Sales Symbiosis: Implementing Mutual Success Plans

Aparna Shah
September 30, 2022

Want to excel in your sales process adoption? Accountability is everything that you need. 

There’s no better way to forecast accurately than driving clarity in what steps to follow, stakeholder accountability, executive summary, files, and contact information- driving smooth exchanges with minimal downtime in your process. 

But does that mean adding tonnes of tools to your current tech stack? What if we tell you we’ve consolidated these checklist items for you in one platform? 

Enter Mutual Success Plans

In a recent panel discussion at Voray, revenue leaders share their perspectives on buyer engagement, reaching mutually desired outcomes, and how mutual success plans fit in your revenue workflow. 

Here are the members of the panel discussion: 

Jill Guardia (she/her)- Executive Director, Sales Enablement, TriNet

Chuck Marcouiller -    VP of Revenue Enablement, Frieghtwaves

Andrew Nagengast -  Cofounder & CRO, Voray 


View the recording of the panel discussion here: 



#What roles do mutual success plans play in your organisation or profession? 

Jill Guardia: 

Mutual Success Plans can be used as a construct for an agreement mechanism between two parties. While it is typically used between the seller and the buyer, these plans can be implemented between the seller and their manager on how they interact in the sales process. 

It’s an agreement to get a shared result while the two parties involved do things individually. It remains imperative today as you’re working and juggling so many things to ensure that you’ve discussed the next steps and how you'll get to some level of closure. 

Chuck Marcouiller : 

Mutual success plans have changed over the last couple of years. Traditionally, it started with sellers walking buyers through the steps they take to get an agreement. 

But as buying has changed over the years today, especially in the SaaS world, the buyers have changed too. Today, if you want to sell to enterprise or upper mid-market buyers, you need to enhance your digital experience. Buyers no longer will tolerate the forced documentation with a timeline shoved right across to them. Mutual success plans are co-documentation or digital documentation process that starts way early in the process, somewhere at discovery. 


A lot of buyers don’t know how to buy technology today. With mutual success plans, you can outline the steps of the most successful processes. Sellers can gently tee the processes and even adapt the way their buyers want to buy. To be a  successful seller today, you must help buyers purchase the way they want to buy without forcing them into an artificial sales process. The co-documentation process that you templatize allows these steps to be shared, which is a major challenge as the buying committee gets bigger. In a complex buying committee, you’re only able to talk to maybe two-three stakeholders. In view of that, how do you get your champion to assimilate other stakeholders to get considered for the solution you’re selling. This mutual document makes it easy for a champion to talk to the other 6-8 stakeholders that your seller will never have the opportunity to talk to. 

Jill Guardia: 

We sell to typically small and medium-sized businesses with five or six people involved in making the buying decision. In view of selling to a hybrid world, having a data-driven platform will be the key to success. 

No matter how many people are involved in the buying process, the clarity of the expectations and then marrying those expectations with what the buyer hopes to achieve make a difference in the success or failure of whatever tools you use.

Chuck Marcouiller : 

On the SaaS side, where we sell to Unilevers, the Home Depot, or the JB hunts of the world with complex deals six figures deals, we use mutual success plans as the co-document case to align on the definition of the problem, the results that they want to achieve; with the laid out details of the process. The document's transparent and shareable feature is changing how we sell to these large organisations. In 100 days, when one of my enterprise sellers started to use the plan began to hold the champion accountable to get the process moving with the involvement of all the stakeholders. 

Andrew Nagengast : 

It is a validation mechanism of your stages. 18 years back, when I first joined SaaS, a sales rep would put the sales stage in CRM based on their perspective and what they explained was going on with the customer. 

But you know, without the customer feedback and input aligned to their value to their process, it’s almost like you know you could get to what you think is the finish line, and then all of a sudden, everything goes sideways, when you sell to companies like Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan with teams spread across the globe on different priorities and align them together causing significant delays. But you won’t hear of procurement until you’re almost  80% done with your sales cycle.  And so, bringing the buying committee together by aligning with their needs ensures that you keep the deal moving forward while meeting the buyer’s priorities. 

Chuck Marcouiller: 

The mutual success plan becomes a procurement insurance plan. Procurement may love pulling you apart when negotiating the deal's value to drive things to the lowest price.  Your sellers or business operators may have documented the entire process and agreed on specific terms with the buyers before procurement jumps in from the blue. With a mutual success plan, you have everything documented, which your seller can use to align with the buyer by saying, “ Hey, by the way, here's everything that we've documented. Here's everything that we've agreed to up to this point. Is there anything else we need to consider as procurement changes the dynamic of your sales process?” 

 #How do you make customers comfortable with a mutual success plan if they're unfamiliar with that concept?

