The goal of Executive Business Reviews (EBRs) is to demonstrate your unique value to the customer and convey a sense of how important the customer is to you.
When approached thoughtfully, they can help build bridges between your company and your customers, show ROI, remove barriers and forge strong connections that will last throughout the customer’s lifetime.
Our CEO, Nick Mehta has an entire blog post on how he meets 500+ customers every year and why it matters. The short answer is that Customer Success (CS) CS leaders and their teams need to understand that EBRs are opportunities to improve the trajectory of a customer relationship and grow your business over time.
Let’s start with the basics.
What’s a Good EBR Cadence?
For an EBR to be impactful and effective, it should be:
- Specific to the customer
- Timely, which also means that having a business review every month is not necessarily a good thing
- Actionable for both the solution provider and the customer
- Ensure joint Accountability in the relationship
- Offer Recommendations where you see gaps
(An easy way to remember the above is through the acronym STAAR)
A good cadence for an impactful EBR depends highly on the account ratio per CSM. Generally, one good EBR is better than four standard EBRs where only usage and adoption are discussed. Our recommendations based on CSM to account ratio are:
< = 1:10, we recommend quarterly EBRs
1:20 to 1:30 we recommend yearly EBRs;
1:40 to 1:50 we recommend once in 18 months,
>= 1:50, we recommend Digital EBRs.
Now, let’s dig into some EBR do’s and don’ts from a CSM perspective.
✅ DO Give Yourself Enough Time to Prepare
I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you and your teams have enough time to prepare for an EBR. It’s important to gather customer inputs, align on the agenda, run it by your adoption champions, and share it with all the leaders joining the EBR.
❌ DON’T Rush an EBR
- Don’t schedule the EBR coming out of PTO. You will not be well prepared and will not have the time to do the above.
- Don’t walk into the EBR without running the content by your champions within the customer company or without receiving approval on the agenda from the customer and your leaders.
- Don’t send prep notes or surveys too close to the EBR. Make sure you give everyone ample time to read and respond.
✅ DO Understand Customer Goals
Understand your customer’s goals, and I mean, really understand them using:
- Account Plans: Use the detailed account plan made with your sales counterpart to inform the EBR.
- Surveys: Use a standard prep survey to gather inputs from your stakeholders prior to the EBR. Make sure you understand the priorities of the highest persona attending the EBR and be prepared to show how those priorities can be accomplished.
- Interviews: If possible, run short (30-minute) interviews with a subset of users (maximum five) across the customer’s organization (individual contributors and managers) at least a month before the EBR. This will help you uncover any enablement, change management, or operational issues that have direct implications on the value derived from your solution.
Use all the insights gathered to inform the EBR and show the customer how they can gain (even more) value. Anticipate objections or feedback and be prepared to answer them. Prepare your leaders as well. This is a good opportunity to suggest to the customer that they buy relevant services to accelerate and unlock value, enforce processes, invest in change management and enablement, etc.
❌ DON’T Conduct an EBR Without Knowing Customer Goals
An EBR is not the place where you uncover customer goals. Also, don’t walk into an EBR not knowing how the customer feels about your partnership.
✅ DO Structure the EBR
Everyone’s time is valuable, especially executives at a customer company. A good EBR will be well structured and will include the following elements:
- Agenda: Work with your customer to create a mutually beneficial agenda. Attendees should receive this well in advance of the meeting. Ensure you receive approval on the agenda from the customer and your leaders.
- Consider breaking the EBR into executive or strategy-focused (the “what”) and operational segments (the “why”) to make the most of each stakeholder’s time.
- Include introductions and icebreakers because it’s important to always be human-first, even at work.
- Include high-level thought leadership and/or industry trends to frame the conversation. This section should be presented by your CS leadership with the goal of conveying the message that you’re in touch with market needs.
- Company Updates: Confirm your understanding of the customer’s organizational updates and strategic initiatives.
- Customer’s Voice: Consider having the customer review their success stories, vision, and goals. Have your project owner/adoption champion from the customer present accomplishments in front of the customer executive, affirming the positive momentum of the partnership.
❌ DON’T Run Standardized EBRs
The structure of the EBR can remain the same, but the messaging needs to be tailored to the specific customer. A run-of-the-mill EBR can be easily replaced by automated email/sharing live links of the customer data with the customer. If you’re asking for time from executives and people from both sides to attend, make sure that the content and the discussion are worth everyone’s time.
- Don’t make assumptions about what the customer is looking for. Always confirm.
- No executive wants to know how your product works without knowing how it aligns with their goals. Always present the business value.
- If you can’t write a thorough Account Plan in detail, you are not ready for the EBR.
- Nobody wants to be buried in content. You should be focused and have a maximum of three main themes for the EBR. Five slides for every 15 mins will suffice.
- Don’t be too rigid with the EBR. Let it flow based on the conversation.
✅ DO Demonstrate Value and ROI
Ask yourself: Why did your customer purchase your product? How well have you fulfilled that need over the last quarter/year?
- Present data to show the value of your solution.
- Use adoption and health scores to uncover areas of opportunity.
- It can also be valuable to present benchmarking data. Companies treasure the ability to see how well they’re doing in comparison to their competitors. If you can correlate their success to your product using hard metrics, they’ll be much more likely to continue doing business with you.
❌ DON’T Start From Scratch Every Time
You’ll be surprised at how often you can reuse/repurpose some of the content. At Gainsight, one of our CS Ops team members curates the content for a master EBR deck on a regular basis by looking at the most well-received EBRs. For any given EBR, we typically pick and choose specific slides (almost 70-80%) that make sense for the customer from this master deck.
✅ DO Provide Recommendations
Frame your talk track around individual stakeholders’ ‘interests vs. talking about features and functionality. Focussing on the product without mapping it to customer goals is the quickest way to lose your audience.
Recommendations must be thoughtful and specific. A few sources can help guide the section:
- Customer interviews and surveys conducted prior to the EBR.
- Current gaps that are stopping the customer from unlocking the full value of your solution.
- Current products or roadmap items that the customer isn’t using but can help fulfill the customer’s need. TIP: While showing the product, demonstrate the product instead of using screenshots and slides.
❌ DON’T Upsell / Cross-sell Unless There’s a Real Need
Trying to sell your solutions for the sake of selling hurts your credibility as a CSM. Don’t talk about the feature function of your products unless it aligns with specific customer goals and outcomes.
✅ DO Write an Executive Summary and Lock in Goals
Having a really strong executive summary that calls out the problem that you’re solving for the customer, the value delivered to date, the progress made, and next steps towards unlocking more value is really important.
- Lock in solid goals for the next quarter (or until your next EBR) as your next steps.
- Send a follow-up email the same day or within 24 hours (even if you want to send a detailed follow-up later) thanking them for their time.
✅ DO Be Human-First
Your customers are human-first. Always treat them with respect and encourage a spirit of collaboration. Never make your customer stakeholder look bad or throw anyone under the bus in front of their executives. Focus on the roadblocks, not the people. Always remember, you can win in business while being human-first.
As a next step, check out our master template and use it to help you prepare for your next EBR.
For more on how to conduct excellent EBRs, check out this blog—How to Put the ‘Executive’ Back in Executive Business Review.