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3 Essential Pre-onboarding Principles: Part 2 of 3 – Ensure Customer Onboarding Readiness

For those just joining our blog series CSM from the Trenches, welcome. This series, now a community for frontline Customer Success Managers (CSMs), discusses trends, best practices, and advice that can help the frontline.

Being on the CSM frontline allows us to directly influence the success of our clients. I love that; as our clients are successful, we’re successful. Each day we learn from the trenches what it takes to make clients happy and successful.

Let’s move forward with this week’s blog post!

3 Essential Pre-onboarding Principles

On April 18, 2018 I introduced a presentation called “3 Essential Pre-onboarding Principles” at a local Customer Success meet-up in Utah. While that presentation focused primarily on practical examples tied to the principles, I thought I’d compile additional thoughts in form of a 3-part blog as part of CSM from the Trenches.

Those 3 essential pre-onboarding principles are as follows:


  1. Develop, Document, and Strengthen Customer Lifecycle Plans
  2. Ensure Customer Onboarding Readiness
  3. Identify Key Individuals, Influencers, and Contacts


For the sake of this 3-part blog, I’m going to define pre-onboarding as the time prior to bringing clients onboard or beginning their implementation. This period serves as an excellent opportunity to set and build relationship momentum, as well as set both you and your clients up for greater, long-term success.

Principle 2: Ensure Customer Onboarding Readiness

SaaS as a business thrives on collecting data – in which Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success are each involved – on customers. Whether it’s usage metrics or general client information, data makes our world go round and enables us to better serve customers.

An important thing to remember is that different touch-points have different purposes in collecting data. For example, pre-sales is tasked with acquiring and closing new deals; however, post-sales can and should influence what information is critical to collect.

Understanding your different touch-points and the information you should be collecting along the way will ultimately ensure customer customer onboarding readiness. Read on to learn more!



As mentioned previously, pre-sales is tasked with acquiring and closing new deals but it is important for them to collect information that is critical to onboarding success. From my experience, there are 5 points of data about new clients that are typically collected or reviewed during this time.

  1. System requirements, integrations, and limitations
  2. Relationship risks or limitations
  3. Contacts involved during the sales process
  4. Goals
  5. Extent of involvement pre-sales

Depending on the size and structure of your company, the actual handoff of this information could be more formal or informal. If there are gaps to be filled, start with 2-3 and fill them! Try to capture this as early on in the process as you can (it can help with the long-term success of your customers).

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How do you currently hold your pre-sales handoff? What sort of information do you try to collect?
  • Do you feel like there are gaps that need to be filled?


Customer Success

Because of limitations on the pre-sales side (and the fact that each touch-point serves a very specific purpose in data collection), you may have to do additional work to gather information related to a client’s current environment and capabilities.

Prior to kicking off a new relationship, don’t be afraid to ask your clients for additional information that will positively influence the momentum of the relationship (especially if you’re lacking this info from pre-sales).

Consider an onboarding readiness survey (perhaps a Google form or simply part of the kickoff call) that captures the following:

  1. Implementation owner or key contact
  2. Other stakeholders
  3. Who they report to
  4. What job they hired you to do
  5. Business objectives (how they can be successful because of their relationship with you)
  6. Current pain points
  7. One thing they hope to achieve right off the bat
  8. What 6-12 months ROI looks like
  9. Timelines and/or constraints

These 9 additional data points can help you assess a client’s current environment and capabilities, build their faith in you as a trusted advisor, as well as positively impact the momentum in kicking off the relationship.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How do you assess a client’s current environment and capabilities?
  • Is there information that you should be gathering earlier in the relationship?


The Kickoff

Continuing the theme of building relationship momentum, the kickoff is the best opportunity to align and set expectations by putting a stake in the ground concerning tailored scope of work.

If you haven’t already implemented these, here are a few things to consider as you kickoff a new relationship:

  1. Review onboarding readiness survey results prior to the kickoff so you know what additional information might need to be collected
  2. Reiterate your role in the relationship
  3. Have a live conversation [post survey] concerning the results and next steps
  4. Outline anticipated onboarding / customer lifecycle
  5. Explain what additional resources are available to facilitate a smoother customer experience

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do your kickoffs have clear objectives?
  • What are 1-2 ways you can better discuss results and recommend next steps, especially setting expectations for what needs to be further tailored?



As a quick reference, here are 5 best practices to remember to ensure customer onboarding readiness:

  1. Different touch-points have different purposes in collecting data
  2. Collect critical information as early as possible (before it’s too late)
  3. Gather additional, relevant information (Success Criteria)
  4. Build relationship momentum
  5. Set expectations


These steps are an excellent starting point if you are looking to set both you and your customers up for greater long-term success, but are certainly not comprehensive. However, by taking the time to make collecting critical client information a priority, you’ll be able to focus on the value you’re able to provide to each customer.

**Be sure to tune in again next week for Principle 3: Identify Key Individuals, Influencers, and Contacts!**


Here are other customer success resources:

Customer Success eBooks:

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Ultimate Guide to SaaS Customer Success Metrics

Other CSM from the Trenches Posts:

Adam Kunzia, DataCamp – CSM from the Trenches: Mentors

Sam Feil, ClientSuccess – 3 Best Practices that Drive Powerful Customer Experiences (How to Avoid the Dreaded Car Dealership Experience)

Erica Newell, Marketware – 5 LinkedIn Best Practices to Build, Grow, and Improve Client Relationships

Mieke Maes, Intuo – 5 Keys to an Effective Customer Apology

Priscilla Zorrilla, 15Five – Asking the Right Questions to Challenge Customers

SoapBox Team Shout-Out

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong customer success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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