How To Use Onboarding Checklists To Make Stellar First Impressions

There’s nothing quite like the rush of signing a new client. You feel great, the client feels great – it’s win-win! But while closing the deal is a huge initial hurdle, what happens next is arguably the most crucial step for ensuring a positive long-term relationship and getting everything off to a great start.

There are three main reasons why taking the right steps after the sale are so important:

Momentum

You’ve spent a lot of time and energy with that prospective client. The last thing you want is for them to take a step back in the sales process to the “Why you should be working with me?” phase.

Once a client makes the commitment to move forward with you, the ball is now totally in your court. It’s your job to keep things headed in the right direction and that means it’s time for you to show your leadership into the service phase.

Credibility

What happens when you fail to take the initiative and lead? Often the client will begin to question whether they’ve really made the right decision. They may feel unsure or uncertain about the financial commitment they’ve made and even try to back out of their agreement with you.

But when you step up and take the lead, you build credibility and reaffirm the client’s decision to work with you.

Setting the Tone

Your client takes cues from you. If you act promptly and always with purpose, the client takes you seriously and will typically respond in kind. But if you take a week to answer an email or return a call, don’t be surprised when your client starts to mirror that exact same behavior.

How to keep momentum, build instant credibility, and set a positive tone:

I’ve found one of the best ways to immediately generate confidence and boost your client’s faith in your abilities is to systematize your onboarding process.

To do this, you need to develop a step-by-step ‘onboarding’ checklist.

Not only does a detailed checklist ensure every client is treated consistently, it allows you to focus on delivering consistent and repeatable results while reducing friction points.

(Plus, a checklist is a great way for you to document your operating procedures so  you can use when it’s time to add an employee and delegate the onboarding process to others.)

Your checklist should include detailed descriptions of every activity and the tasks required to takes your client through the transition from a focus on sales to service.

Start by thinking through your entire onboarding process. In particular, what are the critical client “touch points” for your clients.  Will you send an initial email to set up your first post-sale appointment? What access does your client need? What are the “need-to-knows” for working with you and your team? Are there members of your team who will interact with your client that need introductions now?

When you create a checklist, every checkpoint in the list should have a goal and every step in a checkpoint should support accomplishing the goal.

Here’s an example:

Checkpoint (activity) Have client watch onboard video (goal) which gives an overview of what to expect during the initial call and what the client will need to provide to make it successful. Let’s break it down:

  • Step 1 – Send a link to video via email
  • Step 2 – Check that the client opened the email and clicked the link
  • Step 3 – If email was not opened, send follow-up email …
  • Step 4 – If email was not opened, make a call

After you capture each checkpoint, think about what happens to accomplish it and what happens next.

Are there assignments, assessments or questionnaires? Is there a membership area or portal the client will need access to? Is there someone on the team that gives new clients a welcome call? Do you provide welcome gifts or packs?

Checklists are great ways to ensure you’re not “winging it” or reinventing the wheel with each new client. They allow you to carefully shape the client’s emotional experience and create that all-important positive first impression in the early days of your working relationship. Of course, you may be thinking, “can’t I automate some of these manual steps?”  If you can that will not detract from the personalization of the experience – definitely do so!

Oh, and the same holds true when you ‘offboard’ a client after they’ve finished working with you. Leaving a great departing impression can be just as important to end on a high note (and what so many business owners neglect!).

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