The Systems Chick’s Secret Strategies for Setting Up Your Clients for Success
Have you ever have bad experiences with customers or just want to make sure you avoid them altogether?
I’m talking about situations like these:
- A client asked you to start working on a project before paying. Long after you delivered the project, you still had to remind her about the overdue payment, and perhaps you never got paid.
- Before starting the project, you agreed on its scope and course of action, but once you were hard at work, the client said he had to slightly change direction, so you had to invest more time and didn’t get paid for it.
- Someone who hired you disappeared but resurfaced 6 months later and asked you to complete the project. You didn’t have space for it but felt obliged to squeeze this project into your already busy schedule.
- You gave the client the guidelines for working with you, but she kept asking for one exception after another. To accommodate her, you’d say yes to every request, which in the end made the relationship completely unmanageable.
- You offered a friend of a friend a generous discount. But when you started working together, nothing could please him. He kept changing his mind and asking to tweak things. In the end, he decided to end your collaboration and threatened to take legal action if you didn’t give a full refund.
The horror stories I hear from my clients are endless!
Every single one of these awful situations is due to the fact that they had no strict client intake procedure in place.
Unfortunately, no one is immune from “bad clients.”
The good news is that there is a way to train your clients to be “good” ones.
First, let’s take a look at the reasons we don’t create these client intake procedures:
- We want to be seen as easy-going and give our clients the space and freedom they desire (or so we think).
- We believe that verbal conversations are sufficient, because our clients are people of integrity.
- We don’t know how to do create these procedures, because our clients have different needs, so it seems impossible to create something that would fit everybody.
- We simply don’t have time. There is so much to do as it is, so why create additional work for ourselves?
These are bad reasons because:
- Clients actually LOVE structure and don’t mind getting told what to do. They hire you for your expertise, so they NEED directions.
- Taking your clients through a series of steps that get them the outcome they hired you to produce builds their confidence in you and conveys your expertise.
- Client intake procedures make customers feel taken care of and reduces “buyers’ remorse,” especially if they just made a significant financial commitment.
- These processes allow YOU to be in control of your time
- They ensure you get paid on time
As different as your clients’ needs are, the underlying PROCESS by which you work with them will be the same.
I know this is easier said than done. I struggled greatly with it in the beginning and even lost clients, because I couldn’t clearly communicate what was going to happen.
Now, I’ve distilled my initial client intake procedure to these three simple steps.
- First, we have an initial consultation call to clarify your specific needs and what systems are most important to get in place for your business.
- Next, you receive a Welcome Packet that includes all the details of how your systems-building process will work.
- Then, we get on the phone once every two weeks to discuss the next steps related to your systems so that getting them in place is easy and you know exactly what to do.
My clients’ needs are vastly different, but the process is the same, and that’s what makes them all feel confident they’re in capable hands.
I also have a simple internal system to streamline my overall process with clients:
- We have an initial consultation.
- If the client is interested in my services, I send a proposal.
- If accepted, I send an invoice.
- Once paid, I send a Welcome Packet.
- We get on the phone every two weeks to work on the client’s systems (a process that has its own methodology).
- At the very end, we have a follow-up conversation.
- I then receive his or her testimonial (which I requested earlier).
Ask Yourself: WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN (AND IN WHAT SEQUENCE) WHEN I GET A NEW CLIENT?
Once you figure out this initial procedure, you’ve got to more firmly set the client’s expectations and establish boundaries for your ongoing interactions.
The best way to communicate these guidelines is in a Welcome Packet.
There are no rules how to do it, but I suggest considering your answers to these questions:
- What’s going to happen?
- How are you going to work together?
- How are you going to set up meetings?
- What are the timelines/deadlines?
- Is there any prep work you need the client to submit?
- How does the client pay you (if they are on a payment plan)?
- What is the client responsible for doing?
- If you will need the client to approve certain parts of the project, when do they have to provide their feedback?
- Does the client need to be introduced to another member of your team if they need assistance with something?
- What happens when the client misses the deadline?
- What does the client need to do if they have to cancel?
I also advise you to ask yourself this: IF I WERE A NEW CLIENT WHAT QUESTIONS WOULD I HAVE?
Now it’s clear.
Having great clients requires laying down the rules and clarifying the process you’re going to lead them on in order to get them the best results.
Now that you see the importance of these initial processes, can you trace any of your own crises to problems with your client intake system (or lack of one)? What tips could you implement to avoid nightmare clients?
Let me know in the comments below.
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