“Sunny day. Sweepin’ the clouds away.” These opening words to a classic TV theme song are an apt description of how we feel when a client says “Yes” to a project. (Extra points if you name the TV show.) The moment a prospect turns into a client is affirming, a vote of confidence, and a signal that we’ll soon engage in what we enjoy most: applying our experience, expertise and skills to help others succeed.
But the hours and days after you close a gig present a huge opportunity that is often squandered by consultants. Taking the right steps immediately will…
- …make the rest of your project more enjoyable and less stressful.
- …set you up for success/minimize the chance of the project going sideways.
- …tee up the next project.
- …provide fodder for brag letters to other consultants.
With so many benefits on the line, let’s walk through the ABCs of kicking off a project.
Thank You Letter – Shoot this out within the hour. If you don’t already have a template for your thank-you letter, set one up now. Some of the hallmarks of a great thank-you letter:
- Reassure the client that they have made a great decision.
- Communicate excitement.
- Give them something to do.
- Outline the immediate next steps.
Project Portal – Set this up within the day and forward the login information. Some consultants use a service like Basecamp or specialized software for this. I’ve found these are usually overcomplicated and don’t get used by clients or consultants. Therefore, I’ve developed a very simple, effective portal that keeps the client informed and the project on track.
Feedback Loop – You’re familiar with the concept of working on your business vs. in it. The same holds true for projects. Work on your project and in it: be as diligent seeking feedback about the project as you are gathering information to achieve the objective.
Within the first couple of days, agree with the client on how and when you will regularly receive their assessment of how the project is faring.
Information Request – On virtually every project you’ll need additional information from your client. Equally important, clients perceive any activity, including their own, as an important sign the project is off to a good start. Customize your standard Information Request to fit the project and email it with the Project Portal login credentials.
Progress Tracker – Confirm the indicators of success and put mechanisms in place to measure progress. Forward this to the client within one week. Even qualitative indicators can be captured and tracked. A few of the benefits:
- Early warning signal if the project is off the tracks.
- Concrete evidence of progress makes for happy clients and strong testimonials.
- Scorecards are a huge boon when selling future projects.
Fieldwork – The vast majority of projects offer a legitimate rationale for interviewing senior executives. Start scheduling those in week one, casting as wide a net as possible. Customers, vendors and competitors are also excellent targets. Why?
- Broader perception of activity.
- Better information leads to better results.
- Exposure to additional decision-makers with their own problems that… hey, you’re just the right resource to help them out!
Don’t let the first few days of a project be haphazard. Give yourself a checklist including the items above and whether you’re as grouchy as Oscar or as loveable as Kermit, everything will be A-OK.
What else do you (or should you) do within days of winning a new project? Please share your input below.
Text and images are © 2018 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.