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Six Benefits to Adopting Mutual Action Plans

six benefits to adopting mutual action plan

Mutal action plans, also known as customer success plan, joint execution plans or go-live plan, ensure the sales and delivery team is in alignment with the customer regarding the objectives of the deal and the milestones to achieve those objectives.

A mutual action plan answers the question, "who needs to do what and by when to make this deal happen?"

As you progress through sales discovery and understand all of the things that are going to have to happen in your customer's buying process, you can start to put together a mutual action plan.  A mutual action plan is where you define and document all the events, activities and decisions you have identified, with your customer, into an overall project plan, which you and your customer will work through together.

Why do salespeople and customers need mutual action plans?

The process of hiring a contractor, consultant or a full-time employee is complex. There are multiple candidates, multiple interviews, multiple interviewers, and multiple stakeholders influencing the final decision. There are skill assessments, cultural fit assessments, panel interviews, technical interviews, and behavioral based interviews. There are phone screens, video interviews and face-to-face interviews.  For most employers, you must account for reference checks and other background checks.  Suffice it to say, there are many tasks and events that must be completed and decisions to be made before an employer can make a hire and start achieving their desired results from that hire.

One thing we know for certain, employers (your customers) can't (won't) hire your candidate until they complete every step of their interview, hiring, and buying process.

In my work with my customers, I recommend managing every qualified sales opportunity (job order, project or SOW) just as you would manage a large, complex project complete with milestones, deliverables, due dates, and the required personnel from both the customer and the vendor.

You can call this your mutual action plan, project plan or customer results plan. In our training we refer to this as the Customer Hiring Plan (for hiring a contractor or consultant) but you can call it whatever you like.  The name itself reminds you (the salesperson) and the customer that you're in constant collaboration working towards a common goal.  I have found that customers like the name, "customer hiring plan," because it emphasizes that the focus is on the customer and helping them achieve their objective. 

In my training, I teach sales professionals to introduce the plan after they have qualified the sales opportunity.  However, I also caution salespeople that it is important to introduce the customer hiring plan when the time is right.  We don't want to present the plan before we've earned a certain level of trust.  It takes a little bit of time to earn the right to propose a mutual action plan.

For example, if you're not consultative in your sales pursuit in which you're sharing fresh ideas and insights from the very beginning, and suddenly you get a job order from the customer and you try to introduce the mutual action plan, you will likely be met with skepticism.  Building the requisite level of trust (to use mutual action plans) starts with your initial outreach.

We also need to present the plan to the person who understands the goal or objective they are trying to accomplish, and why they need to accomplish it and how they can afford the investment of time, money and human capital to get there.  In essence, this person should be somebody who stands to gain something important by hiring a candidate who is a success.

There are several benefits that make this approach to managing your sales opportunities highly effective. Here are six benefits to adopting mutual action plans.

  1. Keep You and Your Customer on Track: Between all the candidate resumes, submittal notes, interview feedback, and approvals required to keep the process moving, it is easysix benefits to adopting mutual action plans for everything to become a blur.  Mapping out everything that needs to happen by when, and approved by whom provides a nice visual for helping you and your customers think things through and ensure you sell with specific intent with every customer interaction.
  2. It Forces You and Your Customer to Look into the Future: Instead of sitting on our hands and reacting to our customers, a mutual action plan forces you to look into the future, think about what needs to happen and proactively lead the process.  Having a clearly defined plan that defines what we need to do and what the customer needs to do keeps both parties focused on the overall objective.
  3. Stay Aligned with the Customer:  When salespeople use their mutual action plan as a dynamic, living plan that gets updated as new information becomes available, decisions are made and tasks are completed, they stay aligned with their customer. It also enables salespeople to manage their own expectations and the expectations of the sales manager, recruiter, and candidate(s).
  4. Amazing Qualification Tool: Customers tend to react in one of three ways when salespeople introduce them to a mutual action plan. They think it is a great idea and quickly adopt it as their own tool for their internal selling purposes.  They're indifferent about it; they don't embrace the plan or tool, but they don't push back on it either. Third, they want nothing to do with a mutual action plan. Your customer's reaction to your mutual action plan can tell you a lot about where you stand with your customer and your level of consideration regarding your opportunity and doing business together.
  5. Justifies Access to Additional Stakeholders: Your plan shoould have a column labeled "client personnel." This column represents the customer personnel responsible for the completion of the milestone or task.  Seeing this on the plan makes it a no brainer for you to have access to these other stakeholders. 
  6. Makes Closing Easier: Adopting a mutual action plan keeps sellers and customers focused on each task and decision that must be completed before the deal (hire) can come to fruition. This takes the pressure away from salespeople feeling they have a "big close" at the end. But in most cases (based on what I see working with other staffing firms), it keeps salespeople engaged with their customers regarding their hiring process. 

A few years ago I introduced this concept to GDH Consulting and they improved their sales win rate by 49%. Yes, I know, that number is ridiculous! But it just goes to show you the power of having a plan. Imagine if you could improve your sales win rates by just 5% or 10%? 

Start adopting mutual action plans today and I'm confident you too will reap the benefits!

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