Audience: Managers of Customer Success and Account Management Teams, CSMs, and AMs that are managing key strategic accounts within their Book of Business.

The Problem With Most EBRs

Let’s start out with a blunt but necessary truth we need to acknowledge.

Most Executive Business Reviews (EBRs) are ineffective, not strategically tied to business initiatives, and not attended by executives so they tend to be update meetings masquerading as EBRs. There are three common problem areas that prevent you from delivering effective EBRs:

  1. Agendas are tactical and do not address or map to strategic initiatives and overall business goals.
  2. Quantifiable results that are related to business level goals are not provided or presented as evidence of success against a mutual action plan.
  3. Business or departmental results are not tied back to the business’ financial performance.

Let’s focus on this last point first. As we have discussed in a previous blog post, ‘How to Speak to a CFO Now’, the CFO is now involved in the vast majority of sales and renewals discussions as a result of the economic downturn.They are approaching every conversation with an eye on cost reduction and will need hard evidence to gain commitment to re-invest in a solution and, even when convinced, will likely try to negotiate the price point down.

If you don’t get the CFO to buy-in you likely aren’t retaining the revenue. With this in mind, here are strategies to gain CFO buy-in leading up to a renewal:

The Objectives:

  1. Inform the CFOs about the renewal & get them to attend the EBR
  2. Structure EBRs so that the results your product and service can help achieve is tied back to financial goals that the CFO cares about.

In order to accomplish the above, you must get truly strategic in your Executive Business Reviews. You are part way there if you’re already multi-threaded and engaged with executives.

In cases where you are single threaded and lacking executive engagement then the bad news is that you have weeks of work ahead. The good news is that these steps are tried and tested and will help you to get CFO buy-in.

How to Prepare for an EBR in 3 Steps

Preparing for a strategic EBR can be broken down into three phases. Let’s review each one.

In order to engage strategically you need to plan for months leading up to EBRs to get this level of engagement and attendance. Engagement with senior level leaders takes time, as does building an understanding of their business level goals. This requires a consistent and relevant engagement to build credibility to confirm you are not wasting their time.

In order to make senior level engagement a reality you need to take these three steps:

  1. First, conduct Stakeholder Mapping and identify all the key players you need to engage and build relationships with. These are the decision makers (CFO), the budget holders (departmental VPs), and the influencers (champions, power users). Don’t be afraid to leverage your internal executives to connect at a peer level.

  2. Second, once these individuals are identified, create messaging that is appropriate for each stakeholder. Think about their roles and responsibilities, what their use cases are, and what goals and KPIs they care about and are measured on. Think about what stresses them out and gets them excited. Tap into their emotions with your engagement. Then connect all these back to the overarching goals of the CFO to save money or increase profit through their defined initiatives.

  3. Third, to build relationships with these stakeholders, start sharing relevant content and messaging. Show value by sharing knowledge about their use cases and challenges in the appropriate context for each stakeholder. For example, don’t talk about product usage stats with a senior leader, talk about industry trends and business outcomes and the role that your solution has in driving their success.

For Example

Let’s say you are trying to engage a CFO and you’ve read their financial statements. You’ve identified that a key priority for them is reducing their costs by 20% and to achieve profitability by the end of their fiscal year. Part of the value proposition of your product is that you allow companies to consolidate siloed data onto one platform, reducing the need for multiple vendors for data warehousing. Your solution also allows for data to be reported and analyzed with a less manual effort. As a result, fewer people are required to gather, analyze and disseminate critical information.

Armed with this information you can create messaging that will resonate with the CFO and that directly aligns to one of his/her/their top priorities. Now, asking for time on their calendar seems to be a prudent thing to do as it is tied to THEIR top initiative.

There are different tactics in which you can get this information in front of the CFO. You can reach out directly or you can have your champion(s) share this messaging and advocate on your behalf. Utilize the resources at your disposal to get your message heard. Make sure when you make the ask for time it is described in the correct way.


Throughout my work with {Champion Name} we’ve identified how we can accelerate your objective of a 20% cost reduction by XX% in the next 12 months. Please join us Friday at 10:00 am EST and I will share how a renewed plan will accomplish this goal.

Thank you,

{CSM/AM Name}

The Outcome

Over time you will begin to earn the trust, confidence, and interest of stakeholders at all levels. It is important to establish this foundation so that when it’s time to invite them to an EBR they are more likely to want to attend. If you don’t have this in place, there’s no better time to start than today.

If you’ve unfortunately burned bridges and interest by getting too tactical with senior audiences in the past, then you may have to work a bit harder at regaining their willingness to engage. This is where working with your main point of contact to drip the right level of information ‘up the chain’ and share the right level of information on your behalf can be immensely helpful.

Use this time to do your research. Prepare questions to diagnose pains and challenges your client is facing so you can position your messaging around areas that are top of mind. Identify quantifiable goals you can track against and prove progress on in later discussions (like your EBR).

Paint a vision for what the future looks like and how partnering with you and your company will help to achieve these goals. Get them excited and keep their interest in order to maintain engagement.

By engaging in this strategic manner and with strong financial acumen you will establish yourself as a trusted advisor and earn your place on the calendars of your executive and senior level stakeholders. Ultimately, this will help you build the alignment and buy-in you need to close deals and secure renewals.