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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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4 Overlooked But Proven Methods for Nailing Your Next Quarterly Business Review (QBR)

Posted September 1, 2016by Jaq Baldwin

When done right, quarterly business reviews (QBRs) provide you the opportunity to demonstrate the value of your managed IT services, advise and upsell clients on new or unused technology and support, assess overall client satisfaction and more. But before you even meet with clients, you need to put together a game plan for how you'll conduct your QBRs. Otherwise, this sometimes rare opportunity to reconnect with customers and strengthen existing relationships can deteriorate into the kind of "kicking the tires" conversation that's a waste of everyone's time. To prevent this and get the most out of your next round of business reviews, here are four often overlooked essentials that I've had success with in my own experience as an MSP.

1. Prepare an Agenda and Share It Ahead of Time

What is it that you hope to accomplish during your QBRs? How will you make the most of your time with clients? All MSPs should prepare an agenda that addresses these concerns beforehand. Doing so helps keep you organized and ensures that you have everything you need to conduct a successful review. A sample agenda may include items like:

  • Provide a recap of the last quarter and review big wins and losses 
  • Discuss infrastructure needs and establish goals for the coming quarter 
  • Share a report on the number of issues you resolved without clients even knowing about it
  • Introduce new solutions or discuss upgrading to a higher level of support

It really depends on the MSP and the SMB in question, but these are common outcomes of QBRs. We review each in Five Things to Accomplish During Quarterly Business Reviews, a recent episode of The Weekly Byte!

When scheduling the meeting, don't forget to share this agenda with your clients ahead of time, either verbally or through email. If this is their first QBR, they may not entirely understand what the purpose of your visit is or how it's valuable for them. Presenting them with a bulleted agenda instills confidence in your clients that their time will be well spent. Additionally, having an agenda keeps you on track and holds you accountable for meeting all of your QBR objectives in the alotted time period. 

 

2. Come Ready to Conduct the Meeting NOT React to Frustrations

Sometimes you'll encounter clients who want to turn your reviews into unwelcome venting sessions. Anticipate this, but arrive to your QBR with the expectation that YOU are the one conducting and running the meeting, not your client. As the Account Manager, Technical Contact, VP, or the representative who first sold the account, if you are tasked with scheduling QBRs then you need to be the one who owns all aspects of the review. In order to maintain control of the meeting, pull in key players and identify potential client concerns or pain points that may be voiced in advance. You may have encountered some bumps along the road last quarter, and it's natural for customers to want to express their frustrations, but don't let them derail your agenda. Be prepared to discuss the previous period's wins and losses and own up to any mistakes or weaknesses in service delivery. Treat your QBRs the same way you treat a sales call – with professionalism, leadership and a purpose. Share what you learned and how you'll prevent the same problem from occurring again.

Proactively addressing client concerns in this way helps you demonstrate that their success with your technical support is a priority and shared goal. Never underestimate the role client satisfaction plays in long-term business growth. If they feel their needs are not being met or appreciated, why would they want to continue working with you? Don't forget that QBRs also provide the perfect venue for upselling and cross-selling clients on additional managed IT services and solutions. It'd be a real waste if you weren't able to have this conversation with them because you spent the whole time listening to them complain. Instead, it's better to acknowledge client frustrations while still getting to other items on your agenda, like goals for the upcoming quarter. In the end, you are there to guide and lead the meeting through a successful beginning, middle, and end for everyone involved.

 

3. Bring the Necessary Reports and Findings

Always present clients with findings from recent network assessments, or audits. It's hard to argue with data that may indicate vulnerabilities, aging hardware, out-of-date operating systems or gaps in coverage. With this critical report on-hand, you will be able to make a strong business case for larger projects and additional support that your clients may benefit from. Maybe one of your clients needs a larger server refresh in the next few months. Having this discussion during your QBR can help you win new revenue and set expectations for project work to be accomplished in time for your next QBR. You always want to leave having established agreed-upon goals.  When evidence is presented and your client has an opportunity to ask questions and become comfortable with your recommendations, adding coverage and expanding your business relationships becomes painless and easy.  

Furthermore, along with a recent audit include a recent invoice to ensure you're covering all devices in a client's business environment. I cannot tell you how many times my Managed Services team at Southern Data Solutions has begun a relationship with a brand new customer only to find out that their last IT provider was not monitoring all of their workstations and servers, or was overcharging for devices that were no longer in use! Review recent invoices along with inventory assessments to assure you and your clients that they're paying the right amount without any gaps in service delivery. 

 

4. Leave with Referrals 

Finally, too many MSPs neglect to ask for referrals when conducting QBRs. This is a lost business opportunity! If your customer cannot recommend you or at the very least provide you with a written testimonial, you need to discover where their expectations are not being met and correct immediately. You may feel awkward asking for a referral, but it doesn't have to be intimidating. Before you leave your review, ask your client if all their needs are being met and then get a verbal net promoter score (NPS). Ask if the service delivery they've experienced is impressive enough that they'd recommend to a peer. If they say yes, you can follow up by asking who they know that might benefit from receiving proactive IT technical support. If they say no, however, you have bigger problems. QBRs should increase stickiness and renew clients' trust in you to guide them to higher efficiency and profitability. If both parties disagree about the quality of the business relationship, client turnover is highly likely. Still, it's better to find out about at-risk contracts sooner rather than later. If you do your due diligence, however, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. If you're on the same page with your client, there's no reason why you shouldn't walk out of your next review with a referral, more business and more loyal clients!

I'd love to hear what other items are on your agenda when you conduct a QBR. What are you bringing to your review meetings that is making an impact on your MSP business?

Improve-MSP-SLAs

Jaq Baldwin is a Sales Professional at Southern Data Solutions in Alpharetta, Georgia. He loves working with his customers to provide IT solutions that reduce risk, cost, and liability while increasing productivity and better use of technology in the business world. He loves running, blogging, and watching terrible Sci-Fi movies late at night. Follow him @JaqTech, visit his blog Marathon Sales, or his company Southern Data Solutions to stay in touch.

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