What You Need for a Successful Onboarding Process

by | Jul 31, 2018

In my previous article in this series, I provided the how-to of lead nurturing and the actionable steps and even a few checklists and templates to get you started.

Now it is time to move on to the process of converting these prospects into clients and the onboarding process.

One of the biggest mistakes a financial advisor can make is to ignore the importance of creating a complete and cohesive client onboarding process.

What is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients into your business, addressing their questions and concerns, and ensuring they understand all of the services available to them.  It a continuation of the conversation they have already been having with you during the nurturing or referral processes.

One of the biggest mistakes some financial advisors make is to assume that the onboarding process is part of their typical customer service functions or that it is just filling out some paperwork and you are on your way.  This can lead to confused and frustrated clients – that won’t be clients for long.

This process is the vital first experience a client experiences as part of your business family and will affect the impression that they have for the rest of your partnership.  Make sure that everything you sold them during the nurturing process holds true.

Who is involved in the process?

As I have written about before, a lead is someone who is aware of your business through various sources, contacts, and interactions.  Through your lead-nurturing process, you have captured their information and continued to nurture the contact into a prospect.

When does the process begin?

The onboarding process begins as soon as one of those prospects reaches out and makes contact to get more information and/or set an appointment to find out more about your services.  They now become a prospective client.  This is what you have been working for!

Benefits of having a process in place

I am a big advocate for systems, processes, and templates.  They save so much time and they help ensure that things don’t get missed.

You will be able to make changes and enhance the experience so that each client is getting only your best.  It will also help you set expectations in the client/advisor relationship.  This makes life easier and less stressful for everyone involved.

The Phases of the Onboarding Process

Now that you understand the “who, when, and why” of a client onboarding process, how do you get started?

There are several steps and key meetings that are typically included during the onboarding process that are broken into two phases: prospective client (or future client or pre-client) and new client. For each phase I want to provide you with what types of meetings are usually scheduled and a few details about each.

Prospective Client Phase

This is the pre-client stage; before someone is an actual client. This is still part of the sales process and making sure that advisor/firm and the potential client are a good fit.

Initial contact

This is what starts it all. This is the email or phone call where you will set the date and time for an introductory meeting.

Introductory Meeting / Discovery Call

This is typically a free, no-obligation meeting to get acquainted.  It is an opportunity to learn more about the potential client and assess their needs.  It is also a good time to share how your firm operates. This will help determine if you are a good fit for one another.

  • Review their needs, goals, concerns, and aspirations
  • Why did they reach out to your firm
  • Have them tell you their story, what got them to where they are, and where do they want to go
  • Share your firm’s philosophy, team, and processes
  • Explain timelines and budget expectations
  • Be sure to provide them with any handouts or documents they will need to move forward, as well as a clear explanation of the next steps they will need to take.

Information Gathering

The information gathering meeting is where all of the details and scope of work will be determined.

  • Establish goals and desired outcomes
  • Determined communication preferences (email, phone, mail, online)
  • Complete a Client Questionnaire (if not already done so)
  • Be sure to provide them with any handouts or documents they will need to move forward, as well as a clear explanation of the next steps they will need to take.

Proposal of Services

This is the piece of the process where you show the potential client how you can help them meet their goals and reach their desired outcomes.

  • Definition of services
  • Explanation of fees

Plan Presentation / Solutions Meeting

  • Present proposal
  • Answer questions
  • Receive feedback
  • Discuss partnership details

New Client Phase

Once the decision has been made to move forward it is time to get to work with your new client. This is what you have been working towards since the beginning of the marketing funnel. This phase is not always a series of meetings and may vary depending on whether the partnership is for a package of services or for ongoing services.

Once the partnership details have been worked out and the agreement has been signed there are a few extras that show you are willing to go the extra mile.

  • Be sure to introduce the entire team if you have not already done so
  • Have a professional and complete welcome pack with firm information
  • Review expectations and next steps
  • Include a thank you card and/or a small welcome gift

Suggested Tools/Resources

The client onboarding process can take trial and error and time to perfect.  A big part of developing a successful customer onboarding process is having an effective workflow to develop and track each of the steps listed above. Once you get started and document what you are doing, how it is working, and review for improvements you will start to see your hard work pay off.

There are several tools you can have in place to help you with this process:

  • CRM
  • Calendar scheduling tool
    • Set appointments
    • Send automated reminders with key information
    • Thank you emails
    • Workflow in a CRM can also help with this for clients that may not use email
  • Templates
    • This will make sure you are not reinventing the wheel and starting from scratch each time.
    • Worksheet/Questionnaire
    • Proposals
    • Meeting agendas
    • Follow up standards
  • Thank you cards or gifts
    • Nothing beats adding a personal touch.

The next part of this series covers the engage portion of the marketing funnel and client satisfaction.  There is an incredible opportunity for future revenue with long-term clients, including long-term value, beneficiaries, and referrals.

Meet Crystal

Crystal Lee Butler, MBA
Crystal Lee Butler, MBA is a creative marketer and results-oriented business consultant with over a decade of experience collaborating with independent advisors. At Crystal Marketing Solutions, she delivers exceptional insights for financial professionals enabling them to create a consistent marketing presence so they can focus on the things that matter most to them.
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