Strategic Business Reviews: MSP’s Guide to Success

MSPs Most Powerful Sales Tool

Strategic Business Reviews (SBRs) are perhaps the most powerful sales tool in the world of Managed Service Providers (MSPs).

When done right, SBRs can really boost your reputation with clients and fuel substantial sales growth. However, the margin for error is thin. A poorly executed SBR can bore your client to tears and, in the worst-case scenario, damage the client relationship irreparably. 

In this guide, we’ll delve into the world of Strategic Business Reviews, why they often fail or aren’t successful, and provide you with a step-by-step blueprint for conducting successful SBRs that engage clients, provide value, and drive growth. 


Download Your Free Strategic Business Review Template

Section 1: Why Strategic Business Reviews Often Fail

Understanding Strategic Business Reviews

Strategic Business Reviews, often referred to as Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), Technical Business Reviews or Semi-Annual Business Reviews are a structured process through which MSPs can assess clients’ current strategies, add value, adjust and improve performance where needed, enabling them to stay competitive. 

The emphasis should be on strategic planning rather than delving into the day-to-day operational or service issues. Adopting this strategic approach as an MSP, takes you beyond the role of mere tech support and positions you as a trusted business advisor, providing a platform to identify cross-sell opportunities. 

By adopting this approach, you not only foster trust but also cement your MSP as a key partner in your client’s ongoing business strategy. This, in turn, amplifies your overall value and contributes to greater profitability. 

Overcoming Common SBR Pitfalls

Many MSPs fall into the trap of conducting SBRs that offer little value to the client. The typical, ineffective SBR agenda often includes: 

  • Starts with a brief session of casual conversation. 
  • The MSP takes the spotlight, highlighting recent developments and successes within their own company  
  • Delving into performance metrics, including tickets, uptime, backups, SLA compliance, and survey scores. 
  • The sales pitch takes centre stage, as the MSP presents a range of products and services you hope they’ll consider purchasing. 

Yet, this approach has its limitations, primarily because it lacks genuine client engagement: 

  • It predominantly revolves around the MSP, their actions, and their sales agenda. 
  • The wrong people attend the meeting, and the content often lacks the depth necessary to attract key decision-makers. 
  • It fails to provide clients with truly valuable insights and uses language too technical to understand. This leaves them without the information needed to improve services and better meet their needs 
  • Upselling focuses the client on the cost rather than the potential benefits 

The Key Principles of a Successful SBR

To conduct a successful Strategic Business Review, focus on these key principles: 

1. Client-Centric Approach: 
Put the client at the centre of the conversation. Understand their business challenges and goals. 

2. Value-Oriented Communication: 
Provide insights and value during the review, not just statistics. Discuss how your services align with the client’s objectives. 

3. Engage Decision-Makers: 
Ensure that decision-makers attend the SBR. It’s essential to have the right people in the room to drive change. 

4. Open Dialogue: 
Encourage open communication. Let the client share their concerns, feedback, and expectations. 

5. Tailored Recommendations: 
Recommend solutions that directly address the client’s pain points and objectives, don’t just focus on up-selling.

6. Fresh and Relevant Insights:
Bring new and valuable content to the meeting using the ‘Challenger’ approach of sales. Share IT-specific developments or trends to demonstrate your commitment to adding value. This approach ensures your SBR remains engaging and relevant, guaranteeing your client feels the meeting is a valuable use of their time. 

Section 2: A Ready-to-Use Template for Engaging Your Clients in a Strategic Business Review

Curious about how to conduct a Strategic Business Review?  

We’ve got you covered with our SBR template and agenda, built and utilised by MSPs. With these, you can use them to actively engage your clients, provide value, enhance your revenue, and establish yourself as a trusted advisor.

Use this agenda to outline key discussion points for your SBR, as well as any specific topics where you’ll need input from your client.

This not only prepares you but also offers your client the opportunity to get ready, allocating resources and time as needed for a more effective and efficient collaboration. 

