How to introduce Mutual Success Plans to get buyer engagement?

Shankar Ganapathy
September 27, 2021
introduce mutual succes plan

I will be the first to admit - I used to hate creating close plans and mutual action plans. My buyers refused to engage with it, and it ended up being another management-enforced checklist to get me to do their dirty work in order to forecast accurately. 

But as I rose through the ranks, managed strategic pursuits, and saw my team size grow rapidly, my perspective changed. I also ended up working with a really good sales leader who taught me the importance of mutual close plans and how to introduce them to buyers. 

In many ways, starting BuyerAssist is inspired by this journey and the mission to make sales truly buyer-centric. 

In my previous blog, I wrote about what goes into a mutual success plan (and why we should call it ‘success’ and not ‘action,’ or ‘close’ - words matter!). In this blog, I am sharing some of my latest learnings after seeing dozens of seasoned sellers use our solution to collaborate with the buyers on mutual success plans and also use it to keep the sales management informed.

What goes into a mutual success plan: Project, People, and Process

Often, your buyers are first or second-time buyers in their companies and aren’t used to navigating a complex buying process. A mutual success plan gives you a framework to help you and your buyers document a shared understanding of why either of you should spend time in the sales/buying cycle. It consists of four key parts.

  • Co-created executive narrative: write the one-pager document with your buyer to answer the 3 whys - why change, why now, why anything. You might want to add ‘why you’ to wrap up the executive narrative. This document is used to onboard new stakeholders on either side. It will serve as a key instrument in getting the collective ‘yes’ on why to solve the problem. I typically present this for the first five minutes of every call with the message - here is what we know, has anything changed since the time we last spoke?
  • Mapping key stakeholders and their roles in the evaluation: At some point in the sales process, your buyers want to go through an evaluation process with you. This is a good time to have an honest conversion to give them visibility into how you sell and the stakeholders involved and ask your buyers about who gets involved from their side. Asking direct questions like ‘how do you evaluate, how are you going to fund this project, who all needs to sign off, what is the compelling event, etc.’ is critical. But this is not a one-way street. Talk about cast and crew (Sales Engineers, Executive sponsor, Customer Success Managers, etc.)... and their roles in helping them during the evaluation.  
  • Buying journey milestones and key activities: This is probably the most difficult yet the most important component of your mutual success plan. Most buyers do not want to share their plan and dates (others don't know it) as they know you are going to use that information later in the sales cycle. Flip the script. Tell them how companies buy from you, how long each of those milestones take, how companies evaluate etc. Use actual anecdotes. Once you set the context, ask them if they agree with it or have seen different steps in their company. Make it easy for them by asking yes/no questions. Also highlight unusual steps that you have seen in similar companies (like, companies similar to you have a steering committee who needs to approve the budget, does that apply to you?, or on what basis do budgets get approved? how does your IT review process look like? etc, are there any atypical steps that is part of your sales process?)
  • Buyer enablement: There are tons of information about your products/servcices/customer case studies etc on our website. There are many other hidden gems in your sales enablement portal. Flip the script. Give open access to all the information, FAQs etc to your buyers through a google search like experience. Don't force them to go to your sellers (and wait for hours/days) for transactional questions. In this process, your sellers can look at what your buyers are searching/reading instead of pushing papers to answer first-level questions. By giving your buyers one place to go for all information regarding your product, their evaluation of your produt and path to value realized. This new buyer experience will automatically enable you to stand out from the competition.

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Why you should use a Mutual Success Plan?

Using a mutual success plan can be an effective way to get buyer engagement because it helps align the goals of both the buyer and seller, and creates a shared sense of accountability for achieving those goals. Here are some reasons why a mutual success plan can be beneficial:

  1. Aligns goals: A mutual success plan ensures that both the buyer and seller are working towards the same goals, which can help build trust and foster collaboration. By aligning goals, the buyer is more likely to be engaged and committed to the partnership.
  2. Creates accountability: With a mutual success plan, both parties are responsible for achieving the agreed-upon goals. This creates a sense of accountability and ensures that both parties are invested in the success of the partnership.
  3. Increases transparency: A mutual success plan can increase transparency by outlining the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure success. This helps both parties understand what is expected of them and how success will be evaluated.
  4. Encourages communication: By regularly reviewing the mutual success plan, both parties can stay in communication about progress towards goals and any changes that may need to be made. This can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are on the same page.

