The Quarterly Business Review (QBR) Is Dead. And That’s a Good Thing.

AOL Instant Messenger. BlackBerry. Flash. MySpace. Gawker. Some things aren’t meant to last forever. The graveyard of history is filled with once indispensable technologies, platforms and products. The cycle of innovation and obsolescence is what drives us forward—ever onward, ever upward.

 

We at Kapta would like to consign another item to that scrapheap: the quarterly business review (QBR).

 

Once ubiquitous in the world of account management, the QBR has outlived its usefulness. While for decades it played a vital role in the relationship between account managers and clients, the QBR was a convention of a different—slower, less connected—era. The world has changed, but the QBR has not changed with it. To borrow Nietzsche, The QBR is dead, and we—society—have killed it.

 

Let’s shed a tear, sprinkle a handful of dirt, and raise a glass.

 

QBRs once made sense

To celebrate the demise of the QBR is not to deny its former importance. Just the opposite. In the world they were born into—a world of landlines, fax machines, and postal service—QBRs were responsive and timely. Earnings and sales reports happened on the quarter, and so did board meetings. The QBR fit the pace and schedule of business.

 

At the same time, business itself looked very different. It was hierarchical and rigid, not networked and nimble. It had closed doors and silver-haired CEOs, not open office plans and twenty-something marketing officers. In this era, QBRs were tactical and unidirectional: they offered an account manager a bit of face time with their client—a chance to “prove their worth” to the guy (and it was almost always a guy) in charge. A good QBR was a slide deck that reminded a client everything the account team had done for them in the past three months.

 

We now live in a very different world—a world of Slack, texts, and emails—and move at a very different pace. Headlines break overnight. Products go from obscurity to necessity in a week. Businesses evolve not by the month but by the minute.

 

The CEO now wears jeans and a hoodie and works from a couch in the corner, next to the intern and the kombucha keg. “Business casual” means socks and sandals. Hourlong meetings have become 15-minute stand-ups.

 

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that the QBR has become a running joke. In our age of hyper-connected, on-demand everything, why make clients wait three months for an overly formal, low-value meeting that no one asked for and everyone dreads?

 

With so much technology at our fingertips, time has become our most precious commodity, the thing we never have enough of. Ironically, QBRs are both too slow and too long. They don’t happen often enough, and when they do happen, they drag on interminably.

 

Kapta has a better way

As we’ve written in the past, QBRs suck. How do we know? Because we asked clients directly. They told us things like:

 

  • “I ask my vendors for 4 charts and they show up with 55 PowerPoint slides.”
  • “I’ve started delegating these meetings to my staff because they just aren’t important to me.”
  • “Who says these meetings have to be every 90 days? Sometimes I need a vendor communicating with me much more often, sometimes much less. But they never ask how I want to work with them.”

 

We at Kapta don’t intend to improve the QBR but to bury it forever. Forget quarterly reports: we’re helping Key Account Managers do continuous management instead. If QBRs are a one-way flow of information, Kapta is a two-sided conversation. It’s designed and built with relationships in mind.

 

Imagine if, instead of QBRs, clients had a platform where they could get the information they wanted, when they wanted it. Imagine if, instead of Excel files and desktop folders, Key Account Managers had a platform where they could track a client’s strategic goals and the specific action items required to achieve them. Now imagine all that functionality in a single platform, with Key Account Managers able to customize the level of visibility between themselves and their clients.

 

That’s the future we envision and the product we’re building.

 

Imagine a product that’s strategic, not tactical

Kapta allows Key Account Managers to keep their finger on the pulse of client relationships, share information on demand, and be in control of action items. It helps them answer the fundamental question that drives future business: “What are my client’s strategic goals and how am I serving them?”

 

One feature we’re particularly proud of is the is the Action Plan, which helps Key Account Managers break down a client’s strategic goals and then plan, organize, and track the steps needed to get there.

 

The Action Plan allows you to clearly link all your work and activities to the customer’s most important business goals, so you can see exactly what your team is working on—and why. This gives you total visibility into all the moving parts of managing a large, complex customer. And best of all, it’s done in real time.

