Key customer accounts are like vast fields of dark, rich, fertile soil. Your selling and serving teams have the seeds of growth in hand. But to grow or even retain important accounts, you have to deliver success on the customer’s terms. That means maintaining high-level client-executive relationships is essential. And these relationships must be based on value, as defined from the client’s perspective.
To establish and sustain these critical relationships, client-executive-facing events are mandatory. These must be structured in a markedly different format than most teams are used to.
WHY A QVR IS DIFFERENT FROM A QUARTERLY BUSINESS REVIEW
We all know about Quarterly Business Reviews and their many variations. Far too often, though, these sessions are planned as, or morph into, small-scale vendor trade shows disguised as business reviews. That’s a big mistake. If your real objective is simply to pad your commissions, senior client executives will figure that out quickly. These are smart people with good intuition and solid business instincts. If you somehow get them to attend one self-serving vendor session, they won’t be back for a second.
We follow a different model: The Quarterly Value Review (QVR). The difference in wording is significant. QVRs really are structured on value, both delivered and projected. Their overriding theme is that the meeting is not about us, the seller– it’s about the client. Most importantly, it’s about how the client perceives the value we’ve already delivered and the value they depend on us to produce in the weeks and months ahead.
When prepared and executed properly, QVRs attract C-level client executives, and for good reason. If you’re delivering real value on the client’s stated terms, and your regular dialogue keeps those clients aware of your progress, they will want to see you in person every three months. And when they do, they’ll be direct about the what, when, and how of their needs in the relationship. If there are potential obstacles affecting your ability to execute, the people with the power to address those issues will be in attendance and will be eager to help.
These meetings are real-world discovery sessions about what your sales and delivery teams could be and should be doing better. Could there be a danger in exposing some of your organization’s potential shortcomings in these sessions? Sure. But you’ll strategize with your team and client contacts in advance regarding how to deal with such issues as they surface. You’ll be prepared. That’s far preferable to having those same executives hear about your failures from their subordinates and without regular, scheduled contact with your organization. These sessions also position your organization’s high-level executives to establish ongoing relationships with the client’s C-levels. It’s always easier to work through issues, positive and negative, with people you know. QVRs facilitate that knowing.
We believe selling and delivery are one continuous process, and the Quarterly Value Reviews are how that process is set up and evaluated. There’s no handoff to dread. The sales and delivery teams are represented, in attendance in real-time, and appropriately engaged … together. The QVR positions this true “account team” to clearly understand the client’s customized perspective of the value delivered thus far, measured using metrics the client has chosen. The openness of the forum encourages the client executives to share their expectations about how the past 90 days have gone from their perspective, the specific value they expect to see in the 90 days to come, and how they will be measuring that value. Everyone on your account team needs to hear this!
GIVE THEM A ROADMAP
QVR meetings create a roadmap for the ongoing journey with the client, a journey that consistently delivers value on the client's terms. By focusing on the details of client value, as defined and measured by the client, QVRs bring client executives back to the table regularly. The resulting in-depth discussions about the value to be delivered in the future invariably lead to new business opportunities. When you do the right thing, good things will happen.
So do the right thing. Focus on the journey and not on a single destination. Change your frame of reference from you, your offerings, and the next deal you hope to close. . . to the client and the value they need to see and experience in their world.
Here’s what that looks like.
THE SEVEN CRITICAL DISCUSSION AREAS OF A QVR
This in-depth meeting is best facilitated by a session leader from your side, preferably the person most closely connected to the client. Whoever is chosen must be willing to perform this job with a singular focus on the client -- as opposed to any upcoming deal or opportunity. The QVR meeting plays out in seven discussion areas, which you’ll want to cover in order. They’re listed below.
1. Attendees: Take written note of both firms’ participants in the session; confirm all the names and all the titles. Ideally, senior executives from each side will be involved, which means there will probably need to be some planning and bridge-building well in advance of the first quarterly meeting. The total number of attendees should be limited to four from each side.