Jill Guardia: 

I sell to relatively smaller organizations than those that Chuck engages with, so I focus on only a few technicalities of the selling process between the sales rep and the prospect. Just work with your sales team to acknowledge and make them aware of the documentation of the sales process. It needs to be more institutionalised with a process or a set of steps. 

Chuck Marcouiller: 

We have a simple tool that we can both input throughout the buying process. We integrate the plan right from the discovery call, saying- “ hey, thank you so much for being on the discovery call today. As a result, I'm creating a document I'd love to share with you. 

You can start off as they orient on the metrics, shared criteria and other critical things you can focus on when you document right from the beginning of the conversation to the next point of exploring how the products and services will work in the buyer’s organisation. The documentation and scripting process ensures you hit on what’s important to you and your buyers. While creating the co-document, we noticed that the reps are getting everybody comfortable with the process, rehearsing the script and certifying themselves for the enterprise and upper market players, creating a domino effect for your entire sales organisation to see the propensity. 

By the second iteration of finding the domino rep and preaching his best practices with the rest of the sales rep with a mutual success plan, we see a lot more success getting that scripted, certified and bought off.

# How do you electronically share, collaborate, and configure the mutual success plans to be implemented successfully? 

Chuck Marcouiller: 

I’m a fan of mutual success plans; however, a couple of tools in the market are exceptionally good too. While you may manage things with Google docs, mutual success plans allow you to share a link that will enable you to see buyer sentiment when they start to use the tool. 80% of the time, your customer is not going to do anything with the tool other than look at the tool, but that does not change the value of the documentation. 

There's a small portion that’s going to be active. There will be another portion of 10%-12% that will tweak or comment on the document. When you send them the link from the tool, that’s the value you create from the tool! 

Another benefit of the tool is that you get notified each time your buyer is working on the tool or shares the plan with someone else. Also, you can hide steps that you don’t necessarily want the buyers to see. This buying intelligence is extremely valuable in the process today. Therefore, a mutual success plan automates the co-documentation allowing you to work with your buyers.  While you can create an excel or word document, a mutual success plan will help you stand out among your competitors regarding digital buyer experience with their logo. 

Andrew Nagengast: 

Buyers are spending less and less time interacting with sellers, so they may not be more comfortable telling your sales team information about the buying committee, especially in the beginning. As the recession hit in 2008, the buying committee suddenly went from one or two decision-makers to five to ten stakeholders in multi-regions involved in procurement. For transparency, until you get to this point, find the actual budget where you validate the budget and the contracting process. Even if that individual shares the information internally, you're seeing it add value to your buying process intelligence; ensure that you engage with those key personas as early as possible so that you can continue to target your sales process towards getting those stakeholders involved early on.

Chuck Marcouiller: 

Don’t look at a mutual success plan as a tool that documents your sales process. These plans also create information needed for a successful implementation, where buyers and sellers agree upon the impact required to consider this a good purchase. 

This documentation then lives on, and you can even pass it along to your implementation team and your CMS through the lifecycle of the purchase. In SaaS, if you don't conduct a smooth implementation, you’re likely to lose out on  the chances of renewal and expansion. 

#How far in the process does your mutual success plan go? 

Jill Guardia:  

We don’t use mutual success plans, but we use emails to document the process and ensure all the stakeholders are on the same page. However, a formal tool should be implemented right from the start of the buying process so that people involved can go back and view a complete record of your procurement team. You may be in the midst of being sold two or three different things, and in none of those cases do I see a suitable tool for aligning on the next steps of the process. When I bring in the procurement team, I have a different set of information and a lot of pre-buying before the procurement team comes into play. Therefore,  having good hygiene from start to finish is essential. 

Chuck Marcouiller: 

If we look at the enterprise side, we look at the end date of closes and then see the first impact meetings with implementation. During Quarterly business reviews, it is important to ensure that you view all the essential metrics back to the discovery stage and understand all important agenda items of the process. If you do that, you’re standing out different from your competitors, for you’re the only reason that you’re buying to get that mutually agreed upon metric achieved point. 

With this course of action, you’re not only going live, but you’re also setting the date of the first time that you’re going to meet, aligning on the end goal while holding each other accountable. This has been one of our easiest purchases, and as I learned by implementing this practice as a buyer in some of the deals we’re currently in, it has changed the dynamic. I met one of our prospects from LinkedIn Sales Nav, and since the beginning of the pilot per, she locked me down accountability with questions like- “ What is the meeting that we can look back at the metrics where you're going to tell me whether we achieved the numbers that you said you needed to achieve to pull the trigger for the next step? 

Andrew Nagengast: 

It’s one of those “AHA” moments when working backwards for a customer’s goals and focus demonstrates your customer obsession, which your customers appreciate at the end of the day. If your platform or solution doesn’t meet them, and you leave it to them to figure out things on their own, you won’t get an upsell or renewal. 

