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Why Mutual Success Plans are core to winning customers

Shankar Ganapathy
May 31, 2021

The complex dynamics in B2B buying teams are becoming one of the biggest challenges in sales teams' ability to win new customers predictably. Scenarios like new buying stakeholders entering late in the evaluation process, the selection criteria changing mid-evaluation, or the buyer dropping the purchase when you think the opportunity is ready for ‘commit’, etc. are becoming far too common. 

In my own experience of selling enterprise deals, I have constantly been disillusioned by the disconnect between the sales process priorities and how my buyer operates. As Gartner pointed out in their recent research, the B2B buying process has become more complex and buyers’ struggle to buy is the single biggest challenge faced by revenue leaders today. 

Many sales teams use sales methodologies along with mutual action plans as a way to understand buyers and solve these challenges. But why isn’t it working out as well as we thought it would be? The B2B buying is seeing a paradigm shift and this is only getting accelerated by the pandemic influenced work from home. For sales teams to be successful, they have to fundamentally rethink their sales approach to one that centers around their buyers and their success.

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So what has changed

Before starting BuyerAssist, we interviewed hundreds of sales leaders to discover some interesting trends:

  1. Almost all of them have their sales teams focused on “contract signed” although they all agree that it’s only one (in fact, just the first) of the milestones to making their buyers’ successful
  2. Almost all of them struggle with the hand-off of a relationship from sales to post-sales – primarily because the cast and characters on both sides are likely to change, and “what we sold and what they are using” are almost always very different. 
  3. Almost all of them find the renewal conversations to be daunting exercise) because there is no clear goal that was established in the beginning which means there is really no success metrics to show and/or the key people on their side have changed meaning the renewal discussion just became another competitive ‘land pursuit’.
  4. Almost all of them agreed that they continue to run into EOQ surprises despite hiring premium sales talent, and spending millions on technologies and content to enable them.
  5. Almost all of them told us that they are not able to make their sellers cultivate the behavior to accurately and promptly update CRM fields like Next Steps and the multiple fields tied to understanding steps between now and contract signed.
 

What is the consequence? As per research by Gartner, 4 out of 10 purchase attempts end in no-decision. But why is this the case? Why are some of the proven playbooks falling behind in delivering the desired outcomes? Why are some of the previously successful reps finding it harder to succeed now?

The answer is something that revenue leaders have traditionally overlooked but is increasingly becoming more and more relevant and contributory to their success or failure – Buyers’ Journey. 

Is this about a mutual action plan (MAP)? Maybe not

Most sales methodologies including MEDDIC (some might argue that this is a sales process checklist, but bear with me on this), Sandler, Challenger, etc. have a structured approach to uncover buyer challenges. They also recommend the use of a close plan, mutual plan, joint execution plan, sequence of events, or mutual action plan, or some equivalent tool to ensure your sellers and buyers are aligned through the sales process. Sales leaders leverage MAP as a ‘recommended’ tool but drive compliance only for the most important deals; When enforced, the best salespeople work with their buyers to build one, while the rest use them as an internal compliance checklist. 

From a buyer's perspective, MAP becomes a compelling asset if it focuses on their outcomes and the action plan to get to their outcomes. But by design MAPs end when the contract is signed. Perhaps that is why MAPs see very little adoption by the buyer and by extension the seller. 

What is Mutual Success Plan (MSP) and how is it different from MAPs

Mutual Success Plan (MSP) is a new way of buyer engagement that is focused on two key concepts - ‘Mutual Success’ and ‘Success Plan’. ‘Mutual Success’ is about establishing a shared understanding of what success means for you and your buyers. ‘Success Plan’ is the shared path that you and your buyer need to take in order to reach the mutually desired outcomes. MSPs start with value discovery and go all the way through to value realization for the buyers(contract signing is just one step in this process). This new way of buyer engagement aligns with modern buyer expectations around self-service and outcome-driven vendor relationships.

Why make an mutual success plans core to your buyer engagement strategy? Customer value. If you identify and deliver value consistently, your customers will buy more of your offerings. It also gives you a framework to unify all revenue functions (marketing, sales, and customer success) to deliver a single, integrated, and collaborative buyer engagement experience. When you do this right, you will realize the following benefits:

  • Maximize alignment with buyers on their context and priorities: Per Gartner, 4/10 deals are lost to no-decision. The right utilization of a MSP can help you defeat the competition. 
  • Channel all your investment and resources towards getting to buyer outcomes: Prioritize your investments. Win on value discovery and expand on value delivered.
  • Systematically influence how your buyers buy from you: 83% of B2B buying happens without you in the room. Mutual Success Plans give you a systematic way to influence that. 
  • Clear handoff from sales to post-sales: Accelerate land and expand playbook by minimizing time to value and better alignment of between your revenue teams.

How to craft a mutual success plan

The mutual success plan approach relies on diligent documentation of a shared understanding of buyer priorities, pain points, and business outcomes. It starts when the seller has qualified the sales opportunity and continues throughout the customer lifecycle. It also gives your selling and buying teams a systematic way to collaborate and to work through the identified milestones to successfully deliver mutual value. 

 

Here are three simple steps to help you create an effective Mutual Success Plan (MSP):

1. Buyer Value Discovery

Enable interactions that help you identify and define potential value for your buyer and create a plan to get there. Think of it as MEDDIC but which is jointly developed along with your buyers.

2. Buyer Value Collaboration

Partner with your buying teams across personalized milestones in a jointly developed roadmap to buyer success. If done right, your buyers will be motivated to collaborate with you.

3. Buyer Enablement

Empower your buyers with one-place-to-go for accessing contextually relevant information at any time in their engagement. Enable your champions to sell on your behalf, justify the ROI of your investments, and onboard new stakeholders.

To sum it up, a mutual success plan gives you a systematic approach to influencing and understanding buyer behavior, allowing you to design the sales playbook around what matters to your buyer. The mutual success plan is your investment into making your sales process buyer-friendly. It goes a long way into creating a culture of trust and transparency with your buyers.

So how are you operationalizing a culture of buyer-centric selling?  

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