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4 steps to a successful client kickoff call

The sales discovery process differs for every independent. No matter what your business is, these are the discovery questions you must ask.

Woman conducting a kickoff call

You’ve moved through your sales process, potentially gone back and forth, and finally booked the client. Right after paying the invoice and/or signing the contract, it’s time to set expectations, align project goals, and set the tone for how you and your client will work together. 

The best way to do this is with a kickoff call. Rather than an email or document, you want to come together with a clear understanding of the project and make the time for questions that might come up in real-time. That way, you can easily move through the rest of your client onboarding process.

Here’s everything you need to conduct a successful project kickoff. 

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What is a kickoff call?

Within your onboarding workflow, a kickoff call starts a project after you and your client have made an agreement on the services you’ll deliver. For an independent business owner, this could mean introducing your client to your team if you have one, getting to know them, or simply outlining the steps ahead during a project.

During the call, the independent service provider and the client will review the project requirements and fill in any missing information. It’s a great way to talk about the project at a high level, while also honing in on some specifics like the project timeline, roles and responsibilities, and deliverables.

1. Complete the necessary steps before the kickoff call

Keep in mind that a kickoff call is similar but different from a discovery call. At this step, you should already understand your client’s needs and which services you’ll be providing. You know they’re a good fit for your business, so there’s no need to re-hash the details you already covered when they were a lead.

A number of things should be set in place prior to your kickoff call, namely:

  • Deliverables are agreed upon
  • Contracts should be signed
  • A deposit or retainer should be paid
  • An agreed-upon deadline for final deliverables should be set

These items are a part of the first two phases of your clientflow. You’ll already have qualified the client, determined what they’re looking for, and signed a contract. That’s nearly half the process of booking a client! 

With all of these logistical elements out of the way, you’re ready to set a date for a kickoff call.

2. Determine the goals of your kickoff call

The number one goal of a kickoff call regardless of the size of your business or company is to become aligned on key details. The idea behind the call is to determine the details that will lead you to fulfill the goal of your client’s project. You’ll

  • Determine the purpose of the project
  • Identify an overarching goal for the project
  • Create a step-by-step plan for deliverables
  • Determine how the deliverable goals will be met
  • Confirm any communication preferences (daily updates, weekly updates, etc.)

A less technical goal of the kickoff call is also the most under-discussed goal of the meeting: building rapport.

How to build rapport in a kickoff call

Building rapport in a kickoff call is much like building relationships outside of a business transaction. Be sure to express your enthusiasm for meeting the client and helping them with their need. Find a common ground or overlapping interest you can reference to keep the client invested in the conversation.

Take the time to listen and ask open-ended questions that stimulate conversation. The more you can get the client to speak about their goals for the project off the cuff, the better idea you’ll have of that client’s end goals for your services.

3. Prepare for the meeting

Nothing beats great preparation for an informational meeting. Be sure you prepare for the meeting and present as organized as possible. Coming into a kickoff meeting with all of your ducks (read: paperwork and deadlines) in a row will give the client room to breathe. The more logistical details you take off of their plate, the more space they have to provide details that may not have come up otherwise. In order to prepare for a client kickoff call, prepare the following:

  • Any notes from prior conversations
  • Emails about the project
  • Answers from a client onboarding questionnaire you might have already sent when your client booked
  • Invite your clients to the project in your HoneyBook account, if applicable
  • Outline instructions for using any collaborative software (i.e., HoneyBook, or invite your client to a Slack channel and explain how it’s used)
  • Any remaining background questions you have for your client
  • A tentative project roadmap with key timestamped checkpoints
  • A formal presentation (if you’re pitching a logo or graphics or a website design)

Provide a project kickoff meeting agenda in the meeting invitation so the client has a chance to bring any and all sharable resources. The more information you have about your client and their project, the more likely your deliverable will align with your client’s needs.

Review the names of everyone you’ll be working with so that there are no embarrassing “remind me of your name again?” moments.

4. What you should cover in a kickoff call

A number of logistical and technical elements should be covered in a kickoff call so your client has ultimate clarity on how to communicate with you. Some of these are the following:

  • Can you go over the goals and objectives of what you’re looking for in detail?
  • Who are other key stakeholders I (or we) should be aware of working on this project?
  • What are your key performance indicators for the success of your project?
  • Are there any standards or project requirements we should be aware of?
  • Are there any risks we should be aware of?
  • What is your preferred communication method?
  • What is your ideal schedule for check-ins? Would you like an update daily, weekly, or monthly (change this to suit the type of project you’re working on)?

You’ll be aiming to address all or most of these questions in a reasonable time frame. How long should a kickoff meeting really take, you ask?

How long should a kickoff call be?

The length of a kickoff call is a choose-your-own-adventure situation. Typically, attention spans wane after about 30 minutes (or even before) so it’s optimal to keep meetings as short as possible. If you have an hour’s worth of material to cover, of course, or your client is asking a lot of questions, it’s best to air on the side of too much rather than too little in the calendar invite.

What should I do after the kickoff call?

Follow up your kickoff call with a summary of what you covered and a brief thank you note. Ask the client if they have any further questions that arose after you left the call. Show your new client how personable you are—it will go a long way.

What can go wrong without a kickoff call?

The point of a kickoff call is to open the dialogue with your client and learn about any last-minute crucial details of their project. Without a kickoff call, independent business owners risk a few things.

Misaligning the timeline

When you meet with a client, you learn a lot about their personality and expectations for the deliverable. The more details you have about a project, the more able you’ll be to adequately plan for the different stages of the deliverables. A kickoff call gives you space to collect the details you need to accurately pace your work.

Misunderstanding project expectations

A client kickoff call is a perfect time to ask any clarifying questions. If there’s something you’re not 100% sure about, find a tactful way to ask. This goes for questions you may have already answered as well. It’s possible you lost your note, or a draft was erased, or you can’t find the email; either way, it’s important to swallow your shame and find out the answer. That’s a better option than delivering a poorly executed project.

Schedule kickoff calls with fewer clicks using HoneyBook

We know you’ve got a lot to do. That’s why HoneyBook created automations—in comes the interest for your services and out goes the thank you an email with client qualification questions and an invitation to schedule a call. Your booking experience from lead interest to your kickoff call can be entirely hands-off. Once the client schedules, you can even set a trigger to send instructions for the call.

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