No business survives without repeat clients, but every business starts and grows with new clients. In the not-so-good old days when the upper classes closely regulated the interaction of eligible gentlemen with marriageable young ladies through a series of chaperoned activities, a gentleman and lady navigated the beginnings of a relationship through a series of public interactions. Bringing on a new client can resemble that delicate, yet somehow scripted, construction of a business relationship.
That first meeting–or first dance–presents potential pitfalls and opportunities. Your new partner may take a wrong turn, tread on your toes, or not know the steps at all. However, some due diligence on your part can avoid damage and establish a basis for common understanding.
YFS Magazine offers helpful hints on preparing for introductory meetings that will impress potential clients: 1) knowing what the meeting is supposed to accomplish and how it should progress; 2) managing expectations; and, 3) convincing the potential client that you’re the best option. These dance steps require discipline and intestinal fortitude. You must not only be able to transition smoothly and with purpose from chitchat to business talk, you must also have the courage to express your expectations. Whether we admit it or not, we have expectations of our clients, even as they have expectations of us.
Posting on LinkedIn, Dar’shun Kendrick advises that 90 percent of bringing on a new client depends upon advance preparation. She builds on the YFS list: 1) record the appointment in more than one place so you don’t miss it; 2) research the prospective client to learn as much about their business as you can prior to the meeting; 3) prepare materials to be used during the meeting, which may include notepads, presentations, coffee, and so forth; 4) show up early to demonstrate consideration for the potential client’s time; and, 5) follow up, which reminds the client who you are and demonstrates that you at least have polite manners.
The American Bar Association echoes several of the aforementioned tips, and adds several more: 1) dress and act professionally; 2) hold the meeting someplace other than your office to minimize distractions; 3) start the meeting on time, which also shows that you value people’s time; and, 4) trust your intuition, because if your gut says this isn’t a good partnership, then it’s probably right.
Pitfalls that dissuade potential partners from doing business with you include too heavy a focus on personal talk. Don’t rant about breaking up with your significant other or your dog running away. Although these issues are important to you, a potential client doesn’t care. Don’t denigrate your competition; that just shows a poor attitude and bad manners. Remember, a gentleman (or lady) never insults anyone unintentionally. Don’t ask irrelevant questions. You may feel the urge to show off your creativity or industry knowledge, but irrelevant questions or questions intended to showcase a potential client’s ignorance do little more than annoy the person expected to answer them.
The first dance or first meeting is an interview. As much as you’re evaluating a potential new partner, they’re doing the same to you, too. If the chemistry’s good and the rhythm matches, then you can waltz into a mutually beneficial relationship. If not, then you’re better off parting ways without animosity.
Unlike a minuet versus a reel versus a waltz versus a tango versus a–you get the idea– preparing for a meeting generally involves common sense and thoughtful application of good manners. When both parties conduct themselves accordingly, the decision to go forward–or not–can be made quickly and efficiently and will bode well for a smooth client onboarding experience.
In 2009, GSI Commerce rolled out and rebranded its marketing services division, GSI Interactive, as True Action. Led by advertising powerhouses Nick Pahade and Dorian Sweet, True Action handled such well known clients as Aeropostale, Bath & Body Works, Levi Strauss, the National Football League, GNC, Kate Spade, and Christopher & Banks. The agency focused, wrote Kunur Patel in his 2009 article “How a Back-end E-tail Operation Looks to Grow into a Digital Shop,” on “driving sales online, not building brands.”.
In 2012, in an effort to expand that focus The Heggen Group was brought in to assess acquisition team end-to-end marketing and advertising processes. The work involved integrating digital and interactive agency marketing services with GSI’s e-commerce outbound marketing services platform. The five month engagement was split into five phases.
Phase I. The Heggen Group developed a high-level process map that defined how operations/project management teams worked and identified key management points of interaction–otherwise known as benchmarks–to track and measure the implementation processes. This required knowing what the company wanted to do and devising a process to accomplish those goals. Benchmark metrics encompassed the agency’s internal and digital best practices to measure progress and success.
Phase II. To avoid having to reinvent the proverbial wheel for each client and each campaign, the Heggen Group reviewed and assessed the agency’s current processes for commonalities that could be standardized and integrated across clients, offices, and teams. Standardization conferred the dual benefits of predictable results on a predictable timetable and predictable quality and performance. Predictability then enabled executives to accurately price fees because they could forecast the resources that would be required to deliver a certain project. Benchmark metrics again encompassed the agency’s internal best practices.