Strategic Business Review Template

If you’re not currently conducting SBRs, or are not ready to transition to a dedicated platform – Our template is a valuable resource to get you started. It provides a structured approach to SBRs, helping you engage clients and deliver value.  

Below is a template you can use for your SBRs, or you can download our FREE Strategic Business Review template here.

  • Introduction: Set the agenda and objectives for the meeting.

  • Client Overview: Reflect on the past 12 months, highlighting significant developments and achievements. Identify areas of focus and any recent changes since the last meeting.

  • Challenges and Opportunities: Discuss the client’s pain points and areas for improvement. Ensure this is related to their short- and long-term goals.

  • Performance Review: Present key performance metrics, focusing on what matters most to the client. Recap on what went well, any issues, and provide updates on ongoing initiatives. Keep this short with a simple report.

  • Let your client do the talking: This should be the main portion of your SBR. It should revolve around their requirements and linking their objectives with your services. Ask them about what they’re confident with, and where they might have concerns.

  • Recommendations: Then based on your conversation, you can pick a particular topic they express concern about and provide them with useful solutions. Remember you are not selling here; you are their strategic advisor. Propose tailored solutions to address challenges and achieve goals.

  • Time to talk about you: Finish up by discussing what you need from them: What investments are necessary, and why? What software are you recommending for them to purchase, and how do these relate to the current issues they are having? Always focus on the desired outcomes, i.e. WIFT (What’s In It For Them). Clients are generally more interested in the results than the process, so it’s crucial to communicate the anticipated outcomes clearly. Outline the action plan, responsibilities, and timelines.

  • Feedback and Q&A: Invite the client to share their thoughts, questions, and concerns. 

Download Your Strategic Business Review Template

Section 3: How To Prepare for Your Strategic Business Review Beforehand

Data Gathering and In-Depth Analysis

Before scheduling an SBR, it’s crucial to plan the following meticulously:

Start by gathering data and conducting thorough research. Analyse the data and track the progress made since the last meeting.  

Also, go back to the goals you discussed in the previous meeting. Check if you’ve achieved them or create a clear plan to reach them. This well-rounded approach ensures a thorough assessment and guides your strategic decisions effectively. 

Make sure you’re prepared across other angles too and remove the potential elephant in the room. For example, you don’t want to waste your limited hour discussing recent IT issues. Have a strategy and make sure these are ironed out before your meeting. 

Get the Right People in the Room for Maximum Impact

The goal here is to align the IT strategy to the client’s business strategy. 

Begin by identifying the key stakeholders within the client’s organisation and your business, who should participate in the SBR. It’s crucial to have decision-makers present rather than junior technicians, so that you can understand what the business goals/ challenges are. Ideally, aim for a high-level engagement, such as an MD-to-MD connection.

We recommend that the following individuals be included in the SBR: 

  • C-suite executives 
  • Department heads 
  • Your technical account manager 
  • Your Customer success manager

You can use performance metric reviews to keep up with client technicians, you can do this by creating a dedicated metric dashboard in which your clients can see how you are performing. SBRs should be kept for higher level, strategic discussion. 

Doing this will help ensure that the SBR has the proper gravity and that all stakeholders understand the connection between their business and the services your MSP provides.

Get Your Frequency Right

Instead of clustering all your SBRs at the end of each quarter, a more effective strategy involves staggering them throughout the year. This approach offers several advantages, such as providing ample time for thorough preparations and establishing a sustainable, less hectic rhythm. 

One practical method to implement this staggered scheduling is by organizing SBRs into distinct slots: 

  • Slot one: January, April, July, and October.  
  • Slot two: February, May, August, and November. 
  • Slot three: March, June, September, and December.

Feel free to customise these slots based on your unique needs, such as incorporating a monthly slot or an every-other-month slot. By adopting this approach, you can streamline the planning and scheduling of SBRs, ensuring a more balanced workload throughout the year. 

