It is tempting to dive straight in to what tech to use to automate your processes. But in doing this you are missing a key step in automating your processes – working out what those processes should actually be.
Instead you just implement what you are currently doing without thinking about how you would like your process to be. While it may mean you save some time in your business because you have automated elements of your process, you may miss out on a great opportunity to make improvements that aren’t just reliant on automation.
Automating a process can take quite a bit of effort, there is the picking the software to use, learning how to use it and then the actual set up and testing. You can save some of this time by getting someone else to do it for you but that is still an investment and you want to get the most you can for your money.
Instead of starting out with the automating, when I work with my one on one clients we start with the process itself. We look at what is working and what isn’t working and come up with a good process that will often save time without implementing any new software.
The client onboarding process is one that can often benefit from some serious refining. That is how you get people from being potential clients to working with you. I tend to break this down into 5 blocks:
- Initial contact ie getting the right people to contact you about your services
- Making the sale
- Getting the contract signed and the invoice paid
- Welcoming your new client
- Collecting the information you need for your new client
Some of these happen at the same time but are normally discrete activities.
1. Initial Contact
This is all about encouraging the right people to make contact with you. The key being the right people, that is your ideal client. As much as possible you want to be talking to people who are going to want to buy from you. While you won’t this 100% right, you can normally improve it.
Two questions to ask yourself in looking at this part of your process are:
- Are you getting enough enquires? If not, then you may not be getting enough eyes on your business and that is a whole other blog post. But it is also worth thinking about how clear it is on your website and social media about how to contact you and start the process. Are there easy options for people to get in touch with you in a way that works for you and your client? If you get lots of queries off Facebook then messenger could be great starting point. You could pop a messenger button on your website. For others it might be email and for others the starting point may be a discovery call booked directly from your website or social media. These options are not mutually exclusive. It may be a two step process of messaging you on Facebook followed by a discovery call.
- Are you getting enough enquires but not the right kind? If this is the case then do you make it clear who you serve wherever you make contact with people. This could be your website, social media, your bio when you are guest posting, basically anywhere you meet people. It is also worth thinking about screening people if you are doing discovery calls. Rather than just allowing anyone to book in to your calendar you may want them to complete a questionnaire to allow you to assess if you think you are a good fit before sending out the link to your calendar.
2. Making the Sales
What would your ideal sales process look like?
Ok so some of this part relates to selling skills that I am not really qualified to talk about! But it is also worth thinking about what processes your clients need to go through to make a decision to buy from you as well as what you are willing to do.
If it is a lower cost service – say a one hour session with you, then you may not want to do a discovery call. It could simply be the person emails you and you send them a link to book and pay for the session or they can book directly from your website.
But for a higher cost service that has more moving parts, then people will probably want to talk to you, to see if they feel comfortable with you. Depending on the complexity they may also want to see in writing what the actual process will be. You may or may not have this process on your website depending on things like how much customisation is needed and whether you want to talk people through the document to clarify any areas that may be hard to express in a document.
3. Signing the contract and paying the invoice
This step is pretty straight forward in terms of the questions to ask: Are people signing the contracts promptly and are they paying the invoice on time.
Key things to think about are:
- Should the contract be signed before the invoice is sent? I would say yes but I know other people do it the other way around.
- What are your payment terms? That is when do you expect payment to be made and will you require payment upfront or will you offer payment plans.
- What are you going to do if people don’t pay? What is your payment follow up process?
- If people aren’t signing contracts promptly are there steps that are causing them problems. For example if you require your contract to be signed and scanned in do your clients have printers to do this? If you require the contract to be signed online are your clients comfortable with this and if they aren’t can you get them comfortable through good instructions?
- If people aren’t paying, are you making it easy for them to pay? Are your payment terms clearly explained? Do you take credit cards and do your clients expect to be able to pay using Paypal or maybe they hate Paypal?
4. Welcoming your new client
Your client has signed the contract and paid your invoice. You now want to have put in place steps that make them feel like it was a good decision.
This could be something as simple as an email that reiterates how you will work together, so they are clear and comfortable on how things are going to work. If the process is more complex, it could be in a separate welcome pack document. Think about what questions they are likely to have or did have during the sales process. Previous client experiences can be great to tap into here. It never hurts to reiterate these plus having a separate document they can easily refer back to helps reduce any misunderstandings.
Or if you are offering more high end services, it could be that you want to send out a physical welcome pack with some lovely gifts to make your clients feel appreciated.
5. Collecting information from your clients
For many of my clients, they need to collect information from their clients to provide their services.
If you are a coach it could be the goals your clients want to achieve. This isn’t to say you won’t clarify on a call but if you have a heads up it can help you prepare for the call.
If you are a social media marketer you may want to collect information such as social media profiles, what your client has been doing so far and what successes they have had so you can start to prepare a strategy.
If you are a web designer there is a whole slew of information you need and you may want to collect it at different stages in the process so as not to overwhelm your client.
There is lots to consider here including:
- What do you need and what is the best way to collect this?
- Do you want your client to be able to refer back to what they have provided to you? This can be useful if you want your clients to be able to look back at where they were and how far they have come.
- Where are you going to keep this information so you can access it as you need it?
- Are there privacy issues you need to consider – this is especially important if you are collecting sensitive information.
Mapping out your process
Once you have worked through all of this I then like to map out the process using post it notes. Write down each step on a post it note and then put it in the order that you want it to work. I like post it notes as they are easy to move around as you work out what is the best order to do things in.
Under the post it notes, you can add other post it notes to clarify specific details or questions you have about the step. For example you may have noted that you want to send out a physical welcome pack but you need to research what to include in the pack and how to send it to people.
I then like to take a photo of the process and document it using flowchart software but I am a bit of a flowchart nerd and you may want to stick with the post it notes 😊
Developing processes over time
The other thing to remember is that processes will probably change over time as your business grows. For example, when starting out you may not want to limit discovery calls just to people who fill in a questionnaire. Initially it can be good to get on calls with people as part of the process of understanding who your ideal client is and what their problems are. Talking to real people is a wonderful way of doing this. But once you have a much clearer idea of this and a community to talk to you may not need to do this.
As you grow you may also be able to afford more sophisticated software or bring in others to help which may mean further updates to processes.
But you can’t let this stop you getting started in working out how you would like your business to run today.
If processes and systems really aren’t your thing and you would love some help in working through them, I would love to help you! Check out my Quiet System Action Plan and then book in for a discovery call to find out if we are good fit.