One hundred slides? A round-robin discussion of our lowest lows? “Sign us up!” said no employee ever.
Review time doesn’t have to be dreaded for the customer success team. After all, internal quarterly business reviews (QBRs) can contain helpful information in those slides. They offer benchmarking data, focus on KPIs, and steer priorities for the future. QBRs are rituals that allow teams to step back from their daily grind and align with the bigger picture.
When done right, they provide time for reflection, according to Gainsight’s CEO, Nick Mehta. He even took to LinkedIn with ten core QBR lessons:
- Plan them well to minimize busywork
- Have a consistent format
- Include stories to help people learn
- Work as pods across functions
- Stay on time
- Include many voices
- Include a “help wanted” slide focusing on what the team needs next quarter
- Capture all job roles, not just customer success managers (CSMs)
- Sequence the QBR with other meetings
- Include child-like joy! Activities help meetings be effective and fun.
We’re expanding on them with some of the best responses, observations, and tips from Nick’s initial post.
Here are some more ways you can start embracing more positive QBR meetings:
1. Collaborate Better Between Departments
Nick talked about regional “pods” that broke through departmental silos. In this lively conversation, we heard about some other ways you can encourage the cross-pollination of ideas.
You can get the conversation started with chat functions and surveys to get a broad range of opinions. According to Randy Wooten, a Board Executive, creating a Slack channel for the QBR can also help field questions and process them in real-time, and afterward.
Gainsight’s SVP of Revenue Operations, Caitlin Quinlan, had another idea to create a common platform for all. She says, “minimize jargon in your slides to help invite questions from cross-functional leaders.”
VP of Customer Success Business Solutions, Shelby Czarnota, adds that if you can start using whiteboard tools like Miro or Mural to collaborate better, too.
2. Include Those Who Can’t Be There
Remote teams and absent contributors make it difficult to hear everyone’s experience and expertise. But that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from the shared discussion. Capture meetings on video so folks can access them asynchronously, says Wooten.
Mike Adams, a Product Marketing Executive, says a daily recap at the end of each workday keeps the process on track. “It has to be done with passion,” he says, “and by somebody who was there and was engaged all day. [It] makes it so much better and energizes everyone for the next day.”
Keep visual, remote, and global workers in the loop. Everyone will gain a better understanding of the whole business and increased awareness of business impacts.
3. Let it all Hang Out
Will every team surpass their goals every quarter? No, and that’s fine, says Quinlan, who thinks it’s “better to know why than try to only tell the positive story. Be realistic on the forecast!”
A realistic forecast generates deeper discussions about what’s going wrong and how to fix it. According to Akanksha Manik Talya, a Chief Operating Officer, the most “impactful QBRs are when everyone embraces that ‘red is the new green’ and openly talks about the hardest red things openly where the business and pods need to jump in and help!”
4. Create a Safe Space
Before honest conversations can happen, you’ll need to ensure the group feels psychologically safe to discuss poor outcomes. Find concrete ways to encourage discussion, says Alka Tanden, a finance executive at Gainsight, who says companies should “create psychological safety and encourage [participants] to talk about not only the ‘good’ but also the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly.’” The goal is to build a team culture aligned around your common strategy. Always tie your discussions back to your strategic plan, objective key results, and your rallying cry.
5. Give Your Stories Meaning with Numbers
Stories help everyone understand the numbers. The inverse is true, too. Numbers help illuminate customer stories. They can give you the confidence to contextualize the insight CSMs provide. Quinlan says you can use your weekly reporting to create some quarterly insights as a backdrop for these narratives. Wins? Losses? Churn? They all make more sense in context.
6. Make it Actionable
Revisit the strategy that came out of your last QBR. What actions did everyone agree to take? An excellent way to start, says Niyati Shah, a Business Operations and Strategic Leader, is to review top action items from the last QBR. Then make sure the team stayed aligned and accountable to their previous goals, and understands how to move forward with new ones.
These six insights build on Nick’s ten best practices for QBRs. They’re part of the ritual for success that comes with pausing the daily world, if only momentarily, and reflecting on the past. And no matter which new tools you use to make them better, you can be assured they’ll help you align your team for the future.