Written by Ashna Patel - Co-Founder of CS Insider
In business, first impressions matter. Especially when you're talking to your customer for the very first time. I still remember my very first kickoff call. It didn’t go as expected. In fact, I FAILED horribly!
In essence, I failed because of one simple thing - a lack of preparation.
After licking my wounds, a friend suggested that I read Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager. Since then, I started using project management techniques to prepare, drive, and follow up on all my customer calls.
Maybe your first live interaction is coming up. Don’t fret! It’s easy to kick off the relationship on the right foot. It just takes some correct preparation and knowing what to avoid.
Let’s walk through it together.
"Don’t try to tell the customer what they want. If you want to be smart, be smart in the shower. Then get out, go to work and serve the customer!" - Gene Buckley & Anna Segova
There is no perfect recipe for kickoff calls; It’s a mixture of best practices + intuition. But this call is the first step on your journey towards onboarding your customers and driving adoption.
It’s a chance to:
Understand where you are
Identify where you need to go
Delegate your action items
You’re not the only one setting expectations and coming with an agenda. Your customers are as well. So it’s important to be aware of the expectations of your stakeholders either prior to or during the call. Understanding these expectations accelerates the relationship-building process.
Even with the right preparation, your call may not go the way you planned. Here are some typical things you can expect to happen. Hint...what can go wrong, does. So get ahead of the game!
👉🏽 Expect delays and communication challenges
👉🏽 Expect to adjust your agenda on the fly
👉🏽 Expect technical questions
👉🏽 Expect to say NO when necessary
👉🏽 Expect no shows and unexpected attendees
This is your opportunity to do your homework. There is no perfect recipe for this and every organization works differently. But the clearer you can get about the customer's expectations, the faster you can present solutions. And the faster the customer sees an ROI.
Here are some steps to get you through this process.
The kickoff call is your chance to shine in front of your customers. It’s also your chance to get everyone on the same page about your joint action plan.
After a lot of researching, experimenting, failing, and reflecting, I created a framework to help me run my customer calls more smoothly. Feel free to use this during your next kickoff call. 👇
As displayed in the image above, this framework helps you focus on your key objectives.
These are just starting points for your discussion. Every customer is different. Hence, it's impossible to have one framework for every time of call. This framework is meant to be flexible for you to discover what is important by asking: WHO, WHAT, WHY, HOW & WHEN.
Protip: Remember to reserve the last few minutes of your kickoff call to state how grateful and excited you are for their partnership.
Your communication with your customer is not complete until you send them a thorough recap email. Don't just assume they will remember, follow up on it!
“WHO’s got the monkey ?” seeks to answer:
Make sure to present your information in simple terms. It's not about making it pretty, it's about making it easy to consume. Some tips here:
The more prepared you are for your call, the more confident you will become. Having confidence helps you ENJOY the call rather than seeing it as another tedious task.
Remember, it’s not about checking off the tasks on your agenda. It’s about having a valuable conversation and making sure all parties involved are on the same page.
It took me a while to figure out a framework that worked for me. Maybe this will help you or it may lead you to discover your own framework. Learn to adapt, evolve and change your approach as time passes. The perfect kickoff call is the one where you and your customers both leave excited and with a smile on your face. Always AIM for that.
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