So my feeling on Graduation is that it’s less a post live meeting and more a post first value meeting. I would typically say that we are identifying a measure of first value that we want to achieve that impacts their business in some positive way in order to graduate.
I think graduation is a step that both you and your customer will know you have reached once you have worked together to create and confirm value (i.e. business reviews being done out of Bolstra, time being tracked in Bolstra, first time accurate picture of ARR in Bolstra, etc.)
I think it should be a bit simpler than we have it. It’s too early to have achieved much change or impact to KPI’s.
I think the aim is to acknowledge we are live, we have achieved our first value goal, to set expectations for next steps and collect feedback (specifically collecting a WIN CONFESSION that we can use to promote Bolstra to others)
As a slightly related question, I would like to have people describe what Bolstra is in their own words for their organization. At that point in the relationship, what does it mean currently and potentially to them.
Why is Graduation Important?
Graduation is the first formal business review after reaching first value. Some refer to these reviews as QBRs (Quarterly Business Reviews). Because customer lifecycles vary from business to business, we recommend a format for routine Retrospectives, with Graduation being the specific business review meeting that has the goal of confirming first value attainment.
Graduation is a significant inflection point in your customer relationship. It’s the first opportunity your customer and you have to agree to real value attainment. Being well-prepared with documentation about what’s been done and what goals were set (and attained) is vital to a successful Graduation.
WHO NEEDS TO KNOW HOW TO Conduct a Graduation?
Customer Success Managers typically conduct Graduation meetings; however, these business review meetings should include executive sponsors, and it may be appropriate to include executive leadership from your own organization at times.
PUTTING Graduation IN CONTEXT
Graduation occurs at the end of the Land cycle. You may or may not have already conducted a retrospective meeting. The uniqueness of a Graduation meeting is the explicit agenda of assessing and confirming first value attainment.
GUIDELINES FOR Graduation
Since Graduation may be the single most important meeting you have during the Land stage of your customer lifecycle, it is extremely important to be well-prepared. A Graduation meeting that’s done right will result in increased customer confidence, and pave the way toward loyalty, and ultimately advocacy. Here are some key things to remember when preparing for, scheduling, conducting and assessing your Graduation meeting:
1. Schedule Graduation far enough in advance that the people you want to attend have it on their calendars. This should include your executive sponsor and other key contacts within the account. Depending upon the stability of the relationship at this point, you may also want to include some of your own management team. This would be the case if you suspect that your customer may be dissatisfied with your solution to date, and having management available to them at your meeting would be helpful.
2. Take time to reflect for yourself on where the account is and what’s been done to get to this point. If you were the customer, would you agree that first value has been attained, based upon the stated goals? If so, what proof do you have? If not, why not? Have a full account of what’s been done thusfar.
3. Come prepared to recognize the “wins” you’ve had and bring evidence/proof of the value your solution has brought to your customer. (Ideally this meeting should be a head nod with your customer, but if you perceive there’s a difference of opinion about value attainment, feel confident in stating your case with data from the work you’ve done.)
4. Identify shortfalls and reasons for them. When broaching these within the Graduation meeting, do not get defensive or try to justify yourself. Understand why goals weren’t met and be prepared to discuss openly how to move forward.
5. At the Graduation meeting, stay focused on reviewing the stated goals and the steps taken to date. Record customer comments and feedback. Use that information to formulate a plan for the next cycle of adoption. Address all additional issues that a customer has, and use that conversation to drive goal-setting. Document new goals.
6. Use the Graduation meeting as an opportunity to explicitly ask your customer what “wins” they’ve experienced with your solution. If you assess that your customer is a true advocate for your solution, ask if you can use their comments/use case in your marketing efforts.
7. Define next steps with the executive sponsor and the key users. Agree upon new goals and metrics that will determine the attainment of those goals.
8. Share all collateral you used in the meeting and the agreed upon next steps and goals with your customer upon completion of the Graduation meeting.
WHAT DO WE LEARN THROUGH Graduation?
A Graduation meeting is a very valuable opportunity to assess whether or not your customer is attaining value from your solution. You may find an opportunity to capitalize on your customer’s advocacy, OR you may find you need to amend your approach to delivery. Being well prepared, having the right people in the meeting, and following up with a full summary and plan for moving forward will go a long way in continuing to develop trust, confidence and loyalty in your customer. As you move into the Adoption stage of your customer lifecycle, Graduation is a predictor of future advocacy from your customer. Don’t minimize the importance of this meeting.