Each of us, in an organisation, has a different, and rather a unique style of on-boarding new clients. And while it makes us immensely diverse and dynamic, it also runs the risk of making us look like we belong to completely different companies!
Here are a few of the broad strokes which can enable you, no matter which organisation you belong to, to on-board clients in a similar fashion and look like one unified collective.
What is Client On-boarding?
Client on-boarding is the process of introducing and welcoming clients into your company. Answering all questions and concerns about your product, getting on the same page about the road ahead and making sure your client feels confident in your ability to achieve their desired outcomes.
When should a client qualify to be On-boarded?
After A Thorough Background Check: It is imperative to do proper homework regarding every client before on-boarding them. Research & Research. Find out about their back-end operations, along with understanding and assessing if the business is a successful one.
After Assessing Your Own Requirement: It’s a good thing to know what you need. There’s no point going out on a date with an engineer if you’re looking for a drummer, right? So take some time to evaluate if you need that client at that point and if it looks like a good fit.
After Gauging Your Resources / Skills / Capacity: Be sure that there is the existence of skills, bandwidth, resources, software, tools, plans back home before making promises to the client. Any association can go completely south if you set big expectations and don’t follow through on them.
After Studying Size & Complexity: Retention is the key. While all of us want to catch only sharks, it’s important to be aware of the strength of your fishing pole. You may have the appetite, but it’s incumbent to understand if you’re ready to cook something bigger than yourself.
What you must do during On-boarding?
Be Pleasant, But Be Restrained: There is a thin line between being nice and being too familiar. Between being pleasant and being creepy. And while pleasantries are a vital part of service of any nature, it’s important to understand how much is too little and how much is too much. Would you give them a hug? maybe not. But would you shake their hand, maybe yes. Would you ask for a meeting in a pub? maybe not. But would you hold the door for them, maybe yes.
Choose Your Shirt, Shoes & Words In Advance: Now there is obviously a reason why companies around the world, place so much importance on attires and appearances. Because of the way you look, speak and present yourself, directly points to the company you represent. It tells people how you’ve been groomed and trained, or not. And if not done right, it could totally make a deal go sideways. So remember to look sharp and talk smart.
Hide All The Hanging Laundry: This can make or break the first impression if the client is coming home. Intimate all the staff on the floor about a client meeting, put it on the company schedule, provide directions and parking information, inform the reception, tell the bell boy and get the conference room cleaned / chairs dusted / board wiped well in advance. Also, make sure there’s water/tea/coffee in the pantry. Everyone likes being well-hosted.
Prepare Before You Propose: Don’t take tulips if she likes roses, yeah? Do enough homework/research to give them what they want/need. It is critical to pace out the proposal/pitch and plan it well. As soon as you’re done taking requirements, get a team designated to pitch and split the work efficiently, so that no one person is thrown under the bus or left slumming it out.
Know How Much To Pitch In In A Pitch: A pitch is a team effort and needs a bunch of people. So it’s important to know how to slice the pie. A pitch requires both the left brain and the right brain. So make sure both brains are adequately available. A great way to divide work is via Strategy / Content / Design / Delivery. And set deadlines to have a smooth rhythm.
Map Onboarding Milestones: When clients see you as a valuable partner in what they want to achieve, they’re far less likely to leave. So make sure you put your clients KPI's and metrics in the forefront right from the start. Ensure to them that you have a well-fleshed plan for them, and make them believe that their outcomes are your outcomes too.
Learn To Listen: Contrary to popular belief, clients are not stupid. And often understand their business needs much better than we claim to. So while it might seem like you’ve brainstormed enough with team members to come up with ideas and strategies that would be in the best interest of the client, it’s important to hear what they have to say.
Use The Feedback: The clients are not always correct. While we know that, it’s important not to pander, but take away some insight from the things they share. Checking in with clients at every step of the way, via phone calls, whatsapp, email, and using their feedback greatly improves the client experience and helps them feel more in sync and involved in the process.
Agreed? Once the client has confirmed that he will on-board, make sure you send a granular scope of work, details of start/end date of the contract and retainer to the Accounts Team after getting it vetted by the relevant stakeholder. Ensure the agreement comprises the detailed Scope of Work, Legal Ramifications (In Case of Breach) and Broken Down Commercials clearly.
Say It Nicely First: It’s never easy to do the money talk. But ensure there is a clear communication set up regarding this. Make sure they’ve attested the documentation of all agreed upon commercials at the time of signing the contract. Also, set a defined date (with a bit of buffer) by when they’ll have to pay the retainer every month.
What you should not do during On-boarding?
- When They’re Giving You Cliff Notes, Don’t Nod: The first rule is to let all cats out of the bag, before the client has become a client. So ask all questions (the right ones, the wrong ones, the smart ones and the silly ones).
- When You Follow; Don’t Chase: Whether it’s for a kick-off meeting, pitch meeting, or even a contract signing meeting, please don’t chase the client. Because that could well mean chasing them away. Do the following up as gently as possible. Space it out and always be polite.
- When They’re Being Unrealistic; Don’t Say Yes: While the idea is to bag the client, don’t do it at the cost of the company. There are clients that will be demanding and try to get unrealistic discounts on the retainer. Be polite, but be prudent. Make sure you say No when you need to.
What's after Onboarding?
Circle Back: As soon as you’ve finished onboarding, there are three things you could do. One: Send them a Thank You Note for believing in your company. Two: Send them a Welcome Letter via email as a courtesy of onboarding. Three: Send them a MOM outlining next steps and immediate agendas.
Create Bandwidth: Call for a meeting and get a team assigned immediately. Make sure the ones assigned to the client have the skills, bandwidth, and capacity to deal with their dynamic requirements. Next, educate the team sufficiently about the client and bring them up to speed.
Educate The Client: Help them understand more about your processes, platform, product, software, and of course, the team that will be working on the project.Parties who are equally interested and are investing equally, you can set up an icebreaker meeting for them.
Keep The Communication Going: It’s important to realize that on-boarding a client is only the first step of the journey. So make sure you keep in touch regularly with the client to update them about progress and to uncover any issues.
Build A Relationship: Collecting and focusing on client data, following up with successes and failures, the converted and unconverted, and most of all, respecting the client’s perspectives, helps you consistently improve and innovate, not just your service but your relationship too.
Every new or leaving client allows for you an opportunity to learn and improve. Being a company that cares about clients, and thinks like clients will help you increase retention, add more meaningful value.