The #1 deal diagnostic tool: Mutual plans – What good (and bad) plans look like

January 28, 2018 Matt Cameron

After accumulating the experience of literally hundreds of 1:1 meetings and deal reviews with Account Executives over the years as a sales leader, I think I have finally figured out the single most important predictor of success – Knowing exactly what is going to be done in order to close a deal.  I know this sounds like a trite truism, but what I am talking about is the quality of the close plan (often naively substituted by ‘next steps’) for a given opportunity.

There is a tonne we can focus on in terms of opportunity qualification and strategy, but the biggest thing to move the needle I have found is the existence of a clearly defined close plan.

I have found 3 consistent behaviors during deal reviews:

The detail of what to look for is below and my call to action is as follows:

  1. Focus on the time-bound, specific steps to closure for the key opportunities in your pipe (close plan)
  2. Review close plans in your weekly 1:1’s religiously and challenge progress to plan – Provide your experience where things are not where they should be
  3. Accept no excuses for not having a mutually agreed close plan that looks like the model provided below.
    NB.  Sales reps should confirm mutual plans by emailing them to a person who has the authority to confirm the plan and their positive response should be recorded in your CRM as evidence!

Here are some sample close plans for the same opportunity and if you find that you have anything other than the ‘Architect/Engineer’ you need to provide strong coaching on the success behavior relating to deal control:

‘Artist’ Mutual Plan:
– Discover business issues
– Present our solution
– Proof of concept/Reference calls
– Negotiate legals
– Sign paperwork

What I have learned about the ‘Artist’ sales person:

  • Results are unpredictable
  • They often don’t know exactly what to do next
  • If they are successful/unsuccessful they don’t know why
  • Often the sale is made on luck/charisma, which is neither consistent or scalable to large opportunities

‘Artsy’ mutual plan: 
Week 1:
– Meetings with key executive to determine business issues
Week 2:
– Presentation to stakeholders
Week 3-5:
– Proof of concept
Week 6:
– Negotiate contract
Week 7:
Paperwork signed.

What I have learned about the ‘Artsy’ sales person:

– They say all the right words, but there is no substance
– Deals slip (Notice the lack of dates against the timeline)
– There are more holes in their opportunity plan than swiss cheese

‘Architect/Engineer’ Mutual plan:
Week beginning April 1:
– Discovery meeting with CIO, CMO and directs.
– Send stakeholders proposed evaluation framework and timelines
   Output: Powerbase discovery, Timeframes, Budget, Business impact of issues, agreed mutual plan
Week Beginning April 8:
– Confirm internal pre-sales resources
– Presentation drafted and vetted internally and tested with John Smith at prospect.
Output: Bid team confirmed, opportunity strategy and messaging confirmed
Week Beginning April 15:
– Presentation to CIO, CMO, direct and additional stakeholders(TBC)
– Send business case summary to attendees
– Schedule meeting to plan POC
Output: Confirmation of business case justification
…. and so on.

I have learned that by having these close plans, the following is true:

– As a manager you can test and improve the plan
– Gaps in a plan are easily identified
– Successful practices are repeated
– Salespeople grow in confidence because they learn the patterns for success
– Deals that are slipping are quickly identified

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