2. Customer Satisfaction Factors: Assuming this is your first QVR session, it’s time to ask an open-ended question that too few salespeople ask: What’s important to you in this relationship going forward – and how important is it, exactly? Hand out copies of a list – yes, that means a list printed on old-fashioned paper. Make sure your list presents the thirteen potential satisfaction factors listed below. Distribute one sheet per executive on the customer side.
- Business Model Understanding. Deep experience in the customer’s business model.
- Quality of Deliverables. Deliverables meet all acceptance criteria.
- Meeting Deadlines. Deliverables are accepted as meeting agreed-to dates.
- Expense Control. Expenses are clearly outlined in advance and stay within budget.
- Communications. Communication flows smoothly, comprehensively, and accurately.
- Responsiveness. Efficient and timely completion of client requests.
- Foresight. Proactive anticipation of client needs.
- Knowledge Transfer. Effective transferral of information and knowledge.
- Professionalism. Meeting all expectations of standards of reliability, integrity, and accountability.
- Team Play. An effective embodiment of team goals—behavior, attitude, and interaction.
- Autonomy. Operational effectiveness with minimal client interaction and disruption.
- Productivity. Reasonable levels of utilization of resources and assets to accomplish tasks.
- Compliance. Actions, processes, and conduct meet all predefined client standards.
Next, ask the customer’s executive team to work together to identify the five factors most important to this relationship by circling those five items on one sheet. (By the way, you can digitize all this after the session and share the work in spreadsheet form; for now, you will want to maximize the engagement and the feeling of present-tense collaboration by asking the customer’s executive team to work together on that one sheet.)
Once the customer’s executive team has selected the five most important satisfaction criteria, ask them to assign percentages to each factor reflecting the importance of that factor. When added together, the percentages should equal 100%.
3. Create a Service Scorecard. Create mutually understood key performance indicators (KPIs) that connect to the priority list your customer’s executive team just developed. Your Service Scorecard will be built around the metrics most important to your client in evaluating your level of performance in serving their needs in each of the five satisfaction areas they’ve selected.
For instance, if Autonomy is a critical satisfaction factor, the KPI might look like this: Scheduled, 30-minute biweekly status meetings via video conference calls; daily email updates to Jim; no more than one unscheduled emergency meeting per month.
What makes that a KPI? Well, you and the customer can each count the number of biweekly Zoom calls, email updates, and unscheduled emergency meetings over the next 90 days. You’ll know that you either hit the target for this critical satisfaction factor… or you didn’t. Identifying the right KPIs may take some time. Be prepared to invest that time. If you can’t measure the progress toward fulfillment of the five critical satisfaction factors with clear, weighted metrics that make sense to both sides, there’s going to be no scorecard for you to talk about next time. . . and you want there to be a scorecard to talk about next time! Ninety days from now, your performance in each KPI for the quarter just past will be identified and discussed -- and the satisfaction factors and KPIs for the next ninety days will be finalized.
4. Service Improvement. In this part of the meeting, you agree upon and document newly planned improvement actions resulting from the current discussions. Going forward, the action steps outlined in the previous discussions will be identified by reviewing their results at the next QVR.
5. Impacts: Likely impacts of predictable events in the upcoming ninety days are identified, as are the action or contingency plans to be undertaken in response to those events. Any relevant impact area may apply—those related to the client, the industry, the market, etc. Make a point of discussing all potentially disruptive events the customer (or you) can think of.
6. Strategic Innovation: In this part of the meeting, discuss ideas from either side that support the customer’s most important strategic objectives. Give yourself and your customer permission to engage in creative or out-of-the-box thinking. These ideas can set the stage for productive executive discussions that, while singularly client-focused, can lead to business expansion opportunities.
7. Set the next QVR meeting. This is an ongoing process. Get the next QVR meeting on everyone’s calendar. . . thank the customer’s executive team for their time and insights. . . then start working on creating the outcomes that will deliver value, as the customer defines it!
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