6 Guiding Principles for Conducting a Killer Executive Business Review (EBR)

August 2, 2022

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Maturity, Customer Success Operations, Customer Success Strategy

At a certain point, you’ve onboarded your customer, they’re up and running, and they’re using your product regularly. It’s time to sit back, relax, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

LOL. In your dreams!

Of course, as your customers move through the many phases of the customer journey, Customer Success Managers (CSMs) regularly connect with them to see how things are going. With high-touch customers, this often involves the ultimate customer check-in – the Executive Business Review (EBR). Also known as the Quarterly Business Review (QBR), this meeting is a big picture touchpoint to find out how your customer is getting along, ensure your product is bringing them value, and discover ways to improve your support of them and their goals. Unfortunately, EBRs have a bad rap. And they might deserve it. A lot of businesses aren’t great at conducting them, and customers don’t love sitting through them.

Done right, EBRs allow CSMs to demonstrate the value that they, your product, and your company overall are delivering to your customer. They can be used to present updated KPIs, review customer goals and mark all those accomplished as complete, and share your plans for achieving more together in the near future. Here is the opportunity to revisit your Customer Success Plan to ensure the team is meeting their milestones on the roadmap to success.

So, why are Executive or Quarterly Business Reviews so hard to get right? On the surface, these check-ins seem pretty straightforward, but they (of course) should be more than just “checking in” and are really critical to the relationship – making it a bit nerve-wracking to plan and execute them. CSMs might feel pressure to impress or influence their customer during an EBR or QBR. Multiple stakeholders are likely involved, each with their own priorities and concerns. If the customer is running into issues or they aren’t finding value in your product or service, CSMs might even start dreading the old Executive Business Review.

ESG conducts many, many, many (!) EBRs. We host them with our own clients and help many of those clients do them for their customers, either through process and template development or actual EBR delivery by our virtual CSMs. So, over the years, we’ve developed some overarching principles to act as guidelines and help us make sure these important meetings stay on track, are engaging for the audience, and are an effective use of everyone’s time.

1. Understand each stakeholder’s expectations for the meeting

Ahead of the meeting, you’ve got some homework to do. Besides putting together your presentation slides and practicing your talk track, be sure to do thorough prep work, including looking back at previous notes to review how you’ve aligned with each stakeholder’s goals. Then, if possible, briefly connect with attendees individually beforehand to learn what each expects to achieve during the meeting. You can use this back and forth to set expectations, too. That way, once you’re all together, you’ll all be on the same page right from the start, and you can be sure you’re providing everything they’re looking for during your time together.

2. Present a strong perspective

This is no time to be wishy-washy. You know this account. You know this customer. You have ideas and opinions about what would make their lives easier. Share them! Be bold. They are setting aside precious time in their schedule to listen to what you have to say. Make sure you actually have something to say. Think about things they might not be aware of and what you need from them, and be prepared to offer your expert advice and guidance.

3. Share concrete, data-driven proof of value

To elevate your meeting from “meh” to “amazing,” you need data. Cold, hard facts and numbers. Odds are, your customer stakeholders don’t have much time to go digging for the juicy KPIs that verify your product is kicking butt. Here’s your chance to show them! Ensure that you’re not selecting metrics willy-nilly, but that the metrics you choose to showcase really matter to your customer. This way, they will accurately demonstrate the value you’re bringing to the table from your customer’s perspective.

4. Tell a story

A beginning, a middle, a triumphant end. People love stories. Stories make an impact. The excellent ones stick with us long after they’re told. Tell your customer a story that is meaningful to them during your EBR, and it will resonate long after the call ends. Perhaps it’s another customer example that faced similar challenges to their business and how they overcame them. Or a personal anecdote about how you’ve found value in a particular facet of your company’s product in your own day-to-day. It helps to have an EBR template to follow that streamlines your approach, so you can use your most impactful storytelling devices again and again.

5. Listen to understand

This meeting might traditionally be thought of as a presentation to your customer, but you must take time to listen to your customer’s feedback and concerns as well. An EBR isn’t the moment to push your agenda. The goal is for you to gain a deeper understanding of your customer’s needs and to strategize together for the future. Give them time and opportunity to ask questions and share their perspective. Listen to understand, not just respond.

6. Conduct a timely follow-up

Follow-up promptly. Ensure that any action items you discussed are clear and that you’re handling any requests that came up during the session. Make your customer feel heard by mentioning the key points you took from the meeting, and ask them if they have any further questions or concerns in your follow up message. Something may have occurred to them after you wrapped up, and you want to give them the space to share those additional thoughts and feedback.

There are many ways to put an EBR together, but if you keep these six principles in mind, you can’t go wrong.