And ultimately, renewal is where the profitability of a customer comes from. For renewal or upsell, the first year is spent paying back the cost of acquiring them. Therefore, a long-term relationship that helps them achieve those goals is significant. 

 #What do you see as the difference between mutual action Vs mutual success plans?

Chuck Marcouiller:

Customer success, customer, and process plan are all wordsmithing. The intention is a co-document to facilitate the buying steps a buyer must go through to successfully get to the outcome they are investing in. 

In your mutual success plan, there are times when we, as sellers, put the last date as the close date or the signature date; no buyer ever has been measured on their ability to hit a purchase date and therefore, they don't care about it. And so they don’t have to look at the implementation date and date of impact. As a seller, when you put the end that as the timeline when it truly starts generating value, and not artificially force them into a signature, you will see a change in results and shift in your sales process where the buyers are more receptive to having that kind of conversation.

#What are some of the challenges you've experienced or growing pains that you had to address in rolling out a mutual success plan framework? 

Chuck Marcouiller: 

The BuyerAssist folks would attest that my first time partnering with them was rocky and not a resounding success. The key to success is when you get your sales leader or buying committee to believe in the concept of a code documentation process beyond the timeline. A sales leader’s idea of a mutual success plan is that of a big foot. Everybody talks about it and has their own definition, but nobody’s seen it successful in the wild. So start with your leaders and have your leaders share it with you. 

Going back to the concept of domino rep. Think of who is that one or two thought leaders reps willing to take a chance and work with you to get the process going and can sell the concept to get some success. Once you have that, it shouldn’t take long for you to get them to use the plans and have some concepts, so your leader believes in it. Now you have a testimony, and you can bear with a targeted team, roll it out to them, put it in the playbook, and say, “Hey folks, we've got the next greatest thing since sliced bread.” 

Let’s say you have a peer Susan who’s had many successful closes in the last quarter. With a mutual success plan, you can walk through her approach and explain to your team what she does differently and what works best for her. However, don’t boil the ocean at once. Build consensus slowly because they already think they know what it is and may even think they’re doing some form of this. But if you get that right leader who believes in the concept and sees their people not doing it, and then you get that domino rep or two who tries it in your new tool or process and really coach them through and get involved in those deals so that they ensure that they have success, then you stand a chance. 

When I did that in my current organization, I'm getting evangelists. We just completed our mid-year review, and every salesperson wants to know what the top three sellers did to close their big deals because we recognised them and gave them some nice bonuses in front of everyone. So now they're returning and asking what a mutual success plan is. 

Jill Guardia : 

It’s how you engage your field for advocacy and work with managers. Your sales organization may have multiple levels that may be small, where so all the reps are reporting to the VP. But let's assume you have a first-line sales management group that's the key to your success with everything. When you're rolling out something new like a mutual success plan or mutual action plan, that tool that constructs what it looks like, what it feels like, how it works in the system, the managers have to be bought into that. While you may need your great rep here, the managers will be the key in your first line. Managers will ensure that they are 100% in front of you for any new initiative that will make the material difference to either using something or ignoring something entirely.

# Are there particular personas that are more open and amiable and work better with engaging with mutual success plans than other personas, such as engineers versus marketers, engaging with the mutual success plan? 

Chuck Marcouiller: In my previous organization Jobivite, because it was a recruiting platform, we sold to HR executives predominantly, and as HR buyers are not very active, we did not see a lot of documentation on behalf of the salespeople. 

In Freighwaves, we sell to logistics, operations, and finance folks, we can see engagement to some extent, but it doesn't change much. Buyers expect the sellers to do most of the heavy lifting. While they’re willing to document things, they expect a good documentation process that stands out whether you work with HR, finance or operations. 

Andrew Nagengast: When I was with AWS, certain personas in the buying process would see us as a threat. When selling to cloud databases, you need approval from the database administrators. Sighting it as a threat to their job, they may create roadblocks or at least try to slow you down. And so, highlighting the value, not just the value to the business, but the value to the individual roles in that buying process. People are always dealing with the threat that artificial intelligence is going to take their role, but what we've seen with artificial intelligence is it doesn't take a role. It makes that role more effective, efficient, and able to do more with those capabilities. 

Simply selling the value to the business as a business is not going to make the cut. Selling the value to those key stakeholders in your mutual success plan so that they know how this can help them and help diminish the threat they may see or the resistance they may have towards engaging in that buying process.

Chuck Marcouiller: 

In the mutual documentation process, the focus is not on the timeline, the buying process steps, the dates or what one has to go through. It’s the heart of putting in, documenting and agreeing on the buyer’s issues, their journey and what you’re bringing to the table. 

