A Tale of Two EBRs

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By Andreas Knoefel

One of the well-known touch points in a customer journey is the Executive Business Review or EBR. Yet what it entails and how to conduct one are not so well known. In two of my recent engagements I experienced very different EBRs:

ABC Corp

ABC Corp has a marquee customer in a key vertical. A strong C-level sponsor had fallen in love with the technology and initiated a “3-Year Paid upfront” deal. Now it was time to go before the CFO to extend the contract.

This customer was not on the best customer journey. Several key capabilities in support of the executive sponsor’s goals were still shelf-ware, and instead of a reduced headcount the team had grown to support overlapping solutions.

The EBR audience consisted of three managers, each two levels down from the sponsor, one of them relatively new to the job, some end users, and the Account Executive, Sales Engineer, and CSM.

The agenda included a demo to bring the new guy up to speed, and a discussion of the tactical issues of each team, all of whom had at least 50% of their tasks at the red stage. The end goal was to equip one of the managers to ask his director (who was not invited) to ask the CFO for new budget.

XYZ Corp

EBRs at this company are conducted quite differently. First off, their EBR is a 30-minute, periodic meeting between executives to review the achievement of business goals, with the CSM as the MC. In this case it was with a key reference account; one who speaks at trade shows, webinars, and with new prospects about XYZ.

Periodic meetings with task owners in between EBRs capture progress updates and adjust tactical plans. A communication plan defines periodic touch points at all levels, as well as an escalation path if needed. The joint customer and company team develops and presents the status and proposals.

Their EBR agenda included a recap of progress against the goals set at the prior EBR. It also included a discussion to validate the future of the customer’s business and any strategic changes. As a part of the future discussion, there was time set aside to collaborate on how XYZ could help the customer move forward. Finally, the wrap up included setting goals for the next EBR and agreeing on action items.

Perspective

If you look back at the first example, the renewal is driven by luck, not process. Despite the meeting title of Executive Business Review, no executives were present. How do you expand, when an internal stakeholder presents the case to the execs with the cost, but without a business case? Furthermore, at any given point the content was only relevant for 1/3 of the attendees, while the rest were bored and distracted. The boredom ratio increased during the demo, where most of the customer team saw the old and familiar again.

The second example is much closer to the ideal state. While half an hour may be short, it is significantly easier to get on an exec’s calendar. With a tight collaboration between key stakeholders, the joint team could easily extend the time and present new capabilities or review a business case for a new initiative.

The Ideal EBR

The companies with the highest NRR rates conduct EBR’s differently, as the 2018 Customer Success Performance Index™ benchmark revealed. Here are the key differentiators:

Start On Day -1

A great EBR starts even before the contract is signed, when the solution value is defined by the customer at part of the sales cycle. Ideally, a CSM is looped in at this point, because hearing the customer’s expected ROI in their words becomes the cornerstone of successful renewal and expansion.

Build-Up to the EBR

The EBR is not the time to discuss problems and brainstorm on solutions, it is the time to present jointly on results, future plans, and recommendations for executive approval. The time in-between should focused on achieving the business value through the lens of the goals set with the customer.

  • Meet frequently with each team to resolve issues and update progress toward the goals set in the last EBR.

  • Provide written periodic updates for key executives.

  • Develop and review the presentation with all task owners in order to avoid squabbling about issues and recommendations in front of an executive.

  • Confirm attendance by the sponsor and their counterpart at your company.  

Build Up to the Renewal

Regardless of the contract term this activity should also start from Day -1.

  • Plan and execute a joint customer journey to achieve the business value the executives are looking for. Adjust the goals along the way as needed in each EBR based on changes in the customer’s business and your progress

  • Track the realization of business value through customer-defined metrics, and compare it against the plan in your customer’s journey.

By planning ahead for your Executive Business Reviews, and focusing on the executive and results they care about, you can regularly demonstrate value and secure the renewals and expansions that maximize NRR.

The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers a Leadership Training Program for current and prospective CS leaders. For more details on this program and our other training and consulting engagements, please visit TheSuccessLeague.io

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Andreas Knoefel - Andreas is the inventor of the Customer Success Performance Index™ and a passionate customer success leader. He applies his practical and holistic approach to startups and giants alike, combining his Ph.D. from KIT and MBA from Santa Clara with his international experience leading customers to success. Andreas finds work-life balance through modernist cooking, outdoors photography and teaching high-octane cycling classes.