The B2B buyer’s journey is a slog. Lengthy sales cycles, expansive buying committees, and competing priorities can easily derail buyers and sellers alike, preventing both parties from achieving their goals. However, a well-constructed mutual action plan— supported by enablement and training— significantly reduces friction on both sides of the purchase decision.
In this post, we’re taking a closer look at mutual action plans and how you can use them to enable faster, more efficient sales cycles and increase sales performance.
What is a Mutual Action Plan?
Sometimes called a mutual close plan, mutual success plan, or joint execution plan, a mutual action plan— or MAP— is a document shared between the seller and the buyer used to set expectations throughout every stage of a sales cycle. A mutual action plan specifies critical steps and requirements for an organization to successfully purchase, implement, and derive value from a product or service.
Whether following a simple outline or more robust template, MAPs essentially work backwards from the desired outcome— ROI for the buyer— to break down:
- What needs to happen
- When it needs to happen
- Who is responsible
MAPs shouldn’t feel like a homework assignment for buyers, but an invaluable resource to streamline communication, cut down on wasted time, eliminate guesswork, and realize value from investments sooner.
Why sales teams need mutual action plans
Before jumping straight into the “how”, let’s take a look at why mutual action plans are so important to the modern sales team.
Mutual action plans help close complex deals faster
The typical B2B buyer’s journey lasts 102 days (source)— a 2x increase from just eight years ago (source). A standardized mutual action plan can help sales teams speed up the average sales cycle by providing:
- A single source of truth that’s regularly updated and shared, ensuring buyers and sellers are both working with consistent, timely, and accurate information.
- A sense of urgency and accountability for stakeholders. MAPs connect action items, due dates, and deliverables to ROI, so your team can reframe every requirement as a necessary step to reach goals.
- A framework to guide each rep’s engagement with buyers, so they know what to prioritize and how they should be using their time.
- A detailed record for more senior decision makers who may enter the process later, showing due diligence and reducing the back and forth as they get up to speed.
Mutual action plans provide a better experience for the buyer
Customer experience starts long before a purchase is ever made. It starts from the second an organization decides to evaluate your solution and continues for the duration of their contract, all the way through off-boarding.
When sales reps run an efficient and informative sales cycle, it serves as a preview of what it might be like to work with an organization long-term. Consider these statistics:
- 73% of consumers say that customer experience is a deciding factor when making purchase decisions (source).
- An organization can increase its revenue by 10 to 15% just by improving the customer experience (source).
- 74% of customers are likely to make a purchase based on customer experience alone (source).
MAPs give your reps a way to immediately demonstrate value by shouldering the burden for the potential buyer. With a laser focus on desired outcomes— and what it takes to get there— a mutual action plan can help both buyers and sellers cut through the clutter. A mutual action plan reframes the conversation from “Here’s what we need from you to close the sale” to “Here’s what we need to deliver value to your organization.”
When reps take charge and manage this process, that’s one less thing for buyers to worry about. It makes the buyer’s job easier, and subsequently provides a better experience and demonstrates your commitment to customer success.
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Mutual action plans ensure more predictable pipeline forecasting
As we’ve already touched on, a good mutual action plan starts with the buyer’s goals and proving potential ROI.
If the prospect isn’t willing to commit to the buying process when the benefit is clear, then they’re unlikely to commit to the deal itself. These warning signs can be gamechanger, especially considering that an average 55% of B2B organizations miss their quarterly forecast by more than 10% (source).
MAPs can improve forecasting by:
- Flagging early signs that a deal won’t be viable— before your reps invest more time and resources
- Providing a series of checkpoints to validate buyer engagement at every step of the sales cycle. That way, reps can quickly assess new opportunities and determine how likely each deal is to close.
- Affording you better insight to progress toward goals . If your team is going to miss a goal, it’s important to have that information as soon as possible.
Mutual action plans help reduce unnecessary admin work
Did you know that reps spend almost 15% of their week on administrative tasks (source)? The problem is, many sales organizations aren’t given a single, most effective course of action to follow when it comes to working and closing the average deal. As a result, many reps start from scratch on each opportunity, and figure out the necessary steps as they go.
Without a formalized mutual action plan reps may waste hours:
- Going back and forth with buyers to follow up on forgotten deliverables
- Wasting time on unnecessary and ineffective activities
- Sifting through CRM notes to figure out where conversations left off and what to do next
- Relying on bad habits and outdated techniques to try and close deals or get a buyer’s attention.
MAPs are an ideal solution because they serve as a consistent, repeatable guide to engaging with buyers— which can then be modified by company size, deal size, industry, and use case. More specifically, a mutual action plan tells reps:
- The exact steps to follow
- What information to track
- Where to seek out the latest information and updates on any given account
The end result is a more streamlined and efficient flow of information between reps and the accounts they’re working on.
Mutual action plans improve win rates and drive revenue.
Think of a mutual action plan as an amalgamation of the most effective aspects of every successful sales cycle. As a sales leader, you have unique insight into what works— and what doesn’t work– because you’ve seen your reps try just about everything.
A mutual action plan allows you to pick and choose what you like and throw out the rest– then, distribute across the broader team– almost like a sales coaching cheat sheet. Imagine cloning and combining the very best characteristics of each rep on your team. That’s what an effective mutual action plan template can do.
By standardizing a mutual action plan template for your team, you’re preparing them to address all kinds of buying scenarios. It allows you to share learnings in a more effective and scalable way– thus improving win rates and driving more revenue.
How to create a mutual action plan template for your team
In this section, we’ll share our recommendations for building out a mutual action plan template. Remember, this is just a framework to help you get started. A successful mutual action plan should always stem from a two-way conversation with your buyers, rather than a rigid set of requirements to impose on every prospect.
