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 industry trends and competitor positioning. And, they regularly engage with decision-makers to discover business pain points and their remedies.
These individuals also employ another tool: 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 the conversation. 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.
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 customer-specific value. 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 the place to fall into the trap of feature dumping.
Show an understanding of the prospect’s decision-making process. An effective mutual plan includes your understanding of the company’s purchasing criteria and procurement process. By outlining what’s required and all parties involved, there is less ambiguity on how to move forward once a decision is made. To ensure all the bases are covered, confirm who has the power to sign off on purchase orders and sales contracts.
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. To ensure the outline of next steps isn’t one-sided, include your next steps as well, with deadlines where appropriate. This will help prevent the sales process from stalling due to a lack of urgency. Remember, the ultimate goal is value realization, and this outline can serve as a guide to ensure a smooth handoff to customer success post-sale.
Ultimately, a thorough and thoughtful mutual plan allows you to maintain control of the sales cycle, mitigate risk and keep everyone focused on the end goal. 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.
As always, Sell with Value
Searching for more on this topic? Listen to the on-demand webinar: Get On the Same Page: Align Your Close with Your Prospect’s Buying Timeline.