There are numerous reasons some sales professionals better predict the future than others. They stay up on current events and trends to quickly recognize hot or cooling markets. They accurately analyze data to project reasonable revenues in the coming quarters. And, they regularly engage with decision-makers to discover business pain points and their remedies.
These men and women also employ another tool to aid their forecasting: the mutual plan. The mutual plan is a written agreement outlining a two-way understanding of a company’s critical business issues and the activities needed to resolve them. Gaining confirmation to this agreement moves everyone closer to a signed contract and for the sales rep, closer to reaching target sales goals.
Designing a mutual plan is different than merely passing along the major points of conversations. As the name implies, these proposals are done jointly with a prospect to eliminate potential confusion or false expectations —on both sides of the table. They can be written on company letterhead or embedded in an email message. Since the format isn’t as important as the function, the sales rep and prospect can decide the method for documentation together.
It is also important to understand a mutual plan is not a to-do list. Yes, it includes activities to be done, but those items are listed to achieve a greater goal. The intention is to validate a prospect's confidence in their buying decision. And for you, as the sales rep, to serve as a guideline to deliver as promised.
What to include in a mutual plan
A clear summary of the prospect’s business issue. Outline a summary of their challenges and problems, and the solution they need. More specifically, this summary is a confirmation and reiteration of the language and wording that your prospect has actually used. What’s important is that both of you have the same expectations and understanding of why the prospect needs to partner with you for their purchase.
Confirm your value proposition. Note how your company is uniquely qualified to resolve the prospect’s most pressing issues. The focus is on the value your solution provides to the company, not a laundry list of your service or product features. While a mutual plan is part of the sales process, it is not intended to be a stealth sales pitch.
Show an understanding of the prospect’s decision-making process. An effective mutual plan includes remarks on your understanding of the company’s purchasing criteria and procurement process. By outlining what’s required to gain a purchase order, there is less ambiguity on how to move forward once a decision is made. To ensure they are both aware and involved, also confirm who within the organization has the power to sign off on purchase orders and sales contracts.To that end, this is a key component to uncover during the discovery stage.
Provide a call to action. An agreed upon timeline of benchmarks is at the heart of a mutual plan; without specific action items there isn’t a plan to follow. So that the outline of next steps isn’t one-sided focusing on all that the prospect needs to do, a mutual plan includes your next steps as well, with deadlines for both where appropriate. This will help prevent the sales process from stalling due to a lack of urgency.
A thorough, thoughtful mutual plan can quickly address objections and allow you, the sales rep, to maintain control of the sales cycle. It also demonstrates your commitment to helping someone move forward with their goals and even their career. As you meet milestones and mutually approved benchmarks, you also become a trusted adviser. That role not only earns you sales in the near term, but it helps establish long-term business relationships and revenue growth that you can count on.
Sell with Value!
Relevant topic? Listen to this recorded webinar, delivered on Tuesday, December 18 at 10 AM PST: Get On the Same Page: Align Your Close with Your Prospect's Buying Timeline.