Good service is not something you promise; it’s something you prove. A new prospect comes to you with the fear of change, because dealing with a new supplier requires new administrative practices, ordering protocols, and people. The customer has only one way of knowing you will out-service the competition: by experiencing it.

The key to launching successful customer relationships therefore has less to do with selling skills and more to do with properly onboarding a new client. Placing and delivering the first order is not a time to relax, but instead a critical moment that defines the future of a business relationship.

I experienced this firsthand when testing a new bank provider for my business accounts. A manager I had met several times at networking events convinced me to take my business to her institution with the promise of better service and benefits. Fortunately, I kept accounts open with my existing bank while testing her services, because the experience fell short of the promise.

At her company’s branch, I felt like a stranger the first time I made a deposit, while recollecting how my existing branch was filled with associates who greeted me by name. The bank put reserves on my first deposit that had long been lifted at my other bank. And the payroll service I use had unexpected difficulties with the transfer to employee accounts. I closed the account and retained my long-time relationship with my existing banker. The hard work she had done to persuade me over a period of months got her the sale, but it was lost after the first few transactions.

Recognize the sale is not complete when you take the first order—it’s complete after you deliver the first order and onboard a client by proving your competence. The success of the first order establishes the tone for the future relationship and produces in the customer confidence to buy more. I suggest:

  1. Slowly validate every detail of first order. Don’t be delegate order entry to a third party. The originating salesperson should review the first order with his new customer. He should then hand-deliver the order to his internal order-entry partner and oversee the process to ensure every item is included properly.
  2. Supervise order placement with the vendor (if necessary). If the first transaction is a special order, then the originating salesperson should intercede to make sure all details are communicated properly. A slip-up with the vendor might create a delivery delay that destroys the relationship before it begins.
  3. Meet the first delivery at the jobsite. Many salespeople assume that the delivery will go well because all of the original documentation was perfect. Sales presence at the jobsite tells the customer you care and enables the salesperson to validate that the promise of service was delivered.

Never take the first order for granted. Onboarding a new client is as vital to sales success as any other step in the process, probably more so. New customers who feel confident to order products from you release all fear of change. Your demonstration of competence to get an order delivered perfectly builds trust, loyalty, and profits.