All this is great but how do I bring it up the first time with the prospect?

When to Introduce Mutual Success Plans to buyers

  • Scenario 1: A good time to introduce Mutual Success Plans is when you have completed the 2nd or 3rd call, and the customer has expressed interest in exploring your offerings in detail.
  • Scenario 2: Your customer wants custom demos, POCs and wants to bring in new stakeholders to the mix.
  • Scenario 3: You have a sound understanding of the customer context and the compelling event and want to proactively align on next steps

How to introduce and position Mutual Success Plan to buyers?

Thanks, Mrs. Buyer. As we look to spend more time helping you evaluate our solution, I have documented my understanding of your context and also have come up with a mutual success plan. I would love to take 10 minutes to review this with you and confirm if all information I have is correct.

#1 Overview:

"I have documented a one-page executive summary of your current scenario, desired solution, and impact here."

"To get started with the current scenario, Acme is looking to solve <problem 1> and <problem 2>. Can you confirm this is correct, or am I missing anything?"

"Now talking about the metrics you're looking to impact, you want to improve <metric 1> and <metric 2>. Through the course of the evaluation, we will show you how we can help you do this. So it is important that my understanding is correct. Anything you would add or edit here?"

"Finally, your desired solution is <solution 1>, < solution 2> and <solution 3>. Any other key capabilities or use-cases that you think are important?"

"Would you write any of this differently or want to add anything here?"

"Also, I have attached our product datasheet and the custom slide deck I created for <Acme> with the executive summary. I have seen my customers use this to onboard new stakeholders as they become part of the buying journey. I also use this to onboard my peers in the pre-sales and post-sales teams. I also routinely update this with you as we navigate the sales process. This document is also the source of truth for our relationship if you decide to move forward with us. Do you have any questions? Now moving to the buying steps."

#2 Plan

“Thanks for the feedback on the executive summary, now jumping onto the plan. We have looked at 100s of our customers similar to you and studied their buying journey and their path to value. We have broken that down into the following milestones and tasks.”

"Typically, the evaluation process starts off with milestones 1 and 2.. and from there, we go to milestones 3 and 4, which are done in parallel. We involve the post-sales team while we get to milestone 5 to ensure we are on track for your go-live. The typical evaluation times are also listed here. Overall, the evaluation process should take ~2 months, paperwork ~1month, and deployment another ~2months." 

"Does this sound like how you would buy software? "

"Are there steps here that are missing or you think are redundant?"

"Also, note that all critical assets are available in the context of milestones, and you can ask us specific questions around specific tasks. This makes sure all information is made available to you in the context of where you are in the buying journey."

#3 Stakeholders:

Now, I know you are the key project leader. Can you help me identify the other key stakeholders? Can you confirm Mrs. Y is the sponsor for this project? Who else is part of the evaluation team? Any special needs from the infosec or legal team that you are aware of? I have seen this get done in days, but this can go on for weeks in rare cases.  

"Finally, either you can give me your Infosec and Legal contacts now, or we can talk about it when we get to that stage in your journey. "

"Some of my pursuits had a steering committee for deals >$100K ARR. Do you have anything like that in your buying process?"

#4 Assets:

"Mrs. Buyer, note that all the assets you might need as part of your evaluation are made available to you in one place. In the past, our buyers had to go to our website, email sellers and wait for hours or simply wait for the next call to get simple questions answered. With the assets, all our 180+ assets like product datasheets, case studies, technical documents, legal documents, and pricing sheets are one search away for you. For example, if you want our Salesforce integration datasheet, you can get it here by searching 'salesforce' here"

#5 Sharing

I am also going to provide you access to this system. This should help you onboard new stakeholders and also enable you and me to align on the key steps in the process. Also, when we are not on a call, you can find relevant information in a matter of seconds. 

"Do you think anyone else needs to see this currently?"

"We will also use this to capture our progress and keep each other (and extended team) accountable."

So how do you introduce mutual success plans? Share your ideas with me at 

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