Modern Buyer Preferences: Using  Mutual Action Plans to drive customer-centricity

Aparna Shah
June 6, 2022
Mutual Action Plan

Think of the last time you were a B2B buyer. Was the seller too focused on selling their product? Or did she first understand your status quo needs, attempt to understand your pain points, and then eventually help you walk through potential solutions independently by providing pertinent information? 

The underlying question here is whether you think your sales team is meeting your expectations if you were a B2B buyer? 

For years, sellers have been the vanguards in a B2B sales cycle. But over the past few years, this trend has stalled and even reversed in most cases. The question remains - Why, and how much of a change is it? Is there more complexity in the B2B sales cycle, or is it the radical changes in modern buyer expectations? 

We say both. 

To begin with, B2B buying processes can be long and convoluting. In fact, 77% of B2B buyers admit that their last purchase was complicated. Today, a typical buying group for a complex B2B solution concerns a raft of decision-makers, including several buyers aside from an executive or lead in the IT department,  each doing their own research. And that’s even before they’ve agreed to discuss their differing opinions and end goals.

Further, with many B2B buyers buying for the first time, the process becomes even more profusely complex, often losing you out deals to no-decision. 

Since the onset of the “digital-first world,” buyers want to spend as little time with the salesperson as possible to complete the transaction. What this means is that modern buyers don't want to be sold to. Instead, they want to figure things out on their own as much as possible before they get into an evaluation journey. 

33% of all buyers desire a seller-free sales experience – a preference that climbs to 44% for millennial buyers - Gartner

These changes in the marketplace bring an interesting question - Does your “seller-first” sales playbook still work? Do your sellers have the same degree of control in a deal that they enjoyed pre-pandemic? How much should you accommodate your buyer preferences knowing that the proven practices will be fundamentally disrupted? 

As a seller, you now not only need to demonstrate tangible value from your product but also bring consensus among conflicting decision-makers in real-time over why they need to change, what the change is, and how to change before making a decision. 

Gartner describes the future of sales as a permanent transformation of an organization’s sales strategies from a seller-centric to a buyer-centric orientation. 

Drive better decisions by adopting your Sales Playbook that your buyers love 

Buyers prefer working with sellers who understand their business needs and have a plan to get them there as opposed to someone who is simply pushing to close a sale (your best-sellers are already doing that!). And to smoothly manage sales cycles with modern buyers, your sales teams need maximum alignment on their activities, plans, and goals. 

Today, the best sales organizations accredit their teams to tackle high-stakes situations with the buying frontier by:

1. Placing buyers in the center of their sales process: Reorient your sales process playbook based on the buyer journey. Mutual Action Plan is a crucial component that can help your frontline sales team translate your sales process into customer-speak by making the buyer's priorities visible. 

2. Enabling selling to your hidden buyer: It is safe to assume that your sellers aren't going to speak directly to all the buying stakeholders. Enabling your champion to sell on your behalf is critical for ensuring deals don't fall through the cracks. 

3. Aligning with buyer preferences: Buying your software is a step in the process of meeting their business goals. Ensuring you have a plan to get your customer to the promised value is central to your ability to expand and retain the customer.

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The Catch-22 of playbook adoption for Sales leaders

A sales playbook is a broad term and can mean many things. In this case, we’re specifically referring to two of its key components - sales process and methodology. The lack of consistent playbook adoption stems from the fact that your sellers don’t believe it’s helping them win more deals. 

Another significant change influencing adoption is that the new buyer preferences have made the existing approach to the sales process and methodology almost redundant. 

Did you know that B2B buyers spend as low as 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers? Take a second to let that sink in.  

Salespeople do not enjoy the same access they had - both in terms of buyers’ time and buying stakeholders (I’m not talking about your top 10% sellers). The big challenge with your current sales processes and methodologies is that they only tell the seller what to do but fail at other essential areas today. For example, how to onboard new stakeholders into an opportunity cycle without delaying the sales cycle? How to enable the champion to sell internally? How to expand into a customer account in less than 6 months? etc. Your sales playbook should be able to answer these new questions.

If your sales playbook doesn’t help your sellers win more deals, they will not adopt it. Period. This leads to your sales managers spending more time on pipeline and deal reviews to uncover potential new buying steps or stakeholders. But not knowing if the buyers are aligned indicates that your deal reviews processes are ineffective. 

This is where Mutual Action Plan becomes critical. It gives you a framework to make a buyer-centric sales process and sales methodology and cater to modern buyer preferences. If your buyer sees your approach is aligned with their goals, they will engage better, and you will see your seller adopt your playbook more consistently. 

Mutual Action Plan: A No-fluff cheatsheet for your sales team

As buyers grapple with complexities in their buying process, your reps need to understand buyer needs better. We know what you’re thinking- “ Isn’t CRM the central source of the latest buyer insights and information?“ Well, you’re partially right! CRM is the foundation for your sales engine, but it is not designed to help your buyers buy from you (or your sellers to align with them). 

What your sales team needs is a transparent and collaborative system that removes friction and drives buyers' confidence in them - one that enables your sales teams to be in sync with the buyers by navigating them across the complex buying journey. And there’s no better way of aligning with modern buyers than a purpose-built platform that is just meant to do that- a Mutual action plan.

With a mutual action plan, your sales team can: 

  • Document the winning sales formula and apply it again to a new prospect with a few tweaks. 
  • Record proven processes for each deal and easily iterate and improve over time. 
  • Co-create and drive transparency on process and outcomes with the buyers. 
  • Aligning mutual action plan for predictability, client longevity, and outcome orientation. 

One Step Closer to Winning: Unleashing the Power of Mutual Success Plans 

While Mutual Action Plans are great for your sellers, they see less adoption because they’re often abandoned right after the contract is signed, leading to lost buyer trust and low engagement. So, how do you solve this? Mutual success plans are the new way of buyer engagement focal on the ethos of- ‘Mutual Success’ and ‘Success Plan.’

MSPs are co-developed with the buyers and continuously reviewed throughout the relationship to ensure that both parties direct their efforts in the joint pursuit of buyer outcomes and make necessary course corrections in case of any deviation. 

Mutual Success Plan accelerates time to the first expansion and saves your internal teams the effort needed for arduous knowledge transfer leading to a better customer experience. Unlike a Mutual Action Plan, Mutual Success Plan ensures your customers get their end of the bargain - business goals achieved in the promised timeframe.

As hard as it’s become for sellers to sell today, it’s arguably becoming trickier for buyers to buy. Modern buyers expect a transparent and personalized approach coalescing into an elevated buying experience. This means seamlessly delivering business impact to buying customers' values with in-depth insights into their needs. And that’s where a mutual success plan comes in handy! 

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