 

With a QBR, the Key Account Manager waits until the end of the quarter to gauge her team’s progress and then scrambles to assemble report that’s less about the client’s goals than it is about keeping their business. With Kapta, both the client and the Key Account Manager can see from day one what the account team is doing to meet the client’s strategic goals and track, in real time, where the account team is ahead of or behind schedule.

 

By maximizing the flow of information, Kapta minimizes the chance of unwanted surprises. It allows Key Account Managers to keep sight of their client’s top-level goals—their final destination—while helping them spot the obstacles—the potholes, red lights, and traffic jams—in their way.

 

Kapta is an evolving technology

Like any tech company, we’re constantly evolving our product and expanding its functionality, hacking new features and killing off lousy ones. We’ll never be “finished,” because finished products are obsolete ones.

 

We bring to Kapta the same values a Key Account Manager brings to her clients: curiosity, collaboration, and a spirit of service. We can build a pretty good product on our own—but we can’t build a killer one. For that, we’re going to need a little help. Your help.

 

Key Account Managers:

  • What are your biggest complaints or worst headaches when it comes to QBRs?
  • If you could kill the QBR forever, what would you offer your clients instead?
  • Is your organization ready for a post-QBR world?

 

Leave your comments, rants, or suggestions below. Let us know you if agree or, better yet, tell us why we’re wrong.

 

The QBR is dead. Let’s get this wake started.

 

How to Prepare a Useful Quarterly Business Review

A Quarterly Business Review (QBR) could be one of the most important meetings on your agenda. It’s not the same as your average business report with a client, so you can’t expect to prepare for it the same way. When your next QBR rolls around for a key client, are you ready to set it up and host it properly?

Purpose of the QBR

To get in the right state of mind about hosting a QBR, you need to make sure you understand what the point of the meeting is in the first place. These meetings are a chance for you and your client to discuss the progress both parties have made towards mutual goals. QBRs are only done for key account clients that are given special priorities and attention, including an engagement plan that maps out the strategic partnership between your company and theirs.

Essential Parts to a QBR

What makes a QBR different from a general report meeting? The essential elements of QBRs vary significantly from normal business meetings. They’re not meant to be one-sided meetings. Instead, both your company and your client need to be heavily involved in the discussion. You should build a meeting that includes all or most of these elements if you for a higher chance of success:

  1. Complete Focus on the Client
  2. Detailed Feedback from the Client about the Partnership
  3. Listening and Understanding Client Issues and Concerns (Ask Open-ended Questions)
  4. Updating VOC Forms and Understanding
  5. Equal Participation from You and Your Client
  6. Narrow Meeting Focus
  7. Requests Made to the Client
  8. Feedback from Your Company
  9. Professional, Interactive Data Presentations

It may look like a long list of pieces, but it would be difficult to sacrifice any of these included things and still have an efficient, useful QBR meeting. These meetings are not supposed to be long and drawn-out, and they shouldn’t be a monologue from your side.

Common QBR Mistakes

Although the list above mentions most of the pieces that should be included in a successful QBR, there are still other things you should keep in mind before the meeting. Here are a few of the mistakes many companies make during QBRs, so you can learn from their experiences instead of having these issues happen in your own meeting:

  • Talking about Your Company and Your Perspective Too Much
  • Using the QBR as a Place to Pitch Products and Services to Your Existing Clients
  • Show Up and Throw Up Salesman Presentations
  • Complete Focus on the Past Quarter without Looking at the Future
  • Canned Presentations with Too Much Unnecessary Data

This is not an exhaustive list of everything that can go wrong with a QBR, but it’s a good resource to help you understand the most commonly made mistakes for this type of meeting.

Preparing for a Productive QBR

To help your team get on the right track before the meeting, you should do a lot of prep work ahead of time. There are four things you should absolutely be doing when you’re preparing to a host an upcoming Quarterly Business Review with a key account client.

  1. Ask Your Client to Prepare for Their Part

Since you want equal participation in the meeting, you will need to notify your client that you want to hear from them, and give them some specific guidance about what they should prepare. This gives them the time to analyze the partnership and bring something useful to the table to discuss with you.

