You’ve just been handed a new customer, and it’s your job to officially start the relationship. Your entire organization has put the customer in your hands now, expecting that you can keep the enthusiasm of purchase alive and establish roots for an enduring relationship. Your customer kick-off meeting will set the tone for implementation, and the future of the customer relationship. No pressure. Right? Want a few tips for success?
Capitalize on the Excitement
Nobody buys a new car and doesn’t want to drive it right away. Even if the sales process seemed taxing at times, the customer has made the decision to buy your solution, so they want to get into it quickly. Don’t do anything to deflate their excitement. Be a cheerleader. Celebrate their decision to purchase by setting a near date for a kick-off meeting. Don’t let time or organizational fatigue (over the sales experience) diminish your enthusiasm for bringing on a new client. Your sales team got your customer into their new car. You need to pick up right where they left off in assuring them they made a wise decision.
Set Expectations so that You Minimize Surprises Later
Kick-offs are for information gathering, as well as for expectation setting. Definitely conduct your own discovery session to better understand your customer’s goals and current state. This is a time to allow your customer to be heard. Equally important, though, is setting expectations for moving forward. Nobody wants to encounter surprises down the road. Review the parameters of the contract and be clear about the frequency and duration of meetings that will happen during implementation. (no more than 1 hour long and at a cadence that won’t make them feel as though they are drinking from a fire hose or waiting for further knowledge to move forward.)
Be Prepared – to Make a Strong (second) Impression
Your sales team has made the first impression. You now have the opportunity to strengthen that position. Being prepared demonstrates commitment, and customers want to know that your team is committed to them. Here are a few specific things you can (should) do to demonstrate how prepared (committed) you are:
- Send a quick introductory (templated) e-mail introducing yourself and setting expectations for the first kick-off meeting (1 hour with as many stakeholders present as possible in attendance)
- Follow-up with a calendar confirmation and agenda
- Review the Contract to know what was sold and to whom (role in the company).
- Meet with the sales team to understand motivation, key players, promises made, etc.
- Conduct your own client research so you know who they are, what they do, etc. Think about what you would want to do with your solution if you were them.
- Coordinate internally with professional services team and configuration team to make sure everything is ready to go
- Prepare (use template) and review kick-off deck and support materials needed for kick-off meeting
Remember that You are the Leader
Take charge of customer kick-off by starting with introductions and a review of the contract. Then initiate a controlled discovery session, allowing your customer to define what constitutes successful implementation for them. You should then be prepared to outline suggestions for forward progress toward their goals. Know ahead of time what input, projects and dates you need from them so that you can create an appropriate schedule for implementation. In other words, know what you know and what you need to know to be able to lead kick-off. Your customer is expecting this from you.
Some examples of questions you may want to address:
- What is the one thing we must get right to make this worth undertaking?
- How does your organization define success?
- What aspects of your internal culture or the external environment could endanger this engagement?
- How can we exceed your wildest dreams?
Keep Things Moving Forward
Follow through on your commitments. This does NOT mean following up, or checking in. That can just be annoying. Know what each stakeholder (including yourself) needs to do before you meet again, and make sure you’ve followed through on your commitments. For instance, did you:
- Send an e-mail summarizing the meeting?
- Register designated participants for user training?
- Schedule the next meeting?
- Coordinate with your internal resources as promised?
Following through on what you promise sets an example for your customer, and mutual follow-through is essential in a trusting and sustaining relationship.
Customer kick-off is key. It’s the first opportunity your customer gets to experience how your company delivers, and we all know how important first impressions are. Don’t skimp on enthusiasm, preparation, and follow-through. They will serve you well in setting the stage for a positive customer experience, which is core to a sustained relationship.