a sales pitch. Your goal is to engage the client in a conversation.
So, be prepared with some questions to ask (rather than simply rattling off the data you have). For example:
- How has your team been using [our product] lately?
- I noticed your [department] has started using [our product]. How has that change been?
- Last time we spoke, you mentioned your biggest company goal was to [their goal]. Is that still the case? If not, how have your priorities changed since then?
Keep it concise
Lastly, do your best to keep the meeting concise.
Stick to the most important details, set a time limit at the beginning, and keep one eye on the clock so as not to run over time.
Get started with this QBR example
- Introduce all guests (if everyone has met before, quick recap)
Summary of goals
- Current understanding of client goals, objectives, and timelines
- What’s changed since the last time we spoke?
- Have there been any business changes since our last review?
- What are your organizational goals for the upcoming quarter?
Delivery & return on investment
- Why did the client make the purchase in the first place?
- How have you fulfilled that need to date?
- Data points that demonstrate
- How you’ve been fulfilling that need
- Opportunities for improvement
Review of support usage
- Number of tickets lodged by the client
- Resolution times per ticket and on average
- Cases opened and closed
Customer health scorecard
- Recap on your customer health methodology
- Their overall health score
- Trends, changes, and results
- Where is the client at right now?
- Where were they 90 days ago?
- What’s the next stage, and how are you going to get there together?
Benchmarks and product usage
- How is the client engaging with your product compared to others?
- How can you support increased engagement?
- Usage and adoption
- Most and least active users
- License deployment
Pro tip: Use quotes from power users from within their company to reinforce the statements you make about adoption and how the product impacts their day-to-day.
- Sneak peek of upcoming product developments, and how they’ll be valuable for that client
Action items and next steps
- Recap on next steps
- Set an appointment for the next QBR
If you do nothing, clients often simply forget about the value your solution delivered to their company in the first place. As your product becomes part of the status quo, inevitably, they’ll start to search for “something better,” and you won’t be part of that conversation.
QBRs are a way to not just remind clients of why they invested in your product to begin with, they also help you realign on long-term organizational goals, and address any new needs long before they head to competitors.
They’re a great way to strengthen the customer relationship, stop important clients from churning, and boost the lifetime value of your customers.
Learn more about developing a powerful customer success team (and dramatically reducing churn) with our guide: 5 Ways To Harness Revenue Intelligence For World-Class Customer Success.