The Quarterly Business Review (QBR) Is Dead. And That’s a Good Thing.

AOL Instant Messenger. BlackBerry. Flash. MySpace. Gawker. Some things aren’t meant to last forever. The graveyard of history is filled with once indispensable technologies, platforms and products. The cycle of innovation and obsolescence is what drives us forward—ever onward, ever upward.

We at Kapta would like to consign another item to that scrapheap: the quarterly business review (QBR).

Once ubiquitous in the world of account management, the QBR has outlived its usefulness. While for decades it played a vital role in the relationship between account managers and clients, the QBR was a convention of a different—slower, less connected—era. The world has changed, but the QBR has not changed with it. To borrow Nietzsche, The QBR is dead, and we—society—have killed it.

Let’s shed a tear, sprinkle a handful of dirt, and raise a glass.

QBRs once made sense

To celebrate the demise of the QBR is not to deny its former importance. Just the opposite. In the world they were born into—a world of landlines, fax machines, and postal service—QBRs were responsive and timely. Earnings and sales reports happened on the quarter, and so did board meetings. The QBR fit the pace and schedule of business.

At the same time, business itself looked very different. It was hierarchical and rigid, not networked and nimble. It had closed doors and silver-haired CEOs, not open office plans and twenty-something marketing officers. In this era, QBRs were tactical and unidirectional: they offered an account manager a bit of face time with their client—a chance to “prove their worth” to the guy (and it was almost always a guy) in charge. A good QBR was a slide deck that reminded a client everything the account team had done for them in the past three months.

We now live in a very different world—a world of Slack, texts, and emails—and move at a very different pace. Headlines break overnight. Products go from obscurity to necessity in a week. Businesses evolve not by the month but by the minute.

The CEO now wears jeans and a hoodie and works from a couch in the corner, next to the intern and the kombucha keg. “Business casual” means socks and sandals. Hourlong meetings have become 15-minute stand-ups.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that the QBR has become a running joke. In our age of hyper-connected, on-demand everything, why make clients wait three months for an overly formal, low-value meeting that no one asked for and everyone dreads?

With so much technology at our fingertips, time has become our most precious commodity, the thing we never have enough of. Ironically, QBRs are both too slow and too long. They don’t happen often enough, and when they do happen, they drag on interminably.

Kapta has a better way

As we’ve written in the past, QBRs suck. How do we know? Because we asked clients directly. They told us things like:

  • “I ask my vendors for 4 charts and they show up with 55 PowerPoint slides.”
  • “I’ve started delegating these meetings to my staff because they just aren’t important to me.”
  • “Who says these meetings have to be every 90 days? Sometimes I need a vendor communicating with me much more often, sometimes much less. But they never ask how I want to work with them.”

We at Kapta don’t intend to improve the QBR but to bury it forever. Forget quarterly reports: we’re helping Key Account Managers do continuous management instead. If QBRs are a one-way flow of information, Kapta is a two-sided conversation. It’s designed and built with relationships in mind.

Imagine if, instead of QBRs, clients had a platform where they could get the information they wanted, when they wanted it. Imagine if, instead of Excel files and desktop folders, Key Account Managers had a platform where they could track a client’s strategic goals and the specific action items required to achieve them. Now imagine all that functionality in a single platform, with Key Account Managers able to customize the level of visibility between themselves and their clients.

That’s the future we envision and the product we’re building.

Imagine a product that’s strategic, not tactical

Kapta allows Key Account Managers to keep their finger on the pulse of client relationships, share information on demand, and be in control of action items. It helps them answer the fundamental question that drives future business: “What are my client’s strategic goals and how am I serving them?”

One feature we’re particularly proud of is the is the Action Plan, which helps Key Account Managers break down a client’s strategic goals and then plan, organize, and track the steps needed to get there.

The Action Plan allows you to clearly link all your work and activities to the customer’s most important business goals, so you can see exactly what your team is working on—and why. This gives you total visibility into all the moving parts of managing a large, complex customer. And best of all, it’s done in real time.

With a QBR, the Key Account Manager waits until the end of the quarter to gauge her team’s progress and then scrambles to assemble report that’s less about the client’s goals than it is about keeping their business. With Kapta, both the client and the Key Account Manager can see from day one what the account team is doing to meet the client’s strategic goals and track, in real time, where the account team is ahead of or behind schedule.

By maximizing the flow of information, Kapta minimizes the chance of unwanted surprises. It allows Key Account Managers to keep sight of their client’s top-level goals—their final destination—while helping them spot the obstacles—the potholes, red lights, and traffic jams—in their way.

