Nov 10, 2016

Read Time 4 min

QBR mistakes to avoid, how annual plans can reduce churn, linking customer education to product use and adoption


Churn Fighting Focus: QBR Mistakes for CSMs to Avoid

Too often Quarterly Business Reviews provide little or no additional value to the client and lack focus, accountability or incentive for your client to make this meeting a priority again. It is up to you as the Customer Success Manager to make a QBR great. But how?

But never fear, help is here! We’ve compiled a list of five common rookie mistakes that happen in QBR sessions and how to avoid them.

  • Mistake #1: No Clear Agenda. A simple agenda sets expectations, keeps your QBR on track and creates accountability. Without an agenda, QBR goals are hard to achieve and you run the risk of your client hijacking an agenda-less meeting. More importantly, key executives are busy and will likely skip the QBR all together without a clear answer to “what’s in it for me?”.
  • Mistake #2: Weak QBR Planning. Remember to set yourself and your customers up for success well before the actual QBR. Before scheduling a QBR, you must decide whether the QBR is needed at all. Too often QBRs are seen as a checkbox. Memorable QBRs are those which produce meaningful and actionable insights for your customer. To most effectively create this experience, partner with your champion well before your QBR. Ask questions, get feedback and buy-in ahead of time to uncover top challenges and priorities in advance. Enlist their help to get other influential people to attend the QBR. After aligning with your champion, reach out to other influencers and understand their current situation, challenges and top priorities. These steps will help you focus the QBR on topics that matters most to your client and create an engaging atmosphere.
  • Mistake #3: No built-in engagement. We’ve all been in a meeting where it’s an exhaustive one-way data dump. Top customer success managers encourage a two-way conversation because it allows them to get immediate and real client feedback. You have to encourage everyone to speak out during the QBR. You don’t want those who disagree to walk out and undermine your ability to follow through with a success plan later. Active client participation is key for driving the most out of your QBR session. Stimulating an effective two-way conversation with your client that will produce valuable client insights. Ask open-ended questions like: “What are your current …?” or “How could we…?” or “What do I need to know to help you get more value from our solution?”.
  • Mistake #4: Not Deciding Anything. Your goal in a QBR session is to help the client – gather enough information to either help the client make decisions, get a consensus on a course of action, or both. Consensus builds in client accountability to ensure that your client acts on ideas and suggestions discussed during the meeting. A CSM role during the QBR is open the conversation to discuss issues and challenges, encourage brainstorming, make recommendations, increase perceived value, synthesize the conversation, narrow the options – and then call for a decision.
  • Mistake #5: Poor Follow-Up. Quarterly Business Reviews need timely follow up with a summary of decisions and key points. This shows the client that the customer success manager is engaged, has a thorough account of the discussion and can provide a reliable review of the meeting. Remember to actively listen to everything and read the environment for what’s unspoken. Remember, each meeting summary is only as effective as the action plan, the follow up and the accountability leading to an expanded client success plan.

Interested in more pointers on running a great QBR? We recommend checking out this read.

Customer Success Around the Web

  • Why Annual Plans are crucial for reducing churnWhen setting up a pricing strategy, most companies go with the tried-and-true monthly plan because it allows for more rapid feedback on their product and their product market fit. It also creates less friction for new customers who are still unsure of their willingness to pay. What these companies don’t know is that by not exploring the annual option, they’re setting themselves up for increased churn. A recent study of SaaS churn discovered that a higher percentage of annual contracts strongly correlates with lower percentage of churn. This interesting read dives into how exactly annual contracts help reduce churn and why they’re crucial to helping your business succeed.
  • Linking customer education to product use and adoption: Customer education professionals spend a lot of time talking about how to demonstrate the value of training. There are many ways to do it but focusing on linking training activity to customer outcomes is key. But how do you link training activity and customer outcomes when those terms can mean all kinds of things? This thoughtful read offers clear definitions of these terms and tips on how to ensure the connection between activities and outcomes is strong.
  • To be a top quartile SaaS grower, you need to focus on gross churn: SaaS entrepreneurs are bombarded with blog posts with an array of metrics and variables on which they need to focus in order to build their companies. Within the world of customer success, there are so many metrics that are touted: gross churn, net churn, logo churn, renewal rates, NPS score, etc. To better understand which customer success metrics most impact growth, this excellent read examines a subset of companies in SaaSRadar, McKinsey’s database of pre-IPO SaaS companies, and explores why grosschurn, by far, is the most impactful metric.

Word to the Wise

This week’s wisdom comes from Matt Benati, CEO and co-founder of Lead Gnome, during a recent episode of the #StartupsUnedited Webcast. We definitely recommend listening to the whole episode but we thought one idea Benati presents – using Customer Success as a feeder program for Sales – was quite interesting:


Many of the companies here in Boston have a feeder program to their Sales teams through Customer Success. Customer Sucess is on the front lines. They are getting the tough calls – “hey, this doesn’t work” […] “how do I do X, Y, or Z?”. So not only are they super helpful internally to guide the rest of the company but they’re also interacting on a daily basis with all of your customers. They understand the DNA of those customers and that makes an incredible salesperson! They’ve heard all the challenges, they now know the objections (objection handling rolls off their tongues), they understand that when a prospect says X, Y, or Z to probe a little bit, understand the problem truly and then work [to a resolution].”

What are your thoughts??


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