What Is a Mutual Action Plan (MAP) in the World of B2B Sales?

In this post you will learn about Mutual Action Plans (MAP), how they're used, and pitfalls to watch out for.

What Is a Mutual Action Plan (MAP)?

In the world of B2B sales, a Mutual Action Plan is a shared document (usually a collaborative Spreadsheet or Doc) that outlines how a Selling and Buying organization will solve a problem together. If successful, the Buying organization overcomes an important challenge, and the Selling organization wins new customer.

How Is a Mutual Action Plan Used?

There are many best practices around how to use a MAP. Here are a few common tactics we see our most successful customers follow.

  1. Introduce early - We recommend introducing a MAP into the Seller <> Buyer relationship as early as possible. This is usually around the time an Opportunity is created in a CRM. At this point the Sales Rep should understand the problem the buyer is trying to solve.
  2. Ask for permission - When introducing the concept of a MAP, ask your buyer if they're open to the idea. We've talked to 100s of Sales Reps and Leaders about this and have never heard a customer say no. What's more, many Sales Leaders with successful MAP usage will only commit resources to an opportunity that has a MAP in place. This means the sales organization will not engage with a prospect unless they are open to aligning on a mutual plan.
  3. Make it mutual - There are many, many names for a MAP, and most of them use the word Mutual (see nomenclature section below). There's a reason for that. The plan is supposed to benefit both parties. Sales Reps must ask their buyers' for input. If the plan is one-sided and inflexible it will feel like to list of chores and not a collaborative buying process.
  4. Keep coming back to the plan - The MAP should be a source of truth for the relationship. It should be consulted at least once each meeting, usually at the beginning or end. If the seller does not take the MAP seriously and sends conflicting signals the buying team will not engage with it.

Nomenclature

The Mutual Action Plan (MAP), or just Mutual Plan (MP) for short, goes by many names. Almost all sales professionals are familiar with the idea of a MAP by one name or another, but for the sake of education here is a list of common names.

  • Mutual Action Plan (MAP)
  • Joint Execution Plan (JEP)
  • Mutual Success Plan (MSP)
  • Mutual Plan (MP)
  • Mutual Evaluation Plan (MEP)
  • Close Plan
  • Blue Sheet
  • Work Backwards Plan

There are many trends in B2B sales that are increasing the popularity of MAPs. It seems like the two most common names used are Mutual Plan (MP) and Mutual Action Plan (MAP).

From Nice-to-Have to Need-to-Have

Technology solutions are more complex than ever. This means more stakeholders are needed with specialized skills (Engineering, Product Management, Legal, Finance, Security, etc.). This leads to longer timelines, greater expense for both parties, and a serious opportunity cost.

the ever growing b2b buying group
Gartner's research on the Buying team's growth over the past 20 years.

The overwhelming complexity of solutions today makes it necessary for better organization. It's hard to think of any other multi-month project (with dozens of stakeholders) not having a dedicated project manager and system of record. Most of the time the Account Executive (AE) and the Project Lead at the buying company are left to fill this role. These overworked stakeholders quickly realize the benefit of collaboration and organization of a joint plan. Sales Leaders have caught on, too. If you have ever tried quarterbacking an enterprise deal over email (or even a SMB opportunity) you have felt the pain of sorting through 50+ email threads and their associated attachments.

Common Pitfalls to Watch Out for

It's hard to find a Sales Leader who doesn't believe in the power of Mutual Action Plans. So why do so few Sales Orgs use them? It comes down to a few pitfalls that result in poor AE adoption and buyer engagement. The two biggest reason for this are:

Problem #1: The Unprepared AE

We see this time and time again. AEs are asked to sell in a new way without proper training. Using a MAP demands that a AE collaborate with their buyer as a partner. Sometimes this involves asking a buyer to do work and not moving forward until they complete a deliverable. Despite having a reputation for big egos, many sales reps are afraid to ask their buyers to do work. For a Sales Org to leverage MAPs reps must be taught how to collaborate with buyers, and avoid the reflex to simply take orders and answer questions.

Problem #2: Lack of Collaboration

In my all-time favourite book, "How To Win Friends and Influence People", Dale Carnegie proclaims, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” The same concept lends itself to MAPs – and honestly every other facet of sales. By focusing on the buyer, their problem, and their organization, and getting their input and ideas, you will dramatically increase engagement. If a MAP is not customized with your buyer's input they will not want to engage. You want to collaborate on a plan to work together. You don't want to force a long list of to-dos.

Ross and I have spent our careers obsessing over Mutual Action Plans and Customer Collaboration. Please reach out if you ever want to jam out on creating a collaborative and repeatable sales process .

Happy selling,

Ryan