THE DETAILS OF A BUSINESS REVIEW- PART 3 OF 4
You are working on your Quarterly Business Review agenda topics, what should you include? In our Business Review Best Practices article we discussed the things to cover and today we will cover the second of 4 of these items in more detail. In Part 1 of this series we covered the topic of the relationship and relationship health, In Part 2 we covered roadmaps and today we will focus on discussing the current activities.
One of the things that can’t be overlooked during a Business Review is a list of the current activities that are happening with this customer and your company. These can take on several forms such as Project Updates, Sales Cycles, Contract Renewals, etc. There is value in discussing these with the client at a review, not only for the topics that we will cover below but also because it demonstrates a certain level of understanding and emotional intelligence as you interact with the account. As CSM’s we want to be strategic and we want to think of the bigger picture business outcome for our customers. We have to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of ignoring the things that are top of mind for our clients.
I like to use the analogy of selling fire alarms. If that is your gig and you want to talk to a customer about fire alarms, but the house is on fire, you have to pick up a hose and put it out. Nobody wants to talk about the future when there is a fire burning, literally in this example or metaphorically in most of our other examples.
As we engage with our customers over the life of their journey with us, they are likely going to be in mid-project at many points in that relationship. The customer may be adding onto the existing footprint of your solution. Having open, meaningful discussions about projects within our customer’s environment shows a level of responsibility and desire to have the best outcome for our customers. If your company is leading or directly engaged with a project for the customer, it is best to be sure that going into a Business Review, the CSM either has an executive level update on the project activities and status to share with the customer. Alternatively, the Project Manager can attend the Business Review to provide that quick update on the active projects being led by our company.
Just as impactful but often overlooked are the projects that are going on with your customer that you and your company are not involved in. There are a couple of examples of this where the customer may be in the middle of a project that interacts or interfaces with your solution. They may also be engaged in a project that changes a policy or practice that may have an impact on the way they use your solution. These are all good discussion points to have. It shows risk avoidance and ensures no disruption to the value and use of your solution, even when it may not be directly related to your actions. Customers almost always see this as a vendor that is invested in their outcome rather than just focused on their direct work and revenue. This helps to strengthen the community that you are working to build with your customer.
For example, if you are a CSM supporting a Point of Sale (Cash Register) system for a store and the customer is getting ready to put in new credit card processing systems, this has the potential to impact the cash registers and how they are used. Discussing this with the client and understanding who is doing the work, the timing of it, etc are all things you will want to know in order to either plan activities that you may need to do on your team, or just reach out and check in with the client to ask how the project is progressing.
As you are building relationships with your customer, it is also critical that you are also building the relationships internally. Depending on how the Customer Success function works at your organization, that may mean partnering with the sales team to understand efforts that they have underway as well. Some Customer Success organizations are responsible for all sales activities beyond the initial sale, others have and maintain a sales representatives role farming within the account. If it is the latter, it is critical that the CSM and the Sales Rep are in alignment with messaging and roadmaps and initiatives that are being presented to the customer.
This relationship can be tricky to navigate for companies that either still provide non-SaaS solutions or have historically had the sales representative as the person who “owns the customer relationship.” The rep may question the reason to share their plans and strategy with their CSM until such time that the CSM demonstrates the knowledge and assistance they can provide in helping to position the sales reps goals as well as meeting the customers business objectives. The insight that a CSM will gain over time about the customers business and their goals can be very helpful to the sales rep in their positioning of the solutions they are in discussions with.
When going into a Business Review, it is best to either do so in conjunction with the sales representative that is currently engaged or review and share the topics prior to the business review. The worst thing that can happen is to go into a business review with a countering direction, opinion or demonstration of not being in alignment with the CSM’s other team members including sales, services, support, etc.
For customers that have renewal dates, especially those that tend to be negotiated events, it is critical that these dates are discussed and openly communicated during business reviews. A customer that is considering leaving or reducing their ACV (Annual Contract Value) should never be a surprise. If it is, this is a likely indication that the CSM and Customer have not been having deep and meaningful business discussions. Certainly, there will be times when a customer keeps their cards close to their vest and doesn’t share details, however, established relationships will usually demonstrate some behavior that seems off a bit. It is the kind of thing that raises the hairs on the back of the CSM’s neck and has them ask probing questions to find out.
How to Communicate these updates
I am not a huge fan of long and detailed presentations. We have all been to those meetings where a slide is shown on the screen and the attendees all read the bullets and details and then start to look at their phones. I like to use small bullet items or pictures to trigger my talking points. This allows a conversation to happen more so than a presentation to be shared. When a Business Review is interactive, it seems to be a litmus test for an engaged group.
When there are several activities such as sales efforts, a contract renewal and even an upcoming project or two, visually representing them on a timeline may also be helpful. By visually representing them on one screen it may allow a discussion to occur that may not otherwise. That discussion can be focused on risk avoidance. For example, if the same customer resources are working on overlapping activities, there could be bandwidth concerns that may not be obvious in a single work stream project update or effort analysis. As a CSM, we have an opportunity to rise to a higher level and help look at those interaction points.
Below are some resources on Customer Success and Relationship building in Business that you may find interesting.
- Customer Experience 3.0 by John A Goodman
- Customer Success by Nick Mehta and Dan Steinman
- Farm Don’t Hunt by Guy Nirpaz and Fernando Pizarro
How do you cover current activities with your client? What has been your most interesting outcome and learning from these types of discussions and how did they impact or benefit your organization? Feel free to share this article with others. To make it easy there are sharing buttons below.