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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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All MSPs Need to Be Performing Quarterly Business Reviews. Here’s How.

Posted April 4, 2017by Lily Teplow

All MSPs Need to Be Performing Quarterly Business Reviews. Here’s How.

It’s officially April, which brings one specific thing to mind. Now, I’m not talking about taxes or the long-awaited start of baseball season. I’m referring to the first quarter of 2017 coming to a close, which opens the opportunity for you to perform quarterly business reviews (QBRs) with your clients.

As a managed IT services provider (MSP), your goal is to build strong, long-term relationships with your clients. This relationship is usually defined by the quality of your work and the value you are delivering to the client. A great way to demonstrate this value is to perform QBRs. These are an essential component of your service offering and they help set you apart as an elite MSP partner, rather than just a vendor.

What is a QBR?

In the simplest terms, a quarterly business review is just as the name describes. It’s a review that you provide on a quarterly basis to look at the existing state of your clients’ business and how you’re helping them reach their goals. When performing a QBR, you should reflect on:

  • What happened in the last quarter?
  • Where were the successes and the issues?
  • What were the remedies?
  • How did your IT service and solutions perform?

Looking back is a major part of this activity, but it’s also important to look forward to the next quarter and set goals accordingly. Identify areas of a client’s business that are about to change and discuss how you and the client intend to work to achieve those goals in the future.

A QBR can take many forms, whether it be a document, a PowerPoint deck, an in-person presentation or all of the above. When it comes to QBRs, the most important thing to keep in mind is to make them your own, since there are nuances to every business and their existing customer relationships. As a result, variations are encouraged to make sure you’re reporting on the right information.

How to Perform MSP Quarterly Business Reviews

Remember, the goal of a QBR is to demonstrate the value you deliver as an MSP. How much money are you saving your client? What sorts of benefits are they getting from your services? How did you help them achieve their goals? These should all be answered in the QBR.

Let’s take a look at some of the basic steps in conducting a productive and effective QBR, some areas to cover and a few trouble spots to avoid:

Step 1 – Review the previous quarter

If this is your first QBR for a new client, this exercise will be a chance to see how you are doing ‘out of the gate’. Look at your service level agreement (SLA) and evaluate how well you’re delivering on the promises made during the sales process.

If this were an existing client, this first part of the review would be to measure the success or failure when held up to the goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) that were agreed upon in the last QBR.

Whether this is a first time or part of an ongoing business relationship, the look back is always intended to review how you performed as an MSP and set the stage for discussions about the quarter ahead.

Step 2 – Grade your performance on previous goals and objectives

Were the milestones established in the prior quarter accurate? Did they truly point to where the client was going or were they off the mark? Assign a realistic and honest ‘grade’ of the performance in the previous quarter. The more direct and honest the communication, the better the relationship will be moving forward, even if you have bad news to report.

Make sure to use concrete examples and numbers in your QBR. Nothing speaks louder than data. Don’t just give yourself an “A”, but explain why and back up that explanation with numbers.

Numbers drive business – and business owners need to speak in numbers. If you can’t back up your performance with data, you won’t be telling your clients anything concrete.

Step 3 – Look ahead and establish the goals and objectives of the next quarter

Listen to your client’s plan to help establish new KPIs. Will there be a concentration in cost savings for the customer? If yes, what areas of the business will be the focus? Will there be any major IT initiatives in the upcoming months (like cloud migration, server migration or desktop refresh)? Will there need to be changes in the day-to-day delivery of your services?

If you don’t have KPIs, you can’t track how you’re performing. Establishing the areas where you’ll be measured is key to meeting your goals. Use this as an opportunity to speak with your clients and remain closely tied to their success.

Step 4 – Set a plan and track it

Knowing your clients’ needs is one thing, but meeting them is what really matters. Set a roadmap to accomplish the goals and objectives of your client. Establish time parameters and create milestones that help keep both parties on track. Lastly, set the success criteria and be sure it’s specific.

You also need to establish how you will track these metrics. Is this something you can accomplish with your RMM software? Do you need 3rd party analytics or measurement tools? How often will you report on these metrics throughout the year? Do you need info from your client in order to track?

Figure out how you can measure these KPIs effectively, because if you can’t measure them, you won’t know if you reach them.

Step 5 – Send to your client and discuss with them

A QBR should never be something you just submit blindly to your client. Use it as an opportunity to meet with them, discuss their business objectives and help reinforce the value you deliver as their MSP partner. One of the biggest mistakes MSPs make is getting too remote from their clients. It’s important to schedule regular face time with your clients, and a quarterly business review is a great excuse to do so! This allows you to be more effective as their technology partner and makes your client feel that you are working hard to help them meet their strategic business goals.

Some Potential QBR Pitfalls

Quarterly business reviews are a fantastic tool to use with your clients. As with most good things, though, there are some warnings to take into consideration. Here are just a few to keep in mind:

  1. Be honest in your QBR – These are meant to be an honest reflection of how you have performed as an MSP. You obviously don’t want to make yourself look bad, but make sure you’re accurate in your evaluation. Your client will appreciate the honesty and objectivity rather than feel like you’re just brushing over potential problem areas or trying to make yourself look good.
  2. Be consistent – Take the quarterly part of the QBR very seriously. If this only happens every few quarters or becomes an annual event, your client may get frustrated and start to look elsewhere. It’s important to remind them of the value you deliver on a regular basis.
  3. Be clear and concise – Ambiguity in any planning exercise will lead to miscommunication and dissatisfaction. Don’t step on this landmine. Be clear in your assessments and back up your performance with data and analytics that prove your worth.
  4. Be transparent – If there is something that is broken, address it directly. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room with the client. That will lead to further degradation of your business relationship and could result in your client leaving you.

Conclusion

It’s important for me to note that this is not an all-inclusive list for QBRs, but it should serve as a starting point for performing quarterly business reviews with your clients. It may seem like a lot to get started, but once you do this the first time, you can re-use a similar format for all clients and for future quarters.

Begin with a basic framework and keep adding to it and refining it as you go on. What’s important is that you get started and make sure that you’re demonstrating the value that you provide as an MSP. A QBR is a chance to shine and to be a true partner to your clients. Don’t let that opportunity pass!


QBRs are essential to the managed services sales imperative! 
Download the Managed IT Services Sales Imperative White Paper

Lily is a Content Marketing Manager at Continuum and is passionate about helping businesses solve their biggest challenges. She is responsible for managing Continuum’s MSPblog and writing on a variety of topics, from sales and marketing to cybersecurity, helping establish authority in the MSP market. Lily is also a seasoned content creator and has supported Continuum’s PR and media efforts. In her spare time, Lily enjoys singing, traveling the world, and cheering on her favorite Boston sports teams!

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