What We Learned From Our Second Webinar About QBRs

What We Learned From Our Second Webinar About QBRs

In our continued hunt for the perfect QBR, I spoke with Alex Farling, co-founder and channel chief at Lifecycle Insights.

After owning an MSP for over 16 years, he ran with concepts grown out of his own frustration with QBRs to build a data consolidation tool that helps MSPs grow their businesses. The goal at Lifecycle Insights is to help you define, refine, and scale your business review/vCIO process.

While Alex doesn’t believe that a perfect QBR exists, he does believe in iteration, growth, and in using your QBR to consistently deepen your client relationships. Watch the webinar for the full conversation, or read on to discover the big takeaways from our conversation.

Don’t Use a QBR to Justify Your Existence

If you’re talking about your SLA during a QBR, you’ve already lost.

A QBR should be about your customer, with education and opportunities for sales sprinkled in when they make sense. Alex recommends telling a story with your QBR. 

The story begins with where you are today– your customer’s status quo and budget. When developing a client budget, MSPs should be taking accountability for their entire department. This is just one opportunity of many to impress your client with how much you know about their business. At the end of the day, clients want their business to run smoothly, with a minimum of problems. Your job as an MSP is to help them do their job. 

The next part of your QBR’s story is where you and your client could go next. Give them actionable insights about the technology they’re currently deploying– and tech that could help them reach their goals sooner and more efficiently. Be armed with as much information as possible.

For example, maybe you see that the business’ finance staff is spending 10 hours a day in Excel, after you deployed an ERP that was supposed to cut that number by a large margin. Instead of pointing fingers or throwing up your hands, ask the client how you can help, and why they think the technology isn’t landing as you predicted. Solve high level problems with your client, instead of assuming a defensive posture.

As Alex says, your QBR has to be about your customer– about the future and where they’re going.

Do Talk About Risk

In Alex’s eyes, the number one benefit of a QBR from an MSP perspective is risk transference. Be as transparent as possible about where the bodies are buried, technologically speaking. It’s an MSP’s job to be experts in the technology your customer is deploying. Don’t assume that a customer has the deep knowledge that you do about their exposure. 

This is an opportunity to sell, but don’t make it into a sales pitch, and don’t use scare tactics. Once again, it’s about knowing your customer, their technology, the risks, and how to mitigate them. Is it possible to buy enough insurance to cover their risks? What are the regulations surrounding their technologies, and how are they evolving? Will their insurance premium skyrocket? Be ready with the answers to these questions, especially the answers that give your customer an easy solution.

Don’t Focus on KPIs that Could Bite You

The QBR is about your customer, and solving their problems, not about your internal KPIs.

While it’s tempting to walk into a meeting with KPIs that you consider important as an MSP, they could land badly with your customer.

One example is uptime. It sounds like a good metric, especially if you have a high number there. But what if your 5 minutes of downtime was at a moment when an executive was trying to connect with a multibillion dollar potential customer? The last thing you want to do is to remind them of that.

This is not to say that metrics and data shouldn’t be integral to your QBR. But instead of focusing on giving yourself an A+ on an MSP report card, focus on the metrics that matter to your client: how they make money, and how you can help them make money.

A piece of data often missing from QBRs, that can help bring client needs into greater focus, is usage data, or people data. Knowing how their employees are using technology can not only help you recommend avenues for streamlining and efficiency, but can also help you shed light on problems that the customer doesn’t even know they have.

For example, if you’re able to tell from usage data that one of your customer’s employees is regularly putting in 70+ hour work weeks, you can inform your customer, and let them know that possible burnout is on the horizon. Attrition is a hugely expensive cost for most companies. Helping them save that potential expenditure will allow them to allocate more resources– hopefully to technology. It also helps build your trust factor with your client. When they know that you care about their bottom line as much as they do, they’re happier to continue working with you.

