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ExpertsPublished July 3, 2024

How to Kick Off Successfully With Clients: Advice from a Seven Figure Agency

Oscar Brooks, co-founder of V88, shares his best advice on how to win with new clients and build a high-revenue agency

Wren Noble

Wren Noble

Head of Content

How to Kick Off Successfully With Clients: Advice from a Seven Figure Agency

Beginning a project on the right foot is the single most important skill to have when you’re in the business of serving clients. 

Oscar Brooks, co-founder of V88 Agency, is a strong believer in laying a solid foundation from day one. That’s one of the reasons V88 has seen such incredible success, building from a father-son freelancing duo to a seven-figure agency with a team of Experts and a stable of impressive clientele.

To Oscar, the whole purpose of a solid project kickoff is to ensure that he is able to finish a project with a delighted client. “Smiles on faces,” he says, is the goal. “It's a long game, and the more time you think about the factors that will determine project success, the more chance you have of deploying successful solutions. Therefore, the more likely you are to be recommended, the more likely you are to get a good review, and the more likely you are to have an excellent case study where the things you're saying about the outcome are true. So it has a compounding effect, and it is absolutely worth the effort.” 

Oscar sat down with us to talk about his experience building an Agency from the ground up and the incredible insights they’ve gained in the process. Read on to learn from their experience using client onboarding to ensure success, or click the link below to listen to the full conversation.

Building a $1M+ software agency with no code

Building a $1M+ software agency with no code

Watch the full interview

Choose clients who will benefit the most from your skills and tools

Set yourself up to work with clients and create use cases for those clients that are well suited to success with your specific expertise and the tools you use. Not all agencies work the same way or specialize in the same industries or types of tools. And despite no code being an incredibly flexible technology, not all tools build the same types of apps.

Some agencies might specialize in building wider tech stacks for clients using a variety of tools. For example, some agencies are primarily focused on no code web development and create websites with Webflow and build app infrastructure with Glide to support those websites behind the scenes. Others specialize in business process automation, creating dashboards and portals with Glide that connect to other software using automation tools like Make or Zapier. 

V88 has chosen to focus on creating “internal business solutions to streamline processes delivered with speed and immense value,” exclusively using Glide. “We're the Glide guys. We are all in on Glide as a product, as a service, and, in our case, as a way of creating business software, said Oscar. 

“We’ve tried to combine business sense and commercial sense with a deep technical knowledge to try and understand the problems that businesses have and solve them effectively.”

He estimates that 90% of their business is building internal business solutions. He primarily works with established businesses in more traditional fields that are badly in need of the digital transformation he can provide, such as law firms, property companies, sales businesses, solar companies, and construction companies. 

The common theme for most contracts is that V88 can use no code to efficiently create a business app that has a simple structure but is refined to suit that particular business’s unique nuances and specific business processes. This is a lucrative niche because he is able to: 

  1. Leverage the full potential of Glide’s strengths with data and software connection.

  2. Provide efficient, cost-effective solutions for businesses that have traditionally been left out of the custom software world.

  3. And build a solution for those businesses that is elegantly tailored to their exact needs, providing a ton of value for each client.

Clients who get value from your services turn into repeat customers and spread word of mouth that will help you expand your business. Choose your tools, clients, and use cases well from the beginning, and you’ll set yourself up for financial success.

Ask questions to thoroughly understand your client's business

Once you’ve started discussions with a client, your first job is to absorb as much information from them as possible about their business—not just the app they want you to build. “People go custom for a reason,” says Oscar. Custom means they have pain points that can’t be solved with their existing resources and unique needs that you’ll need to understand in order to meet them

“We ask customers a lot of questions,” he says. “That's a trait that we laugh about with them. We have this running joke that on our gravestone, it will say, here lies V88…they asked way too many questions. Because our primary focus is to understand a customer—to understand a business—before we talk shop. And before we talk what an app may or may not do.”

Your initial questions should focus on the customer’s business, their primary pain points, and their ambitions for the future. “Rule number one for us is to understand them,” he says. “We want to know who they are and what they do in detail, even if it has nothing to do with the app that needs to be created, which might be 5 percent of their business. We need to understand all of their business.”

By building your understanding of their business holistically, you can identify opportunities for additional apps and refine your software so it fits into the whole of their business, not just one process or application. “Then we need to understand why they're here, not even necessarily what do you want this app to do, but why are you here? What has brought you to talk to a Glide expert? That's the start of the process,” he says. 

