IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Perfecting the QBR

How to make regular business reviews less about sales and more about real opportunity. By Geoffrey Oldmixon
Reader ROI: 
QUARTERLY BUSINESS REVIEWS are opportunities to deepen client relationships and identify current needs and future goals.
TREATING QBRs as a sales meeting or a time to brag, being ill-prepared, and skipping them altogether are common mistakes.
THE MOST PRODUCTIVE meetings focus on strategy and planning and are held regularly with the leadership of your A-type clients.

QUARTERLY BUSINESS REVIEWS are an essential part of maintaining durable, profitable relationships with clients. Yet, some channel pros still don’t bother with them, and many more don’t make the most of them. We talked to three industry experts who concur: It’s time to get your QBR game on point.

What a QBR Is Not

Quarterly business reviews are recurring, sequential meetings that MSPs conduct with their SMB clients to discuss the past (“how we’ve been doing”), the present (“here’s what we’re working on”), and the future (“here’s what we’re facing and our recommendations”). While that may seem straightforward, too many MSPs make the mistake of turning every meeting into a sales pitch.

Angel R. Rojas Jr., CEO of Brandon, Fla.-based Data Corps Technology Solutions, has been conducting QBRs with MSP clients for more than 20 years, and says his success has come from explicitly “not trying to sell at these meetings. … I had a colleague who used to say, ‘If you behave like a salesperson, expect to be treated like one.’”

He concedes, “Yes, in all reality, a QBR is a sales meeting, but if you go there and you sell, you’re no longer that educational partner.”

A QBR should also not be a time for self-congratulation. “QBRs are not about the MSP’s performance,” explains veteran channel sales consultant Vernon Harrison of CRO Leader. “A business review should be where the MSP defines and reviews how they are using technology to help the client’s own business objectives. You make a business review to talk about their business, not to talk about yourself.”

Erick Simpson, a channel consultant with more than 25 years’ experience as an enterprise CIO, VAR, and MSP, sees the self-congratulations model undermining QBRs all the time.

“There’s a misconception the QBR is a meeting to prove you’ve done what you’re supposed to do: ‘Here are the reports from my monitoring and ticketing systems.’ But that’s failing to see the value of these meetings,” Simpson explains. “When I had my MSP years ago, I would say, ‘Any service provider can manage and maintain your firewalls, servers, and desktops. But the reason clients stay with us is the strategic value we bring to help them realize their business growth visions.”

It’s that “vision” that should be the focus of the QBR.

A QBR Is All About Value

All three experts agree that the best QBRs are those that underscore the MSP’s relationship with the end-user client as a “trusted adviser.” That means treating the QBR as a strategic planning session.

For instance, you can use the QBR “to gather feedback to adjust services,” Rojas says.

Angel R. Rojas Jr.

These meetings also provide the insight and information to make budgeting and planning decisions, says Simpson, who adds, “You’re roadmapping for growth. Align technology solutions and services to meet the changes of that growing business.”

While providing information and data that validate what you’re doing is fine, Simpson continues, don’t devote the entire meeting to that. “The true business relationship is built around that value you bring from a strategic perspective,” he stresses.

Harrison takes it a step further. “The best MSPs use the meeting to talk about the client’s industry and how technology can beat or buck any bad trends on the horizon and what obstacles the client needs to be aware of.”

The true objective of a QBR, he adds, is to “contribute to the client’s business strategy and, at a minimum, understand it to assure technology is an enabler, not an obstacle.”

QBRs also present an opportunity to learn about “big changes” as well as opportunities, notes Harrison. “In the past, when the technology team roamed the halls as in-house employees, it was easy to know what was happening outside of infrastructure speeds and feeds. If you worked and had lunch there, there’s a real good chance challenges would arise, and you’d say, ‘We can help with that.’”

Since MSPs aren’t on-site regularly, the QBR is “the client’s turn to report on what they’re doing,” Harrison continues. “If there’s a project coming up or a new strategy, learn about that business and try to add value. That’s what you’re there for.”

That heads up about upcoming changes and challenges will save money, too, for both the MSP and the client. Knowing what can and should be implemented in advance will avoid budget “gotchas,” Harrison says, “and can often contribute to the escalation of a strategy.”

About the Author

Geoffrey Oldmixon is a freelance writer based in Western Massachusetts.

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