Do Use a QBR to Solve Client Problems

Business owners are problem solvers. Some problems can be solved by technology, and some can’t. MSPs should constantly seek to help their customers enjoy greater efficiency, and ultimately, profitability via the intelligent deployment of technological solutions.  

Once again, MSPs should approach these issues as a partner, rather than an antagonist or a sales rep. Business owners think about problems all day long, and if you can solve any of them using technology, that will be a massive win for both you and your customer. It’s not as much about the technical specs of the solution. Instead, focus on why and how a potential new technology eliminates a problem from their plate.

This is another opportunity to give your customer value during your QBR. 

Don’t Fight the Future of SaaS Apps, Be Ready For It

Software developers work to make their apps easy-as-possible for users to install and deploy. With so many SaaS apps exploding onto the market, promising solutions that MSPs have been providing for years, it can feel like MSPs are out of the loop.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Once again, focus on the actionable information that you can share with a client during your QBR. Inventory and security of apps that their employees are using– with and without their permission– helps your customer find places to streamline, and gives them insight to problems that may pop up in the future.

One way to approach SaaS apps in a QBR is while you’re discussing liability. When an employee offboards, you need to know how to remove them completely from the company’s infrastructure and resources. Another app security issue is the amount of company information an employee may be sharing. This means that you should have a complete knowledge of their app ecosystem, and leverage that knowledge to help your customer make more effective technology choices. 

Another reason it’s important for you to have deep knowledge of your customer’s apps is that you have insight about their cash flow. If they write a yearly $50,000 check for one of their apps, you’ll know that might not be the best time to ask for a budget increase. Give them options for off-setting the cost of future technologies, or for an app that costs less. Help them by understanding their problems, and being a solution in the process. 

MSPs should also consider becoming experts in some of the apps that are dominating the marketplace, to guide your client and possibly pick up more project-based work with them. For example, if they’re thinking about Salesforce, and you have a Salesforce expert on staff, you can help them get the app set up on a project basis.

You can also guide them toward apps that you use for your own business. If they’re thinking about a CRM, and you use HubSpot, you can give them insight into how you use it, and context for how you could help them use it. This is another sales opportunity that doesn’t have to be pushy. Give them the information and let them make their own decisions.

The proliferation of SaaS apps means that MSPs will own less and less of the solution moving forward. It should be a part of your model to help with app deployment, security, and organization. It might make sense for larger enterprise clients to have an internal app specialist as a point of contact for you. Whatever the answer is, make sure it’s a solution, not a problem for them to solve.

Customers often don’t go to their MSPs for questions about SaaS apps. Remedy this by being a part of the process. SaaS apps are here to stay– it’s up to MSPs to work with them, not against them.

Do Position Your MSP as a Partner

MSPs have been trying for decades to learn how to become strategic advisors to the businesses they partner with. MSPs are more than a hosted helpdesk, and should be a part of a business’ executive planning.

The problem as Alex sees it, is that MSPs have spent too long trying to justify their existence. Justifying an MSP is not going to change– there will always be ups and downs in the business. It’s the nature of technology to be dynamic, even revolutionary. It doesn’t have to mean that MSPs will be completely replaced. Build trust with your customer through a deep knowledge of their business, and how you can better help their bottom line. Position yourself as a consultant, a partner. Use QBRs to meet with the entire executive team, get to know each of their needs, and help them solve each of their problems.

You should be able to go into your QBR with questions like “How do we address this fiscal cliff I project happening in 2025?” Look ahead for your customer. Ask them how their business is growing or scaling back in the next six months, two years, five years. Utilize your technical knowledge to help them solve higher-level problems.

We are living in a data revolution that gives MSPs the opportunity to be ahead of the curve. Help them transform user data and people data into actionable information about their employees and how they spend their time. Guide them through deployment of SaaS apps that will change the way they run their business. Be a helping hand and a subject matter expert, and you’ll build trusting relationships that will stand the test of time. 

For more insights on how to use your QBR as an opportunity, watch the complete webinar here.


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