Before you misunderstand our thoughts let us make it clear it’s not the principle of plans that we dislike, it’s the term sales close plans.
The term drives the purpose and intention of the plan creators – to close a deal.
That’s not a good thing, if anything in today’s markets, it’s counterproductive.
Let’s start with the start
The original close plans were created by sellers keen to drive a prospect to close by a forecasted date.
This was when buyer relied on sellers for education and they allowed them to take the lead in the engagement.
Sellers used Excel or Word documents to list out who needed to do what and by when to keep the deal on track to close by their desired date.
Were they successful? Sometimes, generally when selection was a done deal and the preferred vendor wanted to get things moving.
Everything has changed.
The way your customers decide and buy has changed.
- There are significantly more people involved, each with a say in the outcome as decision makers are reluctant to sign off unless everyone is aligned to support the decision.
- Buyers’ self-educate and no longer rely on sellers for research information, which results in them engaging with sellers much later in the buying process.
- 70% of buyers have stated that they would prefer a rep-free buying experience.
Which means that sellers need to rethink how they collaborate with buyers and what types of plans could still be effective.
Let’s not get hung up on the doom and gloom research data, there is still an opportunity here for smart sales teams to navigate these choppy waters successfully.
And it starts with forgetting about closing and to start thinking about enabling.
The net result of more people being involved and significantly more information being readily available is that buying has become difficult and takes much longer than expected.
The fear of messing up (FOMU) means that inaction and indecision is widespread amongst company buying groups (check out The JOLT Effect).
No-one wants to make a bad decision that they regret, the perceived safer option is to do nothing because the pain of same is known but the pain of change is unknown.
So instead of creating sales close plans sellers should think about Outcome Enablement Plans, sometimes known by other names such as Mutual Action Plans or Collaboration Plans.
What’s the difference? One is about what the seller wants and the latter is about what the buyers need. A different mindset will lead to a different plan, a plan that is created to enable the buyers to achieve their desired business outcomes or goals.
Creating a plan
Now that you understand the reasons why sellers need to help buyers navigate the complexity of buying let’s look at what makes a collaborative plan and gives sellers the opportunity to differentiate the buying experience.
A sales close plan lists a bunch of activities associated with a deal sign off, including all the steps that lead to it.
An outcome enablement plan focuses on helping a broad group of customer buyer contacts make a change management decision.
In the majority of cases, it is a decision/selection that they may not know how to make because it is not something they do often or have a process for.
This creates an opportunity for sales teams. Why, because you will have done many similar projects and are therefore able to provide advice and guidance.
To maximise the benefits for buyers, create plans that include and achieve the following:
- Clear objectives, purpose and outcomes the plan was created to help buyers achieve
- The roles of people that would typically be involved
- Dates that align with the buyer’s schedule
- An ROI or Outcome achieved final step, never ever have a plan that ends with contract signing (that’s a sales close plan)
- Content and tools that help with the ‘Why Change’ and ‘Why Now’ decision. Avoid too much ‘Why Us’
- Content and tools that help with each key milestone or stage outcome, make it easy for them to learn what they need to know to maintain progress
Remember, when you create a plan make it a two-way mutual plan that both parties contribute to. It’s a living plan, so keep it updated as things change
These plans can be used in a variety of different situations, not just for new business.
They can be tremendously helpful for both buyers and sellers in a contract renewal process or when onboarding a new customer.
If the plan is just for internal use, then sales close plans could be a helpful way to align the internal team. But as far as buyers are concerned you need to rethink your plans away from selling and closing.
Benefits of a great plan
A well-crafted, well positioned and well managed plan can result in a win/win outcome for both the buying and selling teams.
Buyers can be collaboratively guided through a difficult change decision process.
Sellers can achieve more predictable results because great plans improve deal velocity and close rates.
Whether you’re using document-based plans or a digital online tool like Boxxsteps plans it’s time to evolve your sales close plans into Outcome Enablement Plans.