Managing the Collaboration Plan

Jimmy Touchstone, Director of Learning and Development here at SPI. We look after the content and make sure it’s up to date, relevant, and meeting the needs of our customers.

What are the client issues around not having a collaboration plan? What are the challenges?

Sometimes evaluating complex solutions, sales cycles can go off track and they can go longer, right? Even on the customer side, some of the challenges they face is risk. Risk increases as they approach the end of their sales cycle or their buying cycle. As a result, sometimes no decision happens. We try to work with the sellers to put some tools and concepts in place to help minimize risk, shorten sales cycles, and a lot of benefits around that. That’s where the collaboration plan comes into play.

What is the collaboration plan?

The collaboration plan is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a collaboration. It’s a joint plan between the buying and selling organizations. You both share your ideas about what’s needed in order to evaluate the solution. That might be the need to get other people involved, do demos, or look at the system capabilities. Anything that might help mitigate risk. We’ll turn on investment analysis, things like that.

What’s involved in the development of a collaboration plan?

After they’ve learned the new sales methodology, developing a collaboration plan is probably one of the easiest tools that a seller can put into play on day one. Really, it’s working with the customer to say, “How are you going to evaluate us?What’s important to you? What are the buying hurdles that you have to go through that we need to be aware of?”
You bring that feedback into the plan. However, you, as the seller, also know that there’re things that you need to do, in terms of how you approach the sales cycle. You want those in the plan as well. It’s kind of this joint combination of events and there’s a reasonable timeline that’s put against those dates. There is also ownership for each one of the activities. It’s a joint plan of how we’re going to proceed together.

What are the benefits of the collaboration plan to sales managers?

It’s limitless. If the plan is written well, they have a pretty good idea that if execution occurs the way it’s supposed to, I could start guessing when the close is going to happen. It also starts to help me realize when something’s going off track, if we start seeing a delay in the execution of the plan.

Even more so, it starts to show me when resources might be needed. If you don’t have a plan in place and this seller does, I might actually even use that, as a manager, as a qualification tool that says, “I’m not going to put the resource over here. I’ll put it over here, because they have a plan. It’s bought off by the customer. This deal feels more qualified than this one.”

Why is important to have a collaboration plan?

Well, it’s important because it’s how the buying and selling organizations are going to not only make a decision, but how we’re going to go make the decision. Within our best practices that we share with our customers, there’re lots of tools and concepts that are very useful. This is probably the easiest tool for a sales organization, that we help, to implement on day one after training. It’s not that complex, but it’s still pretty powerful.

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