Let's assume you understand the power of a mutual action plan as a tool to benefit both you and your customer or prospect. Now the question becomes, "When do you introduce and share it?"
Most practitioners recommend presenting your mutual action plan after getting the green light on a contract, using the mutual action plan to push through the paper process from the verbal yes through to contract being signed.
Based on our experience with customers, we suggest you introduce the mutual action plan sooner. How do you know exactly when? Well, it's not a science, but there is a sweet spot: Share the mutual action plan when you believe you've got a story, but you're still working on building credibility and working through discovery.
Let's take a closer look at how mutual action plans can come into play for each of these functions.
1. Mutual action plan as a credibility tool
Pull up your mutual action plan template and say, "It sounds like we have a story here. May I show you how this has worked with similar companies in the past?"
By showing a well thought-out customer success plan, you demonstrate that you've gotten your act together, you have the experience, and you've identified and eliminated potential roadblocks. This helps you establish trust and stand out from your competitors who just want a signature on the dotted line.
2. Mutual action plan as a discovery tool
Mutual action plans can also be used as guides to discovery.
If you don't have a compelling event already, include a straw man in your mutual action plan and use it to prompt a discussion: Is a different event more compelling? Then, invite the prospect to talk about it.
Review high-level milestones and ask if they have questions. Customers may not be familiar with their buying process, so in addition to building credibility by sharing the mutual action plan at this point, you're also helping the customer understand what resources they're going to need to organize internally. They may also give you additional information about priorities or objections. Perhaps they were recently the victim of a cyber attack. That's an excellent opportunity for you to insert a security audit milestone early in the process.
Drill into specific milestones and ask about certain people. For example, if you see an upcoming milestone with complex financial analysis, offer to pull in someone from your analyst services team. Ask who on their team would be best to loop in on their end. You can even provide individuals by name to move the process along.
Don't be afraid to show customers that they need to do work. They will need to do it even if you don't tell them about it, and they're much more likely to actually do the work if you're transparent from the start. If they're not willing to do the work, it's much better to know this earlier rather than later in the process. That is not saying you should list out 100 action items in excruciating detail, but rather set a high level expectation of what will need to get done to fix their problem.
Teams that utilize mutual action plans close more deals, are able to forecast more accurately, and enjoy the benefits of mutual trust and transparency between the buying and selling teams.