Kapta is an evolving technology

Like any tech company, we’re constantly evolving our product and expanding its functionality, hacking new features and killing off lousy ones. We’ll never be “finished,” because finished products are obsolete ones.

We bring to Kapta the same values a Key Account Manager brings to her clients: curiosity, collaboration, and a spirit of service. We can build a pretty good product on our own—but we can’t build a killer one. For that, we’re going to need a little help. Your help.

Key Account Managers:

  • What are your biggest complaints or worst headaches when it comes to QBRs?
  • If you could kill the QBR forever, what would you offer your clients instead?
  • Is your organization ready for a post-QBR world?

Leave your comments, rants, or suggestions below. Let us know you if agree or, better yet, tell us why we’re wrong.

The QBR is dead. Let’s get this wake started.

How to Prepare a Useful Quarterly Business Review

A Quarterly Business Review (QBR) could be one of the most important meetings on your agenda. It’s not the same as your average business report with a client, so you can’t expect to prepare for it the same way. When your next QBR rolls around for a key client, are you ready to set it up and host it properly?

Purpose of the QBR

To get in the right state of mind about hosting a QBR, you need to make sure you understand what the point of the meeting is in the first place. These meetings are a chance for you and your client to discuss the progress both parties have made towards mutual goals. QBRs are only done for key account clients that are given special priorities and attention, including an engagement plan that maps out the strategic partnership between your company and theirs.

Essential Parts to a QBR

What makes a QBR different from a general report meeting? The essential elements of QBRs vary significantly from normal business meetings. They’re not meant to be one-sided meetings. Instead, both your company and your client need to be heavily involved in the discussion. You should build a meeting that includes all or most of these elements if you for a higher chance of success:

  1. Complete Focus on the Client
  2. Detailed Feedback from the Client about the Partnership
  3. Listening and Understanding Client Issues and Concerns (Ask Open-ended Questions)
  4. Updating VOC Forms and Understanding
  5. Equal Participation from You and Your Client
  6. Narrow Meeting Focus
  7. Requests Made to the Client
  8. Feedback from Your Company
  9. Professional, Interactive Data Presentations

It may look like a long list of pieces, but it would be difficult to sacrifice any of these included things and still have an efficient, useful QBR meeting. These meetings are not supposed to be long and drawn-out, and they shouldn’t be a monologue from your side.

Common QBR Mistakes

Although the list above mentions most of the pieces that should be included in a successful QBR, there are still other things you should keep in mind before the meeting. Here are a few of the mistakes many companies make during QBRs, so you can learn from their experiences instead of having these issues happen in your own meeting:

  • Talking about Your Company and Your Perspective Too Much
  • Using the QBR as a Place to Pitch Products and Services to Your Existing Clients
  • Show Up and Throw Up Salesman Presentations
  • Complete Focus on the Past Quarter without Looking at the Future
  • Canned Presentations with Too Much Unnecessary Data

This is not an exhaustive list of everything that can go wrong with a QBR, but it’s a good resource to help you understand the most commonly made mistakes for this type of meeting.

Preparing for a Productive QBR

To help your team get on the right track before the meeting, you should do a lot of prep work ahead of time. There are four things you should absolutely be doing when you’re preparing to a host an upcoming Quarterly Business Review with a key account client.

  1. Ask Your Client to Prepare for Their Part

Since you want equal participation in the meeting, you will need to notify your client that you want to hear from them, and give them some specific guidance about what they should prepare. This gives them the time to analyze the partnership and bring something useful to the table to discuss with you.

  1. Examine What’s Working in the Partnership

Do your own analysis to find out what’s going on between your companies that’s really working well. You can find evidence of these positive points by examining progress towards goals and any potential benefits that have come out of the partnership so far.

  1. Examine What’s Not Working in the Partnership

The focus of the meeting cannot be only on what’s going well. You need to also take a serious look at what’s not working out well, so you can discuss those issues with the client.

  1. Limit the Guest List to Essential Personnel Only

You should do this before you even plan the date and time of the QBR. Make sure you’re trimming down the guest list to include as few people as possible, only including those who have some sort of relevance to the meeting itself. No one should be there if they aren’t directly related to the partnership or topics discussed in the meeting. Include people who are critical of the partnership when possible.

Want to dive deeper into account management strategy?

QBRs are often not leveraged or conducted properly. Our online course for account managers walks you through the QBR process and downloadable exercises so that you can leverage this helpful account management tool.