As a revenue leader at large and small technology companies, I’ve spent the last 15 years of my career attending a LOT of quarterly board meetings. These meetings—once-a-quarter events that take countless hours to prepare for—can create a lot of stress. The prep and the practice can be draining and, more importantly, distracting from your daily grind. This is all necessary because the board meeting is such a high-stakes event. As a wise mentor once told me, no one ever gets a promotion from a board meeting—but people sure do get fired afterwards.
So if you’re the executive responsible for driving revenue growth at your company, how do you make your portion of these meetings as engaging and impactful as possible? I’ve got some hard-earned advice on that front, as well as suggestions for five key, must-have board slides—customized for leaders at B2B, software-as-a-service companies–that will help you give a great presentation and preserve your sanity.
Size matters—and so does consistency
I’ve been part of company board meetings where the slide deck was 30 total slides. But I’ve also been in meetings and where decks ran more than 150 slides. You’ll need to gauge what level of detail is right for your organization, but my general rule is to cut your slides until it hurts the narrative of the deck.
You should also strive for consistency. You’ll want to deliver the same sets of metrics and details in each quarterly meeting, so that directors and executives can make apples-to-apples comparisons of key data.
One caveat: The world is evolving and the idea of “cohort data” is thriving. As businesses evolve and new models like consumption- or payment-based pricing become more common, you may need to adjust certain metrics over time, particularly if you are a B2B SaaS company.
Deliver the goods
From the delivery point of view, I’ll share a couple of ideas. The first is fairly well known: Don’t present slides; present the story. Board members are skilled at thin slicing through data and composing their questions ahead of time. Don’t feel the need to present every nuance around your data–get to the point.
The other piece of advice here is to look ahead. First-time attendees at board meetings often lean toward the look-back, which is probably not where you should be focusing most of your energy. Read through your presentation and see how much is forward-looking versus backward-looking. Suffice to say, the majority should paint the picture of what you’re going to do, not what’s happened. The board received a board flash from the CEO right after the quarter closed and has now read the deck. What you’re here to do is share the adjustments you’re making to lead the business forward.
Finally: Create an appendix. This allows your content – new initiatives, changes to go-to-market strategies, product topics—to stay front-and-center and not get bogged down by too much data. But having an appendix still allows the board to view more-detailed, quarter-over-quarter changes.
Focus on these five, must-have slides
There are five revenue-focused slides that that I traditionally build my “talk time” around during a board presentation. Some versions of these slides have been in my board decks for the past decade. These are data-rich slides, so again, prepare to discuss the story they’re telling and not the data. For example, your board members will notice if your sales velocity is speeding up and your average selling price is trending down. They can see that in your numbers–so you need to explain why that is happening.
Slide #1: Headline reel
The first slide starts right up front, after the cover page and agenda, I think every deck should start with the headline reel — the key results of what you achieved last quarter. Regardless of whether your quarter was good or bad, don’t make the board members search through the deck to find the details. Your specific, key metrics may vary, but for most SaaS companies, there are four key areas that should always make the front page: bookings, net-revenue retention (NRR), gross retention and cash burn. The board is looking to learn if the business is growing, flat, or trending down, so strive to clearly present these.
Bookings are self-explanatory — how’d we do against the plan? In the example below, I used a simple color-coding system to highlight the results and give more “tone” to the slide on how we performed. As you might expect, green is good, yellow is a warning sign and red spells trouble.
NRR and churn are next, and in my experience, the board likes to see these side-by-side. Did you exceed NRR because you booked a huge expansion deal, or did you do it steadily? Seeing these two metrics together can address that quickly.
Last is cash position. We all like to see how efficiently we’re operating, so adding this metric provides a high-level view to the quarterly results.
Obviously, you can add other items that are critical to your company, like OKR performance, NPS etc. But I find these four are the cornerstone elements of the opening slide.
Slide #2: The detailed, five-quarter view
The next few slides provide increasingly deeper levels of detail. I’ve found that 1) being consistent on what I’m presenting each meeting, and 2) answering the question before it is asked is well received by the board.