Strategic Content Planning

Thoughtful content planning is key. It involves aligning your discussion topics with your client’s specific business objectives to make the SBR more engaging and relevant. 

Start by identifying the core areas you’ll cover during the SBR, focusing on the client’s current challenges, opportunities, and overarching goals. Develop solutions to address potential shortcomings or weaknesses in your client’s strategy or service delivery. By presenting actionable recommendations, you show your dedication to finding practical solutions and driving your client toward success. 

In addition to this, an effective SBR should also identify cross-selling and white space opportunities. Plan your battle cards to align known pain points with service values, making it easier to introduce relevant solutions during the review. This proactive approach can lead to increased trust and additional business opportunities.

Proactive Issue Resolution

Prepare for any potential challenges or concerns that might surface during the SBR. Invest adequate time in identifying areas of improvement or weaknesses, and craft effective solutions or strategies to address them. The aim is to minimize unexpected issues and always present solutions alongside identified problems. 

Prior to your SBR meeting, it’s a good practice to review your service desk tickets and recent issues, particularly those marked as P1s. This ensures a smooth and coordinated discussion with your client, helping to avoid any unexpected hiccups at the start.the

Scheduling the SBR

Firstly, you’ll need to create a ‘Strategic Review Schedule’ custom field in your PSA company page. Then you will need to create a workflow to automate the following SBR ticket creations – Start the following scheduling queue about 2-3 weeks before your targeted meeting time: 

  • Make your initial call/ send an email to your client, inviting them to your strategic business review and encouraging them to set up a time. 
  • Wait three days, then create a task to schedule a call and send a second email. 
  • Within the next couple of days, you call. 
  • If you haven’t scheduled a meeting, send an email 2 days after your call and schedule a task to call again. 
  • Have the second call, wait 3 days, and send a final email.

See the following flow chart of the Strategic Business Review scheduling communications flow; this is what you should put in your system:  

To view this in a new window, or to do download – click this link.

Typically, clients tend to schedule a meeting after the initial call or even sooner.

But if you receive no response following this sequence, it’s essential to delve deeper and uncover the reasons behind it. This could signal either an issue or a chance to alleviate some of their responsibilities. 

Once they confirm a date and time, update the ticket and forward the schedule to send a 120-day service report, putting them in a follow-up queue as per the above 

Make sure to send all materials, pre-reads and reminders to ensure everyone is prepared and attending. 

Post-Strategic Business Review; Follow–Up and Action Plan

So your Strategic Business Review was a success! The hard parts is over, but the proof is now in the pudding 

It’s at this stage that 80% of sales are lost, because the one responsible for follow-ups, fails to take action – don’t find yourself in that position. 

To avoid this being you, follow up with the following within 2 days of your meeting: 

  • Thank You: Send a thank-you email expressing your appreciation for their time. 
  • Meeting Recap: Summarise the key points discussed during the SBR. 
  • Action Plan: Outline the agreed-upon action items, responsibilities, and deadlines. 
  • Regular Updates: Keep the client informed about progress and improvements. 
Make sure to keep the flow of your Strategic Business Reviews consistent with your agreed strategy and regularly check in with clients to avoid missing any cross-selling opportunities.

Building Client Partnerships and Amplifying Growth

Strategic Business Reviews are not just about showcasing your MSPs capabilities; they’re a powerful tool for building meaningful client relationships and driving business growth.  

By shifting the focus from self-promotion to client-centric discussions, you can transform SBRs into a valuable asset that enhances your reputation, increases client retention, and ultimately leads to higher profits. This will make it easier for them to buy from you again. 

But remember, it’s not about what you can sell, but what you can achieve together. 

Download your FREE Strategic Business Review Template

Your guide to conducting thorough business assessments, identifying growth opportunities, and developing actionable strategies for success.

Use this template to equip your with the insights and tools required to gain clarity within your business.

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