We have all read novels written from two different points of view; the narratives where one chapter is from one person’s perspective on a situation and the next chapter is from the other person’s viewpoint. It’s amazing how the same scenario can be perceived so differently depending on the amount of available facts, the level of emotion or importance, and the operating reality of the individual.
As a COO, I experienced this with a few of our top revenue vendors. They were shocked when we let them know that we were seriously considering going in a different direction. Yes, they were capable vendors. Yes, they seemed to have good delivery metrics. Yes, they were growing fast as a result of the business we were giving them and yes, their sales team was made up of all very nice people.
Here’s what was missing: strategic alignment, innovation and true collaboration on helping us grow our business. Sadly, it could have been prevented had their organizations realized this simple fact:
Clients don’t owe you their loyalty, you must earn it. At the end of each week, you provide services and they pay you for those services rendered. That makes you EVEN. Your clients are being bombarded every day with new products and services from your competition, including new, more efficient delivery models and consequently lower prices.
What could have prevented the “two points of view” between us and increased our loyalty to them was one essential meeting: the Quarterly Business Review (QBR).
Best in class companies insist that their sales team follow a strict process of formally meeting with their clients every 90 days to create accountability, focus, alignment and commitment. In order to ensure these meetings (QBRs) are successful is to not merely a look at the past, but focus on looking at the future – together.
Here are 7 critical success factors for effective QBRs:
Be Consistent. A QBR means every 90 days. Not just when your organization has something new to sell. Not just when you think you might be on thin ice with your client. Every 90 days.
Add Value. This meeting could be viewed as a colossal waste of time if you don’t provide actionable insights that can advance the relationship and help your client achieve better business results. Bring industry data; bring creative solutions that address the client’s strategic initiatives.
Discuss the future. What specifically can your organization do to ensure you are a valued partner? What priority should each initiative have? Agree on where you will focus.
Be Accountable. This QBR must take a look at the commitments and decisions made in the last QBR and report on your progress. If you got number 2 right, it should be a discussion everyone is looking forward to.
Be Inclusive. This is the time to align your entire organization with that of your client. Involve your marketing department for they are industry experts and your creative minds. What can they do to add value? How about IT or Finance? Remember that your client has chosen to business with your company, not an individual. Make sure that they know your company
Measure what Matters. There is nothing worse that receiving a report filled with numbers that have no analysis and no actionable insights. Do not think that a QBR consists of a bunch of historical order and spend data. They can get that data internally. What you need to provide is data that shows your client how they are performing in this category, where there are opportunities for improvement, and where there is cause for concern. If done right, you are reporting on the following categories: Financial, Quality, Operational Excellence and Innovation. Sound familiar? It’s a Balanced Scorecard!
Be Prepared. Make the QBR process as easy as possible on your account team. Provide them with the necessary tools and as much standardized reporting and associated processes as possible to constantly keep sight on what’s important. Key Account Management tools are essential for ensuring your organization is aware of and delivering on strategic initiatives. You don’t want your sales teams scrambling the last 2 weeks of each quarter trying to create QBRs
If your organization is able to create the cadence and consistency of QBRs and meet the success criteria described above, you will enjoy stronger, more loyal relationships with your clients. And, not only will you be helping your clients grow, they will help you grow, too. They will partner with you on innovation, providing beta testing and low or shared-risk solutions that will put you ahead of your competition. They will bring you new customers because they will be your most positive referrals and they will find ways to further partner with you because you are a true collaborative and trusted partner.
Building a system that reinforces client retention and expansion is a key step in being a growth company. Butler Street’s ClientFirst A.R.E.™ includes tools, processes and training for your organization to align with your clients, add value and drive loyalty. Contact us and let’s talk.