Today, most companies sound like competitors. 80% of what we say, 80% of what we have, what we offer is at table stakes with our competitors. And so, your sellers must make it simple to document and for your champion to take to other buyer stakeholders the distinct difference of “why you”. This is why the heart of the value of this mutual documentation process and mutual success plan, along with the timeline piece. 

# Is a mutual success plan more suitable for commercial enterprise accounts, or is it optimum for smaller accounts and deals?

Jill Guardia : 

It's optimum in a disciplined sales process. It's less about the customer and more about the size of maturity. You're selling to organizations in a certain sense, right? Today's sales process might be very different from tomorrow's, but as soon as you get some critical math, you need a system that defines how you sell, what your sales process is, and what your sales methodology is. All of that is important to be disciplined around so you can have results you can rely on. And so it's more the size and maturity of your selling organization than who you're selling to that might be part of the driver. 

Chuck Marcouiller:

 The size of the company does not denote its sophistication. The more complex the buyer is, the more you will want some documentation process for it. I've seen organizations like Quickbooks make very simple decisions quick with antiquated systems and strategic documentation, and there are smaller organizations with 60 people agonising over decisions. 

These organizations are engaging the sophistication of the buying process the buyer wants to go through and apply the right tools to speed the way they want to buy. More often than not, we insist upon the upper mid-market and the enterprise to use mutual success plans for there are more people and more complex with more experienced buyers that you're going to want. So you have to create that digital differentiation with that type of tool in the mid-market to lower the upper SMB market. 

Andrew Nagengast:

 If you don't have a process for a mutual success plan, you're defaulting to having blind spots from a customer's perspective. The sales manager engaged are not necessarily comfortable with those blind spots. Whether you're selling to an SMB or a Global enterprise, without validation you rely significantly on the sales rep to articulate where the buyer is and how they will buy. 

Mutual success plan is a roadmap that gets validated, confirmed, and aligned with the customer giving you greater confidence. 

# How do mutual success plans as part of the training and onboarding feed in to help set them up for success when joining your organizations? 

Jill Guardia:

We have a training program called “Selling Through Curiosity” to teach about mutual success plans. When we initially integrated it, we made sure to put everyone through it. Once we went through the programme, we moved it into a part of our onboarding process. Our current onboarding program is 14 weeks long, where we break apart the selling through curiosity modules and put them into different parts of those week-long programs. 

We talk about this right at the beginning that reps may have come in with ideas from their previous sales role, but here you’ll learn how to sell through a curiosity contract and what the expectations are. 

Chuck Marcouiller: 

I’ve been with Freightwaves for over 100 days, and one of the first things we did was roll out Winning by Design- a SaaS-specific methodology. It was the same time we were writing a playbook along with careful documentation in the sales process. We have a play in the sales playbook highlighting when and how to implement a mutual success plan. I’m a big proponent of IO rep allowing us to create a video over a tool where you explain how to do a click path on creating something and then have them practice.  I think it’s a fantastic way for anybody to learn software, whether it's a mutual success plan or salesforce, how to create a salesforce opportunity, Linkedin Navigator, or fill-in technology.

It also allows you to create that voiceover video on how to learn because we all have to teach a technology tool and how to use it and explain how I would do it in the wild in war rooms or deal reviews, especially if you're in an enterprise or the mid-market deal, we ask them to pull out the map. 

#Do mutual success plans help expedite the sales process by making it more efficient?

Jill Guardia: 

Tech has been great at providing us with simple tools that people use today, but sometimes you may not be technology-rich and just have to have a documented system. In that case, you just have to encourage people to live within the guardrails of the system, something like a mutual success plan. It is the way to encourage the efficiencies in selling, so it's not retreating the meal whenever every rep wants to shave off a few days on their deal cycle to get closer to their commission check.

Chuck Marcouiller: 

If you're doing a mutual success plan correctly, especially when aligning with your buyer’s situation, the pain, and the impact, you are setting your team for wins. I love this phrase from one of my former sales managers “Hearsay's not admissible in the court of sales. You don't know its seller if you haven't heard them say it. So tell me, what is that pain? What is that impact? “

 With a co-documented process, the deal goes faster because they know which questions to ask. In a set template, there are sections that train them to bring a deal back. When your seller comes to the war room and asks what the buyers said, you have documentation of the interactions where you know the holes in the sales process.

In the war room, you’re trying to identify and help them spot the blind spots in the deal, which helps them go faster and iterate faster on all of their deals, changing the dynamic in the cycle. 

Now what? 

By leveraging Mutual Success Plans, you’ll have a systematic way to engage and collaborate with your buyers to win more deals faster, provide an unrivalled buying experience and improve forecast accuracy. If you see a potential role for the persuasive power of Mutual Success Plans within your sales organization, BuyerAssist can help open new opportunities


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