In my opinion, this second slide is the most critical one in the deck. It presents what your results were at a deeper level than the highlight reel and shows it over a five-quarter view. Why five quarters? Because that timeframe gives you a view of year-over-year results from the same quarter, plus a look at how the last three quarters have progressed.
A few additional comments:
The ARR line of your chart can be expanded to display your detailed buckets of revenue: new, cross-sell and upsell. I think displaying the new vs. expansion sales split is critical, especially if you start releasing subsequent products into the market. This helps you see how that product adoption is going.
Logos and customer count are next: These two lines allow the reader to understand what the gross new number of customers added the quarter is, and see the total customer count (and obviously, lets you do quick math on how many customers churned).
The ASP, or average revenue per customer, and the average sales cycle come next and give a sense of the velocity of the business. Did deal volume pick up yet ASP dropped? Can I see that the cycles are moving faster? Could that be indicative of higher competitive pressure forcing higher discounts? Simply put, these three data points provide telemetry to what’s happening at the deal level.
Finally, I like to track deals over $100K (after some time, this metric may move up to $250K, $500K, etc.). Also worth reporting are deals with greater than 12-month terms. As you push upward toward more enterprise selling, a good metric of success is the number of these long-term contracts you’re signing.
Slide #3: Segments, geographic regions and verticals
This is the sales-detail slide. It breaks down any segment, geography or verticals you have and lets you evaluate how they performed.
Bookings vs. plan is the opening act here, followed by number of deals, plus the segment ASP and the sales-cycle length. I’d suggest you split this between new business and expansion business, so you can have visibility on how both sides of the business performed (especially if you have a single AE that sells both new and expansion – viewing it this way lets you see where you’re winning and what needs attention).
Slide 4: Pipeline
What BoD deck would be complete without a sales pipeline slide? What’s necessary here is looking back at the quarter you just finished and focusing on your conversion rates. Adding in these results from the quarter before is useful too–it lets you start seeing a trend.
Specifically for companies that sell to SMB markets or run cycles that close in less than 90 days, the in-quarter, create-and-close stat is a useful metric. This data point helps you see how many deals get opened and closed within the 90-day quarter.
And you don’t want to leave out the current quarter–your board will want to see how the pipe looks to get a sense of this quarter feels. And for bonus points: Some CROs put their top deals on this slide, creating an ask for board members for connections, intros and other help.
Slide 5: Sales-team health
The last critical slide concerns team attainment. This is your “sales-health” slide. There are two critical elements of health – what percentage of AEs are attaining quota and how are we hiring versus the plan.
AE attainment is the barometer for the company psychology . . . are we a winning team or losing team? And I have a saying—winning is infectious. Not only does the selling org celebrate, but the whole company knows when sales is beating quota. This vibe travels fast. When your team is greater than 50% of quota, then the culture is winning.
I like to show attainment for the current quarter and at least the prior two quarters. But that’s only true in context of the hiring plan. Back to winning psychology: If your entire sales team is above quota, but you’ve only hired 50% of your planned headcount, it probably means you don’t have enough quota on the street. So while the sales team is succeeding, the company is likely missing quota. This is no-bueno for CRO job security.
Worth considering – show your hired headcount vs planned headcount, with extra credit for showing ramped headcount versus the plan.
In my experience, I’ve unfortunately been behind the amount of quota at the street level versus what the plan is, so this slide keeps me honest. If you see a company that is substantially behind its hiring plan, that’s a company that is missing targets.
Finally, some of you may notice what’s noticeably absent from these slides: CAC, magic number, lifetime value, and Rule-of-40 type metrics. I admit, these could be included here, but I 1) consider this data to be more financially focused and less sales-related, and 2) that would have forced me to write a blog post about the SIX key slides every sales leader needs.
That’s a wrap! In conclusion: For most B2B SaaS companies, these slides stand the test of time. But I’m interested in the critical, desert-island metrics you look for that I may be missing, so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional data you think deserve to be on this top-five slide list.
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