By: Marnie Stockman on June 29th, 2022
Four Steps to Successfully Perform a QBR (Quarterly Business Review)
In 2020, Gartner published results of a study showing that SMBs expect 85% of their interactions with their enterprise vendor partners (such as MSPs) to be automated/digital. This means that managed service providers have the remaining 15% for human engagement. What does this look like? A QBR (Quarterly or at least Quality Business Review).
Business Reviews accomplish 3 things:
- Create and enhance a true strategic partnership between the MSP and their clients
- Outline business goals for clients that are supported and optimized with technology
- Project technology needs to help businesses scales with secure and supported technology
In a world of automation, it is critical to prioritize human engagement. Let's look at the 4 steps in how to successfully perform a QBR.
Getting small business owners to the table is easier to do if the purpose of the business review is clear and valuable. Ideally this is done during the sales cycle. If you are doing these for the first time, there are ways to communicate the value of a QBR in advance.
Pro Tip: Send a collaborative agenda 2-3 days in advance. Ask for input. And take note - if you see a troublesome ticket on their list, address it immediately so your strategic review doesn’t get derailed by ticket tactics. Plus their customer satisfaction will be much higher for the conversation.
A call with your contact demonstrates that you would like to discuss their business goals and needs to see how you might be able to help. After said call, you should be able to answer these questions:
- How is your business changing in the next 12-18 months? (Growing/contracting)
- What are 3 things you wish technology could do for you?
- What are some tasks your team is spending time on manually?
Once a date has been set, it is time to collect data and prepare for the meeting.
The three key elements of a business review are risk assessment, total cost of ownership (TCO) budget, and recommendations. While these are the three pieces you will deliver, there is more research required to build the presentation (for a sample QBR report, click here). You will need accurate inventories around assets, users, and contracts/subscriptions. Using a QBR reporting platform, these reports should be automated and always up-to-date. This information will produce automated baseline budget forecasts (one short-term and one long term).
A review of their network, common issues, policy documentation, and monitoring logs should allow you or team members, such as tier 1 techs, interns, and engineers to complete the risk assessment. This will highlight areas “at risk” and those that “need attention.”
At this point, the CIO, Account Manager (CSM/TAM) or business owner will need to build a plan for remediation of these risks. Those recommendations should be included in the budget forecast. In many cases, the MSP will deliver two versions of the budget for review. For example, many present one for hardware replacement and another to show the cost savings by moving to a leasing plan.
Beyond those three elements, supporting documentation can be included at the end of the QBR report. These might include:
- Asset warranty and EOL status reports
- User reporting (including MFA status)
- Phishing results
- Ticket summaries/scorecards
The presentation of a business review clearly determines whether the MSP will be invited back for another. While they regularly close sales for the MSP, they should NOT feel like a sales call. The delivery should focus on 2 things:
- The client’s goals (remember the agenda)
- The client’s risk (and the MSPs recommendations for reducing them)
The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Budget will also be discussed in support of both of those.
Focusing on those two things will ensure the conversation is strategic. It helps show how the MSP can help move the needle for the company thereby delivering a clear ROI (return on investment).
Detailing support tickets, patch stats, and anti-spam reports should no longer drive QBRs. These are baseline expectations not strategic conversations.
4. Follow Up
While the conversation during a business review is centered around high level business reviews, the follow up is critical from a tactical perspective.
Each of the accepted recommendations and follow up action items should be documented and turned into a ticket. This way, they can be assigned to the appropriate resources and tracked to completion.
While we are on the topic of follow up, there are two questions that you should ask and be able to answer at the close of a QBR:
- Did we deliver value today?
- If no, find out why not and be sure to fix it!
- If yes, ask if they know of any other businesses that would benefit from the same conversation (get the referral!)
- We normally meet with companies of your size/complexity quarterly. Would that timing make sense for you or would you like to meet less or more frequently? That timing can vary based on the client, but you give them options. When they make this decision, they are setting the expectation that the next meeting will happen.
QBRs are the best way to ensure long-term relationships that help you and your clients grow. Technology is how businesses are run today. QBRs are how MSPs successfully demonstrate they are business consultants. It’s better for their clients’ businesses and theirs.
Marnie Stockman is a Co-founder and CEO of Lifecycle Insights, the fastest growing QBR platform for MSPs. Their goal is to help MSP deliver the QBR their customer deserves with automation and strategy. When she isn’t presenting on QBRs and Customer Success, she can be found chasing a golf ball around with her husband or playing volleyball with her 20-something children.
- Connect with Marnie Stockman