It’s been a time of turbulence for us all, a time of great change. Our ability to adjust and be agile in serving our major clients while their very business models have been under stress has been pivotal, to say the least. Think about the key metrics that drive our organizational engines – sales, revenues, margins, etc. Then ponder the critical major account elements that typically define our success – account growth, client retention, customer satisfaction, and others. Imagine reaching out to your major accounts and suggesting they participate in a Zoom call with you on any one of those topics. Then don’t hold your breath for their response. Because the topics, of course, define your success, not your client’s.
Your major accounts represent vast fields of dark, rich, fertile soil and you have the seeds of growth in hand. While recent times have slowed such growth for most large clients, we can see through to the light of pent-up needs. Of course, significant care and tending are required to grow and simply retain complex enterprise accounts, even in normal times. And your focus, especially now, must be on the only topic that really matters – client value.
As guarded optimism gives us hope for a return to normal business operations, we’re tempted to set up those client calls, perhaps even schedule Quarterly Business Reviews. The concept of QBR’s as client executive-facing events is well-known and many variations of the format are utilized. Unfortunately, though, these sessions are far too often planned as or morph into, small-scale vendor trade shows disguised as business reviews. If an event’s primary objective is for the vendor to sell more, clients will sniff it out quickly. These are smart people, high-level executives whose intuition and ability to read both situations and people got them to where they are. If you’re fortunate enough to get these executives to attend one self-serving vendor session, that will be the last. And the taste that will be left in their mouths will not be a good one. They will long remember what you did, especially now.
In Sandler Enterprise Selling, the focus is on Quarterly Value Reviews, not Quarterly Business Reviews. And the difference is not a word game. The structure is built around the twin themes of value delivered and value projected, with the pivotal message being that it’s not about you but about the client. More specifically, about how the client defines and quantifies the value you’ve already delivered and the value they need from you in the time to come. Think about that as a framework for a meaningful discussion at this difficult moment in time.
These reviews take place at the highest client levels, and for good reason. If you’re doing a quality job of delivering value on the client’s stated terms, and you’re communicating regularly regarding your progress, they will want to see you. They will need to see you. And they’ll be clear about what they want from your company and exactly when and how they want it. If there are issues that create obstacles affecting your ability to execute, you’ll be with the people who have the power to address them. And is there a danger in exposing some of your organization’s shortcomings in these sessions? Sure, and you’ll strategize with your teams prior to the sessions regarding how to deal with such issues if they surface. You’ll be prepared. Which is much better than having client executives hear about your failures from their subordinates without having regular contact with your organization. And these very sessions will position you and your executives to establish relationships, at some level, with the client executives. It’s always easier to work through issues, positive and negative, with people you know. Team selling and team buying. These sessions facilitate that knowing.
Typically, both your sales and delivery teams are fully engaged in Quarterly Value Reviews, ideally in person or virtually if need be. The client sees that your full account team is on board, literally and figuratively, to clarify the value delivered and openly welcome the expectations about the value expected in the time to come.
The feedback gained clearly increases your chances of successfully delivering on your current engagements, as mutual a benefit as there could ever be. Open communication is the best prevention for negative surprises and regularly communicating together in executive forums is what partnership is all about. And the candor established through these sessions lays the groundwork for real-time collaboration between sessions. People who know each other are much more likely to reach out and get issues resolved promptly, on a real-time basis. Familiarity, of course, breeds communication.
But perhaps the real magic in Quarterly Value Reviews is that in sincerely focusing in laser-like detail on client value – the theme that brings client executives back to the table regularly, the discussions about the value to be delivered in the future invariably lead to new business opportunities for you. As it’s often said, do the right thing and good things will happen. Yes, even now.
While so many other metrics have been diminished in this time of turbulence, client value stands strong and tall. So, change your frame of reference from you and your offerings to the client and their value. It will pay off on many levels for both parties.