What is a Mutual Action Plan?
A Mutual Action Plan (MAP) is a coordinated, strategic plan that smooths the way for buyers to make a purchase from you.
This is a living document, created by the seller’s team with buy-in from the customer, that all parties use to define exactly what needs to happen, by when to get the deal to close.
Why Every Sales Team Needs to Use Mutual Action Plans
Don’t make the mistake of assuming your buyers understand exactly how to buy from you. Trust me — they need more guidance than you think.
For the B2B complex sale, buying is notoriously a long, hard slog for B2B buyers. Consider the following facts from the analyst firm Gartner:
- Most B2B deals are nonlinear and complex.
- Complexity often leads to “analysis paralysis” on the part of buyers.
- The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves between six to 10 decision-makers.
The last thing you want — particularly when an interested buyer enters the picture — is any friction in the buying process. But clearly, friction (in the form of complexity and multiple stakeholders) is the norm these days and it has been for a few years according to the HBR article by the analysts at Gartner.
Deals are vastly more likely to close when buyer confidence is high and the path to close (onboard and beyond) is easy to understand among all stakeholders. That’s why I advise all CEOs and sales leaders to have their sales teams create a Mutual Action Plan (MAP) with buyers.
How to Create a Mutual Action Plan
A Mutual Action Plan is a collaboration between the sales team and the buying team. This document will help keep you on track, identify potential obstacles, and help ensure you deliver the value you promise.
Mutual Action Plans work best for deals that are $75,000 or more (anything less than that, and you could likely get by with a simpler checklist). Your Mutual Action Plan should be customized based on your offering, industry, and key players. They should go beyond the close date to onboarding, implementation, and return on investment. This way the buyers see what it will be like to be your customer after you close.
Here are the six elements a Mutual Action Plan needs:
1. Statement of value
2. Timeline with key dates
5. Progressions and outcomes
6. Successful finish
#1: Statement of Value
In sales, it’s always smart to center your conversation around value. In what measurable ways will this deal change your buyer’s life for the better? This is your deal’s north star that will help guide all stakeholders as you progress through each stage of the buying process.
A statement of value can be especially helpful to expand your circle of influence among the buyer’s stakeholders — anyone who comes onboard mid-deal will immediately understand why this deal is important and feel an incentive to push it to the next phase.
#2: Timeline with Key Dates
Every Mutual Action Plan should include a schedule of key dates along the road to becoming a customer. You can use a spreadsheet or calendar for this, or simply list dates in columns.
Key dates should be seen as targets; update them accordingly as the deal moves forward. Target dates help create reasonable expectations for everyone about how long it will take to move through each stage of the buyer journey. It also helps you avoid getting lost in a fog of competing priorities.
Any complex deal usually has multiple deliverables. Most MAPs link deliverables to a person who should oversee its completion. Some even specify partners for each deliverable (one person from the buyer’s team and one person from the seller’s team). This can help prevent any one deliverable from falling through the cracks and holding up the completion of the deal.
In cases where you’re not yet sure who will be responsible for a given deliverable, describe the role that person should play. (You can always assign the role to someone down the line as needed.)
As part of your MAP, list all the known players and potential players, and have the buying team confirm those names. They’ll fill in the gaps for you of anyone missing.
Why is it important to name each stakeholder? From the buyer’s perspective, making a big B2B purchase is a major risk. (There’s a reason the saying, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM,” had staying power for so many years.) Major purchase decisions have been known to make or break careers. Crafting a Mutual Action Plan is a way to help your buyer fully commit to the purchase decision. Part of that commitment involves rounding up anyone and everyone on the buying team who’ll have a say in whether or not the deal goes through.
If the buyer can’t or won’t provide these names, you’ve already hit a major snag. This is an indication that you have some communication work to do before you try to move the deal forward. (Likely you need to do some work to establish more trust between you and the buying team.)
By identifying all the stakeholders in your MAP, you also help ensure a solid transition by introducing your customer success folks or account managers earlier rather than later (say, at the implementation stage). This allows the buyer to get to know the people on your team who will provide ongoing support. Again, this helps cement the idea that this deal represents a true partnership rather than a one-time transaction.
#5: Progressions and Outcomes
Complex deals often move forward in fits and starts, so rather than keeping a list of items that have been completed, create a “progressions and outcomes” category so you can keep track of all the details related to each deliverable.
Your instinct might be to create a system whereby you can mark deliverables as “completed” or “incomplete,” but that’s just not realistic. Also, it won’t give you the insight you need from the buyer’s side to keep things perking along. Instead, a summary of details regarding progress will help keep you and your buyer on the same page.
#6: Successful Finish
Don’t make the final point on your map “deal closed” or “contract signed.” The close is not success. A satisfied customer who gets a return on investment is success. So map all the way through to the onboarding and successful implementation. Take the opportunity to make your language buyer-centric.
You can do this by making your “successful finish” focused around an implementation or rollout date — or even indicate the length of time it will be for the buyer to see revenue benefits once the deal is complete.
The point is to take deal closure as another opportunity to highlight the value you’re bringing to the customer. In fact, this may help incentivize your customer to actually sign the deal sooner than later in order to see those benefits roll in. This language subtly underscores that you are a valued partner.
Key Benefits for Your Sales Team
- MAPs collapse time-to-close & speed up your sales cycle
- MAPs create consistency for sellers & increase the potential to get deals into the pipeline
- MAPs create visibility for sellers so they can resolve potential roadblocks to getting the deal closed
- MAPs allow sellers to identify all stakeholders & gain further influence with the buyer
- MAPs improves visibility for sales managers so they can coach deals more effectively
- MAPs lead to more accurate sales forecasts
Key Benefits for Your Buyers
- Reduces common risks associated with making a poor purchase decision
- Creates a guided, easy to follow buying experience
- Makes it easy to understand the scope and terms of the deal
- Holds everyone on all sides accountable
- Provides a clear picture of time-to-revenue from purchase date
For buyers, MAPs yield a high-quality, hassle-free buying experience, which differentiates you from the competition. In the end, you deliver a better buying experience and have a higher close rate. Everybody wins.
Let’s talk about how your company uses Mutual Action Plans or could use them.