Learn to create collaborative close plans that push deals across the finish line faster.
The old sales adage, “Always Be Closing” (ABC), is due for an update. It speaks to an era of seller-centric tactics, when sales reps pitched products aggressively, trying to wrangle customers to do what they wanted them to do. Today, the customer is in the driver’s seat and selling is a team sport, a collaboration of many stakeholders. A better directive, therefore, is to “Always Be Closing Collaboratively” (ABCC).
In the same spirit, the traditional “close plan” needs a reboot to reflect this new, collaborative reality. While close plans have always been a helpful tool to push a deal toward the finish line, today they are indispensable because deals are more complex and involve more people on both the buyer and seller sides.
This how-to guide will teach you to create a more actionable, collaborative close plan that does a better job of keeping deals organized, saving time, and accelerating deal velocity.
Why a Collaborative Close Plan Gives You an Edge
A close plan, also called a mutual success plan or mutual action plan, is a roadmap for closing a deal. It outlines the milestones and time-sensitive action items for both the seller and buyer teams. Sales reps draw them up in the later stages of a deal, in collaboration with both their managers and their customers. Today, the best close plans are living, online documents (not static ones) that are continually referenced and updated as the deal progresses.
If you’re not using a close plan, you’re making life harder for yourself and missing out on these key advantages:
- Higher close rates. Deals often die by timing out when the customer goes dark. A close plan keeps them on track.
- Fewer hiccups and surprises. A close plan gives you visibility into the buyer’s decision and approval process well in advance, so you can avoid unforeseen challenges—or realize sooner that the deal isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to move on.
- Faster sales cycles, better forecasting. With next steps outlined and due dates on the calendar, deals close more quickly. For sales leaders, close plans are key to developing more accurate forecasts.
- Greater customer buy-in. A collaborative close plan is developed in close coordination with the buyer, who is more likely to adhere to a schedule she helped create. The process of creating a mutually beneficial plan builds trust with your buyer as well.
What’s the Best Format for a Close Plan?
Today, a close plan absolutely must reside within your CRM as a living, editable page — populated with live CRM data — that can be shared with whomever needs to view it and referenced easily whenever you visit the opportunity page. That means no more static docs and no more email back-and-forths.
Share it with your customer, who should have the ability to edit it, add comments, and update completed tasks and due dates. In terms of format, your plan can be either a narrative document or a spreadsheet, whichever suits your needs.
- Pro tip: Create a template to standardize what close plans look like across your sales organization. Use your CRM to do it — and investigate time-saving automation features like auto-populating the close plan fields with data from the account or creating the close plan automatically once an opportunity reaches a certain stage.
Your Starting Point for a Close Plan
When creating your close plan, begin with the end in mind. Ask your customer to determine the target date that she wants the contract signed and your solution live and ready to use. (Another way to frame it: the date when she can begin reaping all the benefits and value of your awesome product or service.) Setting this date — and getting customer buy-in — is a crucial step that can keep your deal from slipping into the next quarter.
- Pro tip: Once you’ve pinpointed your target date, work backwards to fill out your plan. Huddle separately with your customer and your sales leaders to set the milestones and subtasks needed to reach your goal. Create a schedule for when each step must be completed and by whom. In the process, your customer should share names and contact info for key stakeholders at her organization, and also share insight into how her company onboards new vendors.
Elements of a Collaborative Close Plan
Close plan templates can vary greatly, and the level of detail they include can depend on the size of the deal. But overall, try to keep them simple. Close plans are meant to save you time, not create new administrative chores. Here are some of the elements in a typical plan:
- Title: Include the opportunity name (e.g., “[Opportunity.Name]: Close Plan”).
- Executive summary: In a few sentences, outline the purpose of the plan. Keep the language customer-centric, framing the value of a close plan for them.
- Related docs: List and hyperlink to other helpful documents related to this opportunity within your CRM, like notes or an account plan.
- Key stakeholders: List the staff and executives who will be involved in the deal, from both your company and the customer’s. Include their role and contact information.
- Project plan: Create a schedule or checklist of all the milestones and activities, from demos and presentations to executive approvals, legal review, and SOW agreements. Include due dates and completion status, and assign owners to each task.
- Deal/opportunity details: Include a section with any other need-to-know details, notes, or status updates to keep everyone on the same page and more quickly orient new users to the plan.
Leverage Your Close Plan to Clinch the Win
A collaborative close plan only works when the buyer and seller teams actively use it. That’s why creating a visible, shareable, live plan within your CRM is so important. To keep the plan top of mind, send reminders to your customer about upcoming tasks, and if they miss a deadline, remind them of the target date they set. The close plan schedule provides a natural opening to check in with customers and keep the process moving forward. They’ll appreciate the clarity and organization you bring to the process, and if all goes well, you’ll work together to seal the deal in short order.
Learn more about collaborative close plans at www.quip.com/templates/close-plan.