Next, refine your questions and get more specific. To Oscar, that means “sales, use cases, and scalability. How many different people, types of people, and roles need to use the solution? How does it need to scale based on historical data? Based on future data?” This will help you identify what kind of app you need to build, how you should structure it, and how you should go about connecting it to the rest of their tools and processes.

Rarely will you kick off with a client that is building something entirely from scratch. They’ll have existing processes and tools. Asking questions about their business will help you understand what they’re using now, what’s working, and where there is space for you to use your expertise to improve rather than just copy that process.

“There's always some kind of framework, some kind of existing system and process,” he says. “But what we build is not a replica of that. It's an improvement. And that's really the key difference. That thing that exists it's quite often a spreadsheet, a bunch of sticky notes, an existing off-the-shelf product, even a legacy custom piece of software. It's quite often just in someone's brain. Our role is to take the good, remove the bad, and add to it in immense ways.”

Systematize onboarding—but make sure you adapt to the client’s unique needs

Developing systems for onboarding new clients will save you time and help ensure you don’t miss important details in the onboarding process. It will also help you effectively scale your services if you end up growing and bringing more team members into your agency. 

“We do have templated elements of our process,” says Oscar, “but my concern in trying to create such a rigid system was always that you lose the ability to be agile. You need to be agile. Yes, we have templates, but they are totally just top-level frameworks. They're not cut and copy full in-depth proposals because that is impossible; every customer is different.”

He suggests creating flexible templates with structured elements that can be repurposed, reused, and customized for each new client. This way, you can create efficiency without losing the adaptability you need to succeed with a diverse variety of clients. 

“The beauty of Glide is that it enables custom software,” he explains. “So templating and adding rigidity to your process counteracts one of the main reasons that a customer might benefit from a Glide type route.”

Tailor your kickoff documentation based on how your client’s communication style, not just their technical specs. “Some customers want to see visual representations of how their data might be structured. Some want to understand the use cases by bullet points. So we have a framework, but we tailor every single one that goes out the door,” he says.

Identify what type of service each client needs from you

A skill that will help build longer-term relationships with clients is the ability to identify patterns or “types” of customers and then tailor your services to suit that client type. Oscar sees Glide customers as commonly falling into two categories: the solutions customer and the relationship customer.

The Solutions Customer

Solutions customers come to you with a clear vision of what they want. They’ve outlined specifications, created documentation, and developed a pretty solid understanding of what they’re trying to achieve. “We’ve received some incredible PowerPoints, specifications, workflows, and things like that,” says Oscar. These customers are generally the easiest to kick off with. Their scope of work is predictable, and you can pretty confidently quote them for it.

The Relationship Customer

“The other type of customer is the one that seems very scary at the beginning,” he explains, “but we've worked with so many of these, and they're just incredible to work with. It’s what we deem the relationship customer.” Their solution is much less cut-and-dry, and they may be unsure of what they need from you—they just know you can help them.

“They have a whole lot of frustrations, and they want some kind of solution, but they are not quite sure what that is,” he says. Rather than approaching these customers mainly focusing on the app you’ll build, Oscar recommends building an ongoing partnership that let’s you explore the problem together, generate potential solutions, and build a relationship where you can become a solutions partner to their business. This is a valuable and rewarding process for both parties.

“It's a case of just being honest and having that discussion and coming up with something that makes sense,” he says. “Usually, the best way to approach this is to break it down into an initial proof of concept and solve the first and most irritating pain point first. That is potentially a smaller piece of work, and that will give you a better picture and understanding of whether you have met their expectations, can they see value in it, and then what's next?”

Break the process down into digestible chunks and distinct phases. This lets you check in with the customer regularly to make sure you’re on the right track and helps avoid spending excessive time on a complex build that may be misaimed. It will also build your understanding of the customer and form a stronger foundation over time. “The more you deliver, and the more honest you are the more trust is gained there. Hence why we call it a relationship customer,” he says.

Set good expectations by scoping, quoting, and estimating time properly

Set accurate expectations with your clients by developing a clear shared understanding of timeline, cost, and outcome. The more realistic their expectations, the more likely they are to be happy with the outcome of your collaboration. 

Timeline

Oscar recommends building healthy buffers into your timeline. “Just because you were using no code, it's super fast, it's super powerful, it's intuitive, but that doesn't mean you get quick wins,” he says. You want to build in time to deal with unexpected problems, to properly test and iterate on features, and re-egineer elements of your app as new information arises.

