If there’s no next step…

A Mutual Action Plan (MAP) makes buying easier and speeds up the sales cycle; it validates the forecast and ensures reps implement process consistently.

At its most basic, a Mutual Action Plan answers the question “who needs to do what to make this deal happen”.

In practice, this means the selling team documenting all the milestones between first identifying that there may be a fit (aka, a possible opportunity) and getting the product or service up and running inside the buyer’s organization, then working with the entire buying team to validate that those are the right steps for their organization, then working with everyone to punch through the list.

It’s an incredibly valuable tool and one that will serve both the buyer and the seller well. Without it, you’re shooting in the dark, and you’re 10x more likely to be wasting your time on a deal that’s may be going nowhere.

Let’s take a look at 10 elements of effective mutual action plans


 

A SOLID STARTING POINT

You need to start with a good template. The idea here is you’ve done this before, so take the steps that you’ve seen in your typical sales cycle, and present them as a starting point — with the key proviso that each deal is unique and this template is a starting point only.

Also, we can’t over-emphasize #1 enough: you’ve got to get your buyers involved.

1. MAKE SURE IT’S TRULY MUTUAL
If the Buyers aren’t contributing, it’s not mutual, and you don’t get any validation of prospect engagement.

2. THINK “OUTCOMES” NOT “TASKS”
Use buyer-centric language: what’s the benefit of completing this activity? Outcomes are goals that bring you one step closer to success, tasks are onerous things you stick on someone else. Likewise, focus on the buyer needs, not your sales stages. Finally, this is a “mutual action plan” not a “close plan” 

3. ADD BUYER’S OTHER KEY DATES 
Ideally, you have successfully anchored this deal’s target close date to some external initiative of the buyer: that’s what makes for a truly compelling compelling event. Include that external event’s date on the MAP so Buyers remember why they’re working on this schedule and realize the cost of slippage.

4. WORK BACK FROM LAUNCH DATE
From past experience, you know roughly how long  each milestone takes, so include those estimates in your template, subject to buyer input. You create urgency when by working backwards from go-live you end up with the next step due very close to today. Note: work back from a GO LIVE that’s after onboarding,.

5. LAST STEP IS ROI, NOT “SIGNED”
The final item on your MAP should be the promised payout of your solution, not the day you get your commission. Include a summary of the value prop and a rough date for when they should first see some ROI. This reinforces urgency and reframes the act of signing the contract (and paying you) as just another step to getting the payout they want.

 

FROM PLAN TO CLOSE OR DQ

Now that you have a solid template, you need to use it. Read on for five tips on getting the most out of a Mutual Action Plan — for both yourself and your Buyers.

6. INTRODUCE MAP EARLY ON
There’s no point in discussing a mutual action plan until a Buyer has agreed there’s at least potential for fit. But you can show those early steps as complete when you first share the template to establish a sense of momentum. It also shows decision makers coming into the process later on that the deal has undergone due diligence.

7. KEEP IT LIVE & UP-TO-DATE
Your MAP has to be a living document or it will lose its value. Share it regularly, or even better, have it live online so everyone has access to real-time status. 

8. ROLE FIRST, THEN A NAME
Early on you may not have a person’s name, but you do know what role should be responsible for each outcome. Tracking roles creates a reason to ask the question “who’s in charge of this” leading to learning who the true decision makers are.

9. SHOW IMPACT OF SLIPPED DATES
Dates will slip: Show the impact by highlighting total days off schedule and which milestones /people are causing the backup. Creates a great agenda item to keep deals on track.

10. SHARE AS WIDE AS POSSIBLE
Share the MAP and regular status on progress with the entire buying team and selling team to built up accountability on both sides.

 

WHY WHY WHY

When you’re first introducing the idea of a Mutual Action Plan with your Buyer, make sure you present it in terms of their benefit: More transparency makes it easier to trust their counterparts on the selling side, which reduces the risk that they end up wasting time or worse, being held responsible for a deal gone bad.

  1. Reduce Risk
  2. Less work
  3. Self awareness
  4. Understand scope
  5. Holds everyone accountable

 

And one for yourself

From the perspective of the sales org, if the Buyer understands and accepts effort & actions to finish the deal, it’s more likely to happen AND if buyer meets commitments of each step, they’re signaling great intent.  You’re less likely to lose momentum and if they’re not willing to invest the time in the MAP, then DQ’ing faster means a faster sales cycle, which means more time for fresh prospecting.

Finally, there is no better way to forecast certainty than seeing these progressive milestones get hit on time. And if there is a problem, you can start working on it far in advance of it being a show stopper.