Do we really need mutual action plans to win more deals?
If you’re looking for ways to increase win-rates, avoid key deals slipping, and create a repeatable B2B sales & onboarding process (or maybe you just thought, “Wait, what’s a mutual action plan?”) then I’d encourage you to consider what these three sales experts have to say about why B2B sales leaders should be using MAPs.
We held a Jam Session with top B2B startup sales coaches Skip Miller and Alice Heiman, plus top Enterprise AE Aaron Cramer of Figma, and had an insightful discussion about how sales teams can win more deals with mutual action plans.
But beyond just winning deals, Skip, Alice, and Aaron shared how MAPs help them truly partner with buyers to provide a smoother, more professional experience – and differentiate themselves from competitors.
You can watch the full Jam Session below, or keep reading for key insights from the experts!
First… what is a Mutual Action Plan (MAP)?
A Mutual Action Plan (MAP) is a shared, collaborative document that outlines exactly how a selling and buying organization can work together to solve a problem. It feels like a joint project plan – not a close plan – and drives alignment, accountability, and transparency. At the end of the day it increases the chances that the buyer overcomes an important challenge, and the seller wins a new customer.
“A MAP flips the whole sales process on its head and looks at it from the buyer’s perspective,” said Ross. “What do they need to successfully evaluate, validate, purchase, onboard and be successful long-term with your company?”
Teams can use spreadsheets or other tools to build their MAPs – for instance, Aaron has been using Accord for the past year. “It’s much more dynamic than a spreadsheet,” he said. “It’s a single source for all parts of the deal.”
Wherever you choose to build your MAPs, you should enter all the steps required, when they’re due, and who is responsible for them.
Why Skip, Alice & Aaron use MAPs (and why you should too!)
Turn a transactional relationship into a partnership
With mutual action plans, the buying process becomes collaborative. Instead of presenting to your buyer, said Skip, you’re working to understand their needs and creating the plan together.
“The buyers feel heard,” Skip said.
Aaron said that by using mutual action plans, he’s been able to shift from being someone who’s just there to send documents to sign, to being someone who’s on the same side of the table as the buyer. That transparency helps create trust between the buyer and seller.
“My customer and I are aligned,” Aaron said. “I get amazing feedback from the folks I’m working with. They love the intention behind MAPs and the fact that I’m listening to them.”
Make it easy for the buyer
Being a buyer is harder than ever. There are more choices in the market, more internal decision-makers, and more risk. Buying a new tool or service can impact the entire organization and upend people’s current workflows or workloads.
“Buyers are really risk-averse today because things are a little crazy, right?” said Alice. “We’re trying to get people to change, and risk is part of change.”
But a mutual action plan helps untangle this complicated decision process for the buyers and gives them a clear path to success.
And don’t assume people know how to buy from you, Alice says: work with them to map out the entire process, and you’ll help alleviate risk and make it much easier on the buyer.
Differentiate yourself from other sales teams
It’s not only harder than ever to be a buyer – it’s also harder than ever to be a seller and to stand out from all the other salespeople. MAPs can be a way to differentiate yourself.
“I tell my buyers that we’re working on this together, and I want to hold myself accountable to the things I commit to them,” Aaron said. “It totally changed the way they think of me as a salesperson.”
Whether or not they end up buying from you, says Alice, the buyer will need to go through the process anyway – so you might as well help them outline the steps and make it easier for them to make a decision.
“When you’re the only sales rep that does mutual plans, it almost guarantees that they’re going to buy from you,” said Alice. “How you sell matters – you make your buyer the hero!”
Take back control over your deals
“You’re going to shorten the buyer sales process in a heartbeat with a mutual plan,” Skip said. “If you’re not using them, you’re just guessing.”
By using a MAP, you’ll almost always know the right close date from the deadline both sides agreed to, says Alice. “It puts the close date back in your hands – but only if you do a MAP!”
And when you have the context of deadlines and all the other steps that need to happen before the close, says Aaron, it adds urgency. It’s harder to keep pushing things out, because the buyer can see all the other steps that would fall through.
The value of that context extends internally too. “As a sales leader, I need all my salespeople to use MAPs almost all the time,” Alice said. “If they’re not using one, how do you coach them? You don’t know what’s going on or what the next action is.”
So now that we have the “why”... how do you successfully implement MAPs?
Start from the end and work backwards
Skip’s advice: “BBB: Buyers Buy Backwards.”
Start with the end date – when does your buyer’s organization need to be up & running with your product? Set that date first, then work backwards and set deadlines for all the other steps.
“If you start the other way, there’s no energy or momentum,” Skip said.
Create MAPs with your buyer
It seems obvious, but a critical part of mutual action plans is that they’re, well… mutual. They’re intended to be created with your buyer.
After a couple early discovery calls with his prospects, Aaron takes what he’s learned and creates a custom MAP in Accord as a starting point. Then during their next call, they walk through it together, add or remove steps, and fill in the details – tailoring it based on the buyer’s feedback and requirements.
Aaron also sets up regular calls with the buyer throughout the process, where they revisit the MAP together and check off tasks they’ve accomplished.
“I really aim throughout my sales cycle to be a partner genuinely and build a relationship,” Aaron says. “Mutual action plans have changed everything about the way that I sell.”
Meet the Experts:
Alice Heiman, Founder & Chief Sales Energizer
Starting her own company in 1997, Alice is nationally known for working with B2B companies that have exceptional growth potential to elevate their sales and increase their valuation.
Skip Miller, Expert Sales Trainer & Founder of M3 Learning
As President of M3 Learning, Skip has provided training to hundreds of companies in over 35 countries. He created M3 Learning to “make a salesperson better on each individual call.”
Aaron Cramer, Enterprise AE at Figma
As a founding member of the Figma sales team, Aaron has spent the last 3 years partnering with mid-market and enterprise customers to help them find value and be successful.