Start with an objective or value statement
The last thing you want is for buyers to look at a mutual action plan and see a list of chores. When creating a template, leave space for an objective or value statement right at the top. This will help set the tone for the rest of the document, so buyers are more likely to be interested, engaged, and willing to participate. A value statement also helps everyone stay focused on the end goal.
Here’s a quick example of how you might format your value statement:
This document is used to provide transparent, efficient, and collaborative two-way communication to assist (Prospect Company) with their evaluation of (Seller Company) as they work toward achieving (unique goal) by (ideal date).
Document your buying committee and their primary responsibilities
Reserve space to document key members of the buying team. It can help to input all known and unknown personas ahead of time so your team can ask the buyer whether or not certain roles will be involved up front.
We know getting buy-in from the right team members can make or break a deal. There’s nothing worse than losing a deal at the finish line because a mystery stakeholder shoots you down in the final hour. Use your mutual action plan to uncover key decision makers and make sure they’re looped in from your first conversation.
Use the mutual action plan template to coach your team on how to figure out who the champion is and identify where they might have the hardest time gaining approval. Understanding the ins and outs of the buyer’s team and what each member cares about, can help you better equip and support your champion through their internal conversations and debates.
Identify key dates from both the buying and selling perspectives
Basing the target close date on your team’s quarterly goals will undermine the collaborative, buyer-centric process you’re trying to implement. Instead, format your mutual action plan around a compelling event for the buyer. This might be a project that requires your solution, a new quarter, or timed strategically to hit a goal.
This will help create a sense of urgency and accountability among stakeholders. Suddenly, a slipped date or forgotten deliverable isn’t an administrative nuisance for your team, but a roadblock standing in the way of their goals.
A detailed timeline will help set expectations about how frequently you’ll need to meet, when important conversations will happen, and how much of a time commitment the buying process will be.
Outline deliverables and action items
Successful mutual action plans reverse engineer a target initiative with a series of milestones which are then broken down into outcomes, action items, and deliverables.
This approach connects every step to a broader goal, clearly illustrating how individual roles and responsibilities can impact the entire initiative. It also leaves room for reps to present high-level milestones first to avoid overwhelming the buyer. Then, when the timing is right, your team can explore more granular action items with the buyer.
Make sure your mutual action plan template also factors in the work your team will be doing. This not only helps reinforce the mutual nature of the document, but brings visibility to your reps’ efforts, signaling their commitment to the buyer’s success.
Close up with projected outcomes and ROI estimates
A classic mistake many reps make is to frame their mutual action plan as a means to sign a contract. Stakeholders won’t invest their time and attention if the main purpose is to help your rep close a deal. This should never be the final step, as it disconnects the entire document from the buyer’s goals. Instead, wrap up your template with a designated space for projected timelines around implementation, onboarding, and delivering ROI.
A mutual action plan template is a good starting point, but will be useless if your team doesn’t know how to use it. Training and enablement is equally imperative. Here are a few additional tips and tricks to use when rolling out your mutual action plan framework to your team.
Stress the mutual in mutual action plan
It’s impossible to use a mutual action plan effectively without active input from the buyer. Therefore, your mutual action plan should never be treated like a one-sided laundry list of requirements, but a living, breathing roadmap for both parties to follow.
When you introduce your team to the concept of mutual action plans, be sure to stress the importance of two way conversation. Encourage reps to dedicate a meeting to complete the mutual action plan with each prospect and get their sign off on it when it’s complete.
The more your reps treat each mutual action plan like a two-way street, the more successful they will be.
Encourage reps to position each component of the mutual action plan through the lens of the buyer.
In a similar vein, mutual action plans are only effective if they frame the buying process in a way that makes sense for their organization’s specific processes, pain points, and goals.
It’s important that your teams don’t take your mutual action plan template as a finalized, one-size-fits-all document. Each aspect has to reflect your buyer’s goal in order for it to be effective.
Make it clear that the mutual action plan is a rep’s single source of truth
Train your teams to use their mutual action plans to document and highlight important parts of every deal. For example, if a date is missed by either party, adjust the timeline accordingly so your buyer can see the direct impact of date slip.
An easy way to keep the mutual action plan top-of-mind is to bring it up at the start and close of every call to review with the prospect directly. Cover what to expect next, how they’re pacing to goal, what needs to happen before the next call, and the expected outcome of each meeting.
Operationalize your mutual action plan
A mutual action plan is only effective if it’s implemented and operationalized as a core part of your selling strategy. It’s not enough to hand over a template and expect it to be successful. Instead, you must implement mutual action plans as a required, baked-in function of your selling motion.
- Create and document mutual action plan requirements to share with your team. These requirements should set expectations around how reps should use mutual action plans throughout any given sales cycle. These requirements will aid with coaching and accountability.
- Document where mutual action plans should live, how frequently they should be updated, and how they align with other records and documentation required during the typical sales process.
- Make sure your mutual action plan template aligns with your standard sales process. Be sure to look at deal stage, forecast probability, and other core checkpoints to ensure they align with the template you’re asking your team to use. This will help avoid confusion and maintain consistency.
- Work with your sales operations team to see which parts of the mutual action plan can be automated. Are there reminders or notifications you can set up? Are there ways to automatically update timelines if something changes? Be sure to explore all possibilities to eliminate as much manual work as possible.
Operationalizing MAPs will help ensure your reps can consistently streamline communication with buyers, and close deals faster, even as requirements change and your selling team evolves.
While the idea of a mutual action plan seems like a no brainer, it can be difficult for sales leaders to roll them out effectively to teams. Sometimes, motives, goals, and important context can get lost in translation.
It’s our hope that this comprehensive guide to mutual action plans comes in handy and helps create more seamless, efficient sales cycles within your organization.
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