“The worst thing you can do there is quote a timeline where you feel like it's a squeeze” 

“Time is essential,” says Oscar. “Having that time to test things, to think about things, to potentially need to re-engineer something. Sometimes, you figure out maybe there's a more optimal way to do something. You don't need to tell the customer that, but we'll often find ourselves thinking internally, I'm so glad we gave ourselves those extra few days.”

“Be upfront and be transparent with the customer about it,” says Oscar. “You know, often customers will think Glide, no code, speed. Yes, that’s true, but specifically, it’s relative to custom software development.” Even if you add a couple of days to a project to account for testing and iteration, that’s still six months quicker than the same project if custom-coded. Push back and set aside the time you need to ensure success.

Scope

Oscar also recommends scoping certain parts of a project separately, both in terms of cost and time. This could include more advanced features or more complex elements like automation or integrations. “Try and pick out the bits that are worth investing time into and thinking through to make sure you're quoting for that,” he explains. This allows you to set aside a specific timeline for that part of the project, which can often involve lots of smaller tasks, like getting access to a bunch of different software systems before you can even begin building your feature.

V88 will typically scope separately for “setting up integrations, testing them in the test environment, tweaking them to suit, and then releasing them. A particular integration we would always treat as an additional piece of work that we would charge for,” he says. “You have to assume that if you're integrating with another platform, there's got to be contingency there. Nine times out of ten, that’s going to be a couple of days of work to get it right.“

Other features he recommends scoping separately for are things that use more complex computations or manipulate data on a larger scale. “If you have a combination of Glide Tables and Big Tables or SQL to test your relations, your lookups, your roll-ups, whatever computation is happening there, just assume it's going to take longer than you may think, compared with just playing with Glide Tables.”

Cost

No code developers often have a habit of underestimating the value of their own services. The tools you build are help businesses succeed and grow, and businesses will typically have a substantial budget they’re prepared to spend on software. The value you offer is that you can build more customized tools more efficiently than they could if they were paying for off-the-shelf or custom-coded solutions.

“Make sure that you put your worth down on paper when you're quoting people,” says Oscar. “Just because it's Glide, just because it's no code, that doesn't mean it's incredibly cheap or free. You're providing immense direct or indirect value, so we will always look for that metric to make sure we're charging what we think we are worth for a project.”

Overcome common objections with consistent talking points

Finally, it will help you to develop an arsenal of resources and talking points to help you overcome common client objections that might stand in the way of closing a deal. You can use Glide’s resources as ammunition, like the “Why Hire a Glide Expert?” article here. Or draw inspiration from other’s experiences. These are the four that V88 encounters most often and their most effective counterpoints.

The Objection: Can Glide really do this?

If a client isn’t already familiar with no code or has yet to see it in action, they may come in with existing skepticism. Oscar explained that he encountered this one a lot early in his career, but it’s becoming less and less common as no code matures as a technology, and people are more likely to have used no code tools before.

Sometimes, the problem will be that they have a friend who is a software engineer who dismisses no code as unserious or not powerful enough for work. Sometimes, the client is just suspicious of any new tech. Or sometimes, the client may have used other no code tools before that were either early in their development or are intended to be less serious DIY tools for the public rather than robust workplace tools like Glide.

Oscar finds that evidence speaks louder than words most of the time. “You can tell somebody until you're blue in the face that Glide can achieve what they want,” he says. “Ultimately, after a few projects, you have case studies that you can show.”

“You’ll have referrals and people who you've built powerful software systems for inside of enterprise-level businesses who will sit there and say, it's the best thing that we have ever implemented in our company. We've had this said by companies that are turning over hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Build a solid portfolio of case studies and testimonials to overcome this objection, or focus on developing your word-of-mouth recommendations to head this one off at the pass entirely. “Another way of dealing with this one is to go back to our ethos,” he says. “We don't want to build this for you if we don't think it's going to work because it's going to make us look rubbish, and it's going to make Glide look rubbish, and we don't want that.” A strong reputation in the industry and peer-to-peer referrals are the best ways to help close more deals more often.

The Objection: Why are your services priced like that?

Most businesses are price-conscious, but this can be exacerbated by the initially DIY-heavy origins of no code. Often, you’ll encounter the opposite impact, however, and larger businesses who are used to traditional software quotes or off-the-shelf Enterprise plans that charge exorbitant by the seat.

