If you’ve been in sales for any length of time, you’ve probably had the occasion to craft and present a close plan. If today is your first day on the job or you wound up on this page via an errant web search, here’s how close plans work.
When deals are of a certain dollar amount or level of importance, sales leadership will often want to huddle with sales executives to outline a plan for sealing the deal. This (sometimes intense) strategy session will generally produce a list of action items intended to get the ball across the line.
There are a number of reasons why close plans are powerful tools in the late stages of a sales cycle. Timing is the most common culprit for abandoned deals, and a close plan helps salespeople more closely manage it. A detailed plan has the benefit of keeping track of important events within the sales cycle. For example, if a prospect starts getting cold feet, a close plan can remind them of all the problem-solving work you’ve done together leading into that moment.
Close plans can also be a tremendous help with onboarding. If a new sales rep has an outline of the major milestones that need to happen in order to carry a deal through the stretch, she will be more confident in the moment. Not to mention better able to actually execute!
There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to when and how to use a close plan, but we talked to some of SalesLoft’s most successful sellers, who shared 5 steps to take your deal to the finish line.
1. Find Your Threshold
For many organizations, close plans are only mandatory for major deals. That could be a deal above a certain dollar amount or a percentage of average deals. For Ollie Sharpe, SalesLoft’s VP of Revenue, EMEA, any opportunity above 120% of the average order value automatically triggers the creation of a close plan.
This isn’t to say that exceptions shouldn’t be made for smaller, strategically important deals – sometimes they should. There are even some who believe that any deal worth winning should have a close plan. As a general rule, if the deal feels important, go ahead and draw up your plan.
2. Keep it Tight
You’ve heard of the KISS principle – “keep it simple, stupid.” You, of course, are not stupid so this should be easy. Don’t make your close plan more complicated than it ought to be.
What you’re doing here is simply outlining a few steps you and your team need to take in order to fully deliver what a customer needs from you. While every organization will differ slightly in how they go about their plan, there are 8 key elements to address when outlining your plan:
- Action Name
- Desired Outcome
- Start Date
- Due Date
- Completed Date
- Action Owner
3. Build a Template
The best way to make sure your team adopts a close plan in those crucial moments is to make it easy for them. Create a template with key fields and make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it.
There are all sorts of tools out there to help you with this, including a bevy of specific online close plan applications. On a budget? Google sheets is free and easily shareable!
4. Fill It in
Now that your template has been created, you can customize each plan to best fit your needs and the needs of your prospects. Your ultimate goal is to ensure that everyone finds value in the process.
These are the areas where Ollie Sharpe finds that his close plans add the most value to the cycle:
- Dynamic checklist when reps rate, on a scale of 1-10, the factor like is the decision-maker involved, does client fully understands benefits, is there an agreed-upon close date… and complete a corresponding column indicating what needs to happen to move it to a 10
- Decision-making framework such as RAPID where reps fill in a contact’s name, role, and their feelings towards the solution (supporter, detractor, etc) and who owns the relationship with that person
- SWOT analysis of the opportunity
- Sequence of events, including dates
- Risks of the deal not happening with mitigation plans
- Asks from leadership and internal partners
As we’ve said, every plan will look different. Decide what factors are right for yours and tweak them as you go.
5. Share Your Plan
A close plan will only be as effective as it can be if there is buy-in from the top down. Using your template, create a customer-specific close plan by meeting with sales leadership and team members and outlining the strategic steps that need to be taken in order to get the deal done. If you have a date in mind from the outset, outline your plan backward from your deadline to assure that you stay on top of things.
Sharing your plan with the customer can also be helpful in creating buy-in. Giving everyone a target to shoot for creates a level of trust and camaraderie between the sales team and the prospect. It also allows them to be honest and frank with one another and helps everyone see the mutual benefits of partnering, instead of creating a hunter and prey mentality.
Some people find it helpful to rename their close plan when speaking to a customer. No one wants to be seen as a ‘deal’ waiting to be ‘closed.’ Something like a “Joint Success Plan” speaks better to a process that involves both the buyer and the sales team.
The Bottom Line
No matter what you’re selling, you will likely find it beneficial sometime in the near future to establish a close plan. The right close plan will keep everyone on track and on time and – most importantly – make for happier customers and better deals.
Want to learn more about ways top sales performers find success? Download research on the Best Practices of Top Performing Sales Reps here!