Phase III. Working with the client output delivery team, the Heggen Group created a clear communication and client servicing methodology that provided transparency, clear expectations, and accountabilities for key stakeholders and implementation teams. This phase identified who was responsible for what and when. Refer to the February 14 blog article “Getting on the Same Page” for a deeper discussion regarding the importance of the preparatory stages in a company’s initiative.
Phase IV. The Heggen Group worked with the marketing services teams to identify roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities assigned to each team and within each team. That clarity of expectations carried into mentoring new delivery leadership team members and identification of the necessary support services needed to ensure efficient and cohesive coordination within and among teams. The Heggen Group also guided the hiring process for new support staff to ensure a good fit between new hires and the agency culture, as well as to expedite successful integration of new employees.
Phase V. With the internal processes in place and the glitches worked out, this phase witnessed the launch of servicing processes across key client accounts. The Heggen Group provided oversight and encouragement to facilitate system-wide integration for consistent, high quality delivery of results for True Action’s clients.
Each phase of the overall enterprise merger integration effort involved meticulous observation and analysis to discern patterns, trends, and anomalies that would lend themselves to the development of processes to guide the work, anticipate problems, and keep projects running smoothly.
You made the offer and the candidate accepted. Now it’s time to bring on your newest employee.
Your new hire is understandably nervous. After all, he’s entering a new environment with unknown personalities and new expectations. The introduction of your new employee into your business can go either of two ways:
1. You can throw your new employee to the wolves and hope he survives; or,
2. You can carefully lay a foundation for your new employee’s career to build confidence and skills.
While the first option might initially seem less resource intensive, it ultimately costs the business money due to higher employee turnover, mistakes that must be fixed, and annoyed clients who rightfully think that your employees should know what they’re doing. Survival of the fittest might define business in general, but it shouldn’t define how you treat your employees.
New employee orientation takes time and effort, but benefits the organization in the long run. A new employee who feels uncomfortable in his new position will take longer to reach his full potential. Orientation, says Oregon State University:
• Provides the new employee with the information necessary to make him comfortable in the job.
• Builds employee confidence and helps him adapt more quickly to the job.
• Facilitates better communication and productivity among staff.
• Improves employee retention.
Forbes magazine advises focusing the new employee orientation process on the employee, not the company. They cite a 2013 paper published in Administrative Science Quarterly that found “shifting the focus to an employee’s personal identity leads to an increase in both employee retention and customer satisfaction.”
Bringing on a new employee is at least as crucial as bringing on a new client. As with most things integral to the running of your business and the satisfaction of your clients, a well-designed, thoughtful process benefits everyone.
According to Chron, the employee orientation program should create a positive first impression of the company. The orientation process helps employees acquire an understanding of corporate expectations with regard to attire, behavior, performance, and more. The process allows new employees to gain an in-depth understanding of benefits, especially those that require a certain waiting period before they become available. Finally, a new employee orientation program helps new hires to engage with staff and project work so they can hit the ground running. Assigning a mentor who can quickly establish himself as the friendly, go-to resource worthy of trust expedites this process.
The cost of a poor new employee onboarding process can be difficult to quantify. If the new hire’s skills don’t match the job or the new hire’s personality clashes with the company culture, you’ve got an expensive problem. Dice.com lists the potential costs companies incur simply during the interview process: “travel, hotel and meals, training and orientation, employment testing, termination costs such as Cobra, unemployment and potential litigation expenses should the candidate decide to sue you for wrongful dismissal, plus relocation costs and outplacement or career transition costs.” Costs that are more difficult to assign dollar amounts to can prove lethal to a business that fails to properly integrate new employees: “lower employee morale, customer dissatisfaction, lost customers, lost sales, reduced quality of products and low production.” That doesn’t include speculation among remaining employees as to why the new hire left, the resulting doubt about their own job security, and the resentment of having to shoulder the additional workload that person’s absence causes.
The Heggen Group can help your company design a process that takes new employees by the hand and guides them through integration into their new jobs. We help you lay the solid foundation for new employees to learn the policies, procedures, and culture of their new workplaces to facilitate a better understanding of company expectations and become valuable assets to the company.