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Business Consulting

Client Onboarding Playbook

Wow your clients with a straightforward project cost estimation workflow, fresh from our own client work files.

By Rebekah Radice

5 min read

Pricing and estimation are amongst the topics we get asked about the most. A few weeks ago, we shared our thinking on upcoming rate increases. Today, we're giving you a peek into our upcoming client onboarding playbook.

Hey Rebekah, how do you estimate client jobs!?

Simple qualification

A consistent takeaway from successful self-employed professionals is the importance of a solid onboarding process. In this context, we're using onboarding as jargon for the sales lifecycle. Our typical client onboarding process goes something like this:

  1. Call 1: Understand the situation and qualify
  2. Call 2: Explore the situation further, understand problems, and uncover needs
  3. Homework: Research and collaboration on our end to map a solution
  4. Call 3: Recommendation

Sound familiar? 100% of our legacy business comes from repeat clients and referrals, so we have a pretty high conversion rate. Nevertheless, we adjust the amount of time we invest in this business development stage, depending on the scope of the engagement.

Nailing the initial discovery

To elaborate a bit on the second, longer discovery call, we use it as a time to get to know the prospect's business. Our goal for this session is to figure out:

  1. Where are they coming from?
  2. Where are they now?
  3. Where do they want to go and why?

It's easier said than done, but our focus during this call is to better understand their motivations so we can get to the real task at hand.

What are they trying to become

This can be some heavy stuff so we're not going to dwell on it too much.

Think of a company selling drills. Now think about the consumer who buys their product. Imagine you had a chance to ask the consumer:

  • Q: Why'd you buy TorqueCo's ¼" drill?
  • A: Because I need a bunch of ¼" holes
  • Q: OK, and why do you need a bunch of ¼" holes?
  • A: To install my ¼" hooks
  • Q: What do you need ¼" hooks for?
  • A: To hang up a bunch of jackets...because I'm building a mud room

We won't bore you with more questions but the gist is: The consumer bought the ¼" drill to help them get organized. That's what they're trying to become.

We don't end our discovery unless we have a solid understanding of what our client is trying to become. By nailing this down, it gives a truer picture of where they want to go. It also helps us better identify the ways we can help them get there.

Crunching the numbers

Our service offerings for our legacy business are repeatable and standardized packages of digital marketing superpowers. Over time, by performing these services we have a clear picture of the resources, effort, and risks/unknowns involved.

We use these inputs to lay out pricing in an old-school way that works for us. We created pricing templates in Google Sheets that we make a copy of, then adapt them for prospective clients.

Here's a real example for our Blueprint service. The prospect is trying to become more impactful. Where they want to go? They want to be the most sought-after life/performance coach on the planet.

  • Deliverable: We break down each section of the larger deliverable by Resource/lead. It makes it easier to talk about and be transparent
  • Resource: This is the person running the effort
  • Estimate: This is the actual time the Resource has estimated to complete the effort
  • Contingency: This is a default % to be added to the Estimate (in hours) based on the risks/unknowns. It makes or breaks profitability so be careful
  • Effort: Sum of the Estimate + Contingency
  • Rate: The hourly price we charge for the Resource
  • Fee: Sum of the hourly Rate x Effort.

Here's a copy of the slides we used in our recommendation session to the prospect. Upon verbal acceptance, we dumped this information into a Harvest Estimate and got it formally approved, followed by our contract.

That's it! Whew...it really seems a lot more complicated than it is. We hope you'll be able to take your project cost estimation to a new level with this peek into our playbook.

In the weeks to come, we'll be diving much deeper into each of these topics. Until then, holler if you have any questions or follow ups.

Rebekah Radice

About Rebekah Radice

Rebekah Radice, co-founder of BRIL.LA, has traded narcissism for purpose. When not driving growth, you'll find her tricking family into thinking she's Emeril Lagasse - likely covered in marinara. The spotlight was fun, but impact is better. These days she's using 20+ years of brand brilliance for good.