  1. Examine What’s Working in the Partnership

Do your own analysis to find out what’s going on between your companies that’s really working well. You can find evidence of these positive points by examining progress towards goals and any potential benefits that have come out of the partnership so far.

  1. Examine What’s Not Working in the Partnership

The focus of the meeting cannot be only on what’s going well. You need to also take a serious look at what’s not working out well, so you can discuss those issues with the client.

  1. Limit the Guest List to Essential Personnel Only

You should do this before you even plan the date and time of the QBR. Make sure you’re trimming down the guest list to include as few people as possible, only including those who have some sort of relevance to the meeting itself. No one should be there if they aren’t directly related to the partnership or topics discussed in the meeting. Include people who are critical of the partnership when possible.

 

Ready to learn more and take your QBRs to the next level? Download our QBR ebook for more practical tips!

5 Tips for Conducting More Powerful and Valuable QBRs

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: your QBRs suck and your clients think so too.

The problem with your lackluster quarterly business reviews is that they’re long, boring, and not perceived as valuable by the clients sitting through them. In fact, our own studies showed that only 28% of respondents found QBRs to be valuable. Ouch! Rather than seizing the opportunity to strengthen the relationship with a key account, you often demonstrate just how little you really know your client.

But your QBRs don’t have to be this way! They can be a powerful and effective way to demonstrate how valuable you are to a client’s business and show off the many ways you’re working to help them achieve unprecedented success.

Here’s how to make your QBRs more effective and valuable to your clients:

  1. Talk to your customers about their goals.

An easy, yet often forgotten, aspect of an effective QBR is simply asking a client about what they want to achieve in the next quarter. Goal setting (and achieving) is a critical part of the key account relationship, and it should be a critical part of any QBR.

Instead of presenting a QBR that focuses on your own goals for the account, focus on your client’s needs and what you can (and will) do to support them. Ask them questions and engage them in a meaningful and strategic conversation about what they’re looking to achieve with you. This brings us to our next point.

  1. Listen!

Most QBRs adopt a lecture-style presentation. This not only bores your customers, but it also keeps you from listening to them.

Try to limit your speaking time to under 10 minutes per presenter, if possible. Ask questions during your presentations, and actively write down the answers. Paying attention to detail and showing that you care enough to write those details down will go a long way toward showing that you are dedicated to understanding your client’s needs.

Furthermore, you may hear that your client wants you to check in with them more often than once every 90 days at the QBR. Showing that you will listen and respond to their needs will matter more than any PowerPoint presentation you come up with.

  1. Discuss your progress on the things that matter to them.

The best way to demonstrate your value to your customers is to show them what progress you’ve made toward their goals and the things they’ve identified as important.

Provide them with concrete details about what you have achieved together in the last quarter. If there are certain product features or new services that they’ve been promised, discuss where things stand and what steps you’ve taken to bring those to fruition. It’s also important to discuss the specific steps you will take to work toward goals in the next quarter.

  1. Implement a “Voice of Customer” ideology.

In a nutshell, VOC is a powerful approach to account management that allows you to map out the decision-makers within an organization and better understand how their individual interests influence the overall company goals.

As a key account manager working with multiple points of contact within an organization, it can be difficult to rank which goals should be worked towards first. VOC allows you to do just that, elevating you from an average key account manager to a great one.

  1. Don’t talk about your company—talk about the customer!

While tip number three says you need to prove your value, be careful about talking too much about your company and all the great things you’ve done for your customer. As a key account manager, the client wants and needs outweigh your own. Yes, you should mention what you are doing for them, but it needs to be framed in a way that highlights you as a strategic partner working toward their greater success. Everything should circle back to your client, always.

In order to craft a QBR that is both effective and valuable, you have to truly understand your client. This means understanding their needs, goals, successes, and even their failures. Utilizing these tips in your next QBR will help you strengthen your relationship with your key customers, thereby strengthening your own business.

 

 

Ready to learn more and take your QBRs to the next level? Download our QBR ebook for more practical tips!