How to Set Your Kick-off Meetings Up for Success

customer kick off meeting

The kickoff meeting is usually the first live interaction Customer Success has with a new customer.  Consequently, it’s important to make a good first impression since there is no second chance.  The key to making a good first impression is preparation.  This includes gathering information on the customer, such as their business, why they purchased your product or service, and what business problems they need to address with your solution.

The key to making a good first impression is preparation.

If the handoff from sales to customer success is done properly, most of this information will be available to you.  Doesn’t it make sense that for the customer to agree to the purchase, the account executive must have already collected this information and sold the customer on how your company’s solution will address their needs? Unfortunately, this information may not be readily transparent or available. In fact, I recommend that for sales to complete the handoff they must provide this information in a pre-agreed upon the way.  This may be found in the company’s CRM tool or on a separate form they complete for the handoff.  Knowing this information is critical for making a good first impression with the customer. One thing that’s sure to drive any customer crazy is to have to go over everything again after they already covered it with sales.  Showing up for the kick-off meeting with a grasp of this information will show the customer that you value their time and their business.

kick off meeting preparation
 

Showing up for the kick-off meeting with a grasp of this information will show the customer that you value their time and their business.

The next step in preparing for the kickoff meeting is to prepare the customer.  In your email to the customer asking for this kickoff meeting, you will take additional steps to prepare for a successful meeting.  You’ll want to give them information on what to expect and introduce them to the process by having them view videos or read blogs on the subject.  You’ll also want them to identify key stakeholders in the onboarding process, such as the system admin who will prepare the onboarding environment and the user(s) who will be involved in the pilot.  Finally, you may need to have them undertake initial training to prepare them for using your product.  

Success tip:  You should contact the customer within 48-hours after the deal is signed to maintain the momentum and excitement from their purchase.

Customer Success Kickoff Meetings 3

Once you have the information needed to schedule the kickoff meeting you will need to create an agenda that you’ll send out before the meeting.  The agenda should include the following:

  1. Introduction of key stakeholders (eg: champion, IT/admin, CSM, dedicated vendor resources, pilot participants/users)
  2. Expectations
  3. Roles and responsibilities (vendor and customer)
  4. Support resources (eg: technical support, CSM, knowledge base, etc.)
  5. Product overview
  6. Validate desired business outcomes
  7. Discuss the use case for the pilot
  8. Customer’s definition of success (this may be slightly different than what you get from sales so you’ll need to verify)
  9. Goals and success metrics
  10. Timeline
  11. What the rest of the engagement, post onboarding, will look like (contract term, adoption, optimization, renewal
  12. Questions and answers
  13. Next steps

Customer Success Kickoff Meetings 4

The meeting should last no more than one hour.  The objective of the kickoff meeting is to give the customer a high-level overview of the onboarding process, who they’ll be working with, and what to expect.  It’s important to not get bogged down in details.  Solicit feedback and listen.  

While discussing expectations, be sure to capture issues with stakeholders, especially challenges with their availability to actively participate in the onboarding. This will have an impact on the timeline and how quickly value can be realized.

The objective of the kickoff meeting is to give the customer a high-level overview of the onboarding process, who they’ll be working with, and what to expect.

Even though you should have the customer’s desired business outcomes from the sales team, you need to validate this with those that will actually be participating in the onboarding as their goals might be slightly different.  Consequently, their definition of success may change.  Discuss how you will measure success and achieve the first time value.  This will have a particular influence on the use case for the pilot.

The use case should include a limited number of features and functions to implement.  This will help define the goals and objectives for the pilot.  Coupled with specific and quantifiable success metrics that can be accomplished for the pilot, you’ll be able to easily measure the success of the pilot.

Make the meeting interactive and encourage active participation. Stay out of the weeds and don’t get bogged down in details.  There will be ample opportunities to have in-depth technical conversations during the pilot.

Make the meeting interactive and encourage active participation. Stay out of the weeds and don’t get bogged down in details.

Take notes making sure to capture all challenges and action items coming out of the meeting.  Record the meeting and include a link to the recording for participants and all interested parties to review.  Conclude your meeting notes with the next steps leading up to onboarding. Send out the notes as soon as possible after the meeting. 

Customer Success Kickoff Meetings 1

With good planning and execution, the kickoff meeting will build a solid foundation towards accelerating product adoption and getting your relationship with the customer off on the right foot.  Keep the momentum going and move on to the next steps as quickly as you can.

How can CSM Practice Help! 

At CSM Practice we elevate SaaS companies profitable growth through customer retention and expansion selling strategies. We can help you align the commercial responsibility between Sales and Customer Success hence, resulting in a much clearer understanding of who should own what. Our work ranges from developing a simple set of calls to action to developing and implementing comprehensive customer nurturing strategies.

Take it to the next level!  Ask CSM Practice about the services we provide and learn how we can help you transform your organization into success.

Avatar for Peter W. Wittenstrom
Written By:
Peter W. Wittenstrom

Peter is a career IT professional with over 25 years of experience in customer-facing roles with large enterprise customers as a Customer Success Manager, Service & Support Manager, Program/Project Manager, and IT Executive. He is a Certified Customer Success Manager, Project Management Professional (PMP), and holds certifications in ITIL, Agile, and security. He has a B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics and an A.S. in Applied Electronics. Working as a CSM Consultant and Client Delivery Specialist at CSM Practice he performs research on Customer Success Methodologies and authors documentation to help customers build, grow, and scale their CSM practice.

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