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New client onboarding for independent consultants

Vikrant Duggal
Vikrant Duggal
• 4 min read

Today I'm kicking off a new client engagement and I wanted to share how I think about my process. Here's what I'll cover in this essay.

  1. Context of client onboarding
  2. Onboarding overview
  3. Kick-off Interview Categories: Gathering the CEO Perspective
  4. Data Room Assets
  5. Post Kick-off tasks
  6. Conclusion

Context of client onboarding

My compleete client journey is broken down into five steps:

  1. Attraction
  2. Research
  3. Synthesis
  4. Prototype
  5. Deployment

I start with Attraction. Since I started consulting back in 2017 I always liked the concept of attracting demand. This puts my client at the center of the journey and everything I do to partner with Founders and CEOs

I then move to the Research component of the journey. This includes onboarding and kicking off the engagement as well any necessary interviews I need to do as well as data and assets from the client I need to collect.

It's now time to conduct Synthesis. This is where I review all my notes from calls, the data that has been provided and I start to bucket my findings into the 3 to 4 MUST DOs that will unlock revenue acceleration for my client. I have a number of frameworks that I can pull from, but with any engagement there are nuances so I'm always on the look out for adjustments/modifications to the frameworks based on the context of the business.

I then move to the Prototype phase. Remember, everything so far is based on my synthesis and assessment of the business. So I never go into a read-out call with the presumption that I have the right answer. While I'm generally correct, I love to make sure there are enough discussion questions to make for an engaging and challenging read-out. My clients tend to be people who love to partner and provide input and insight.

The last step of the process is Deployment. My engagements are structured in a way that the client may end the process after Prototype if they feel they can run with it. To date this has never happened so after aligning on the strategy we move to making it happen and I support the client to make sure we move forward at the right pace to achieve objectives we have aligned around.

Onboarding Overview

Onboarding falls right into the Research phase. On an engagement call I'll end by asking, "How would you like to proceed?" They'll respond with, "Let's get started next week" which will kick off onboarding. Here are the steps for onboarding:

  1. Sending over my email with how the engagement is structured and the contract.
  2. Sending over my email to coordinate the kick-off date and schedule time (60-90 minutes).
  3. Send an email with the Kick-off Interview Questions that we will cover on the call.
  4. Send an email with the requests for the data room along with a link to the Google Drive folder to upload the assets.
  5. Send the invoice for payment (due on day of kick-off).

While I won't break down the entirety of the onboarding steps, there may be a few relevant and helpful parts of this so I wanted to share the key elements with you.

Kick-off Interview Categories: Gathering the CEO Perspective

Interviewing the CEO and gathering context is critical. Each business I work with has its own set of nuances and I never like consultants or agencies that treated my like I was every other client. I cover 60-80 questions across 10 categories. The categories are as follows:

  1. Company mission, value proposition, and target market
  2. Company size and revenue
  3. Summary of CEO priorities
  4. Product Development
  5. Customer Success
  6. Unit economics
  7. Growth plan
  8. Demand Generation
  9. Sales
  10. Pricing

As I mentioned, I also set up a data room to request access to data and assets.

Data Room Assets

Here are the broad set of assets I request. One note: I do not make the CEO do any additional work to create these assets. Whatever they can find in 2-5 minutes.

  • Market position analysis / documentation
  • Revenue plan / goals / projections
  • Unit economics
    • LTV / CAC
    • Payback period per customer
    • Gross margin
  • Go to market metrics
    • Customer Success
      • Revenue / customer churn rates
      • Churn reasons
      • Churn leading indicators
      • Churn by customer segment (i.e. employee size, vertical)
    • Sales
      • Sales headcount / attrition plan
      • Sales compensation plan
      • Productivity per salesperson vs goal
      • Sales process steps and conversion rates
    • Demand Generation
      • Marketing channel performance (ie. paid, content, trade shows, channel partners)
      • Customer acquisition by demand source
      • SDR team hiring / attrition plan
      • SDR team productivity per rep
  • Go to market playbooks
    • Hiring playbooks / templates
    • Sales process playbooks
    • Customer success process playbooks
  • Sample recorded calls
    • Sales / customer success interviews
    • Sales calls
    • Customer success calls

Post Kick-off tasks

As we wrap up the kick-off call I'm looking to get a list of other key members of the team to interview and a reminder around specific data to collect.

  • 30-60 minutes with Sales, marketing, and Customer Success
  • Review any available data or collateral on:
    • Sales funnel data
    • PPR by rep by quarter/month
    • Bottom-up operating model
    • Sales compensation plan
    • Sales playbook
      • Buyer journey
      • Discovery call guide
      • Presentation guide
    • Sales on-boarding training material
    • Sales hiring criteria and interview guide
    • Sales forecast
    • Customer success dashboard
    • Org chart

Conclusion

Onboarding is really the first step of the engagement, but I thought a lot about design when creating it. My objective is to improve the condition of the client and I can't make generic recommendations because I'm looking to achieve outstanding results.

I think many consultants haven't sat down to think through and design the most effective onboarding system for their partnerships.

If you’ve been thinking of creating an onboarding process for your business, now is the time to stop thinking about it and do it. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make in your business.

Consulting