At the end of every quarter, I see the same misstep — the lack of a Mutual Plan with the prospect (AKA a simple client-specific business case). Sales teams work so hard throughout a quarter to complete proper discovery, multiple product presentations, detailed proposals, and more. For many sales teams, when it comes to forecasting opportunities, they go by “gut feel.” This is usually due to the fact that along the way the sales rep reacted to prospect requests, and often only went so far to plan the next step in the sales process. As a result, the rep fails to understand the entire process and never achieves a successful identification of the prospect’s Business Issues nor achieves a connection to Value. Assumptions are made based on limited understanding. This is a key reason that more than 50% of forecasted opportunities never close.

Luckily, there is a way to avoid the inaccurate forecasting: putting a Mutual Plan in place. What is a Mutual Plan? Simply put it’s a mutual understanding and agreement between the prospect and the sales team of the steps and activities required for achieving successful results. Some call it a “close plan,” but who wants to talk about being closed? The term Mutual Plan is a better description, reminding the prospect of the Value you’ve connected to. It’s about finding the best solution for the prospect that meets their needs, proves it, and ultimately ends with the successful impact (resolution?) to the prospect’s Business Issue. That is why we want to uncover a time-bound and measurable Business Issue at the beginning. Working backwards from the prospect’s required success. Aside from a timeline of events, status and ownership, a Mutual Plan should outline the business case components of the project:

  • Business Issues to be addressed
  • Underlying Problems
  • Ideal Solution
  • Expected outcomes (Value)
  • Who’s involved
  • And how do we get there (Time of events)
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    When do you start sharing and developing a Mutual Plan, early in the sales process. Once you achieve an understanding of the opportunity, start creating a living document with the prospect in order to confirm understanding, update executives and other decision makers, and, ultimately get the prospect in alignment and bought in.

    What if the prospect doesn’t respond? If the prospect is not willing to collaborate on the plan and engage, maybe the opportunity is not truly qualified. Maybe you are simply column fodder and the prospect is leaning towards an alternative. What better way to cause a reaction and test your understanding of the opportunity for forecasting than by creating a Mutual Plan?

    What’s the best format for the Mutual Plan? This depends on you and the opportunity. If you are dealing with a quick transaction, your plan could take the form of a nice email. If you are dealing with a larger opportunity, I suggest using 4-6 slides to outline the plan. You can share those slides at every meeting throughout the sales cycle. You can also use the content in our Mutual Plan PowerPoint. Finally, if you believe in creating a champion, what better way to arm them than with a prospect specific business case to help them sell internally.

    “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
    – Ben Franklin

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    Carlos Nouche
    Carlos has 25 years of experience in the enterprise software industry, including sales, service, business development, creation of partner alliances and business operations. He’s advised companies including Telus, TheLadders, Interwoven, Avaya, VMware, and Stericycle.