“Pricing is an interesting one because it's subject to the relative expectation of the person you're speaking to,” says Oscar. “If you have someone who's previously been quoted by a traditional software business, your quote is going to be a shining light. But if you've had someone who's been quoted by a much more affordable method or by an off-the-shelf product, then, of course, your quote is going to be more expensive. So the first thing to understand there is relative expectation.” 

The first way of handling this is to clearly understand and explain the business value of your solution to the customer. Glide apps may not be a direct return on investment, but they can contribute significantly to a business’s bottom line. Your app can help make their team more efficient by reducing manual labor and data silos, or it could make them more productive by giving them visibility that they can use to make more strategic solutions. 

Apps can also directly contribute to revenue by helping businesses generate leads, improve customer experience, and close deals. If you’ve got a client that is happy with the internal tools you’ve built for them, there’s an opportunity to introduce the idea of building a client portal or similar solution that can directly help their bottom line. Once they’ve got the data infrastructure you’ve created, it’s easy to drop a new app on top of it and increase the value of your services without too much extra expense.

The other pricing challenge is when you encounter clients who genuinely don’t have the budget for a particular solution. Oscar recommends either working with the customer to reduce the build cost or providing a referral to a Glide Expert more in their price range. “In that case, it's a case of recommending an alternative where there may be something more affordable for them,” he says. 

The Objection: What happens if your agency disappears?

Some clients may perceive a traditionally-coded solution to be more future-proof than a no code solution like Glide, even though that’s generally not actually the case. Oscar occasionally encounters questions about the longevity of his agency or the portability of the apps built with Glide.

“What's beautiful about Glide in this instance is the customer owns the Glide account, the customer owns their team. They invite us in, and they can kick us out at any time,” he says. 

“There's this growing sea of experts who are brilliant. So I openly say to customers, I think that the Glide Experts work together, we communicate, we refer to each other based on knowing each other's skill sets.” 

It can feel insulting to be asked about your business failing or imagine handing your project over to someone else, but the reality is not all client relationships are a great fit. You may get too busy with business or have staffing challenges and welcome the ability to offload a challenging project to a trusted peer. You may also be relieved to hand off a difficult customer relationship without feeling guilty for leaving them in the lurch—adaptability means freedom and control over your work for your team as well as your clients.

Project handoff can actually be a common problem with traditional development. Code is so infinitely customizable that it can be hard for a developer to jump into a project and understand it. You can explain this to customers and show how Glide has stronger guardrails and consistency that make it easier to collaborate on or hand off a project. 

“The point is the customer is not going to be at the mercy of a traditional software developer who's sat there on all their code, and no one else can understand it,” he says. “The important thing there is if we fail, you can get Bob Petito in there or another excellent expert, and they can take over your app.” 

The Objection: What happens if Glide disappears?

Similarly, he occasionally gets questions about the future-proofness of Glide as a platform. He approaches this by showing how apps still have a level of portability out of the platform while simultaneously demonstrating his full faith in the future of Glide.

“The customer can export their data whenever they want to, is the first thing,” Oscar explains to his clients. “But more importantly, Glide has excellent backers. They are in an industry that has an upward trajectory and they are somewhat leading that sector that is no code and no code business apps. Looking at David Siegel and having spoken to him, his vision is to build a billion software developers, and we believe it when he says that.”

Grow your agency by building long-term relationships with clients

A great kickoff has benefits beyond word-of-mouth reputation, recommendations, and glowing reviews. It lays the groundwork for long-term client growth and deeper, more lucrative client relationships. The best agencies become business partners with their clients. 

The best agencies develop a deep understanding of their clients' businesses and can help identify opportunities for creating a wide range of effective solutions for their clients. They don’t just close one successful deal. They create long-lasting income streams as they grow alongside the businesses they support. 

A Glide Business subscription lets users create unlimited apps. You can help your clients take full advantage of their Glide account. Glide apps are more powerful than just a one-off solution. When you build fully connected systems for a client that work off their shared data and improve their relationship to technology both internally and externally, you become an essential part of their business.

“Software is supposed to be innovative. It's supposed to be transformative.”

By building relationships with clients, you build a reliable income stream for your agency made up of clients who you are happy to work with. You get to see their business flourish as a direct result of the work you’ve done with them. That can be one of the most rewarding parts of being a no code developer.

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Wren Noble

Wren Noble

Leading Glide’s content, including The Column and Video Content, Wren’s expertise lies in no code technology, business tools, and software marketing. She is a writer, artist, and documentary photographer based in NYC.

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