By Bob Apollo
StartupStockPhotos / Pixabay
As Gartner and others have frequently pointed out, B2B buying decisions are often complicated. If the problem to be solved is a new one, rather than a familiar repetitive purchase, the buyer (or, more likely, buying group) may not be completely clear about what they want to achieve, or how they need to achieve it.
Many sales methodologies define a series of steps in the form of a close plan that needs to be completed by the salesperson in order to move the sale forward. But unless the prospective customer is engaged in the exercise, these often drive sales activity without guaranteeing any significant progress from the buying side.
This is why Mutual Action Plans are such a powerful concept: they establish a mutual agreement between the buyer and seller about the steps they intend to take – individually and jointly – in order to progress the buying journey and make the best possible purchase decision…
But it’s important that we don’t regard the Mutual Action Plan [MAP] as nothing more than a flimsily disguised sales close plan. For the MAP to be effective, it must be structured in a way that enables the customer to complete a successful decision process and – this point is critical – to successfully address the issue that got them interested in the first place.
Stephen R Covey, in his best-selling “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” promoted the merits of starting with the end in mind – and that’s where any discussion about an effective Mutual Action Plan needs to start.
A Mutual Action Plan – unlike a sales close plan – does not end with the raising of an order. It only ends when the customer acknowledges that that the problem they intended to solve has been addressed and the projected business value has been achieved.
Current Situation and Desired Future State
Before we delve into the detailed activities that underpin an effective Mutual Action Plan, we first need to work with the customer to capture both their current situation and their desired future state and to project the tangible business value that they expect to generate from successfully implementing the solution.
This – in part at least – is an exercise in contrast. We want to help the customer to establish the strongest possible reason for change by identifying their current challenges and defining the consequences of sticking with the status quo on the customer’s organization, on key functions and departments, and on the key stakeholders who will need to approve the project.
And then we want to compare this to the customer’s desired future state: what would success look like, and how will they measure and justify the business value of achieving it? If – despite our help – our customer cannot clearly articulate the contrast between their current situation and their desired future state, there is a strong possibility that they will be unable to make a strong enough internal business case to get the project approved.
Helping them make the best possible decision
Starting with their …read more
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