September 19, 2022
A Mutual Action Plan (MAP) enables more effective interactions between sellers and buyers that improve sales results while ensuring customers’ success.
For sales executives and their prospects, a MAP is exactly that – a map, or guide for the deal. It is a clear plan that is mutually agreed upon by both sides, of who needs to do what, by when, and why.
You can also think of it as a useful roadmap that is used by both the purchasing and sales teams. The roadmap is there to simplify the journey and ensure that both sides stay aligned regarding:
If you’ve been doing sales discovery correctly, these questions shouldn’t be new to you. The concept of a MAP, when done properly, shouldn’t be an awkward task list that you assign to your champion or a complicated project plan that will scare your prospects away. It is essentially a way to take important discovery questions, and make asking them much more valuable to you AND your prospect – by building a mechanism that takes this important alignment and put it into good use for both sides.
Your prospect will appreciate participation in the MAP creation process, as long as you make sure to:
Basically, the goal is to introduce a tool that simplifies and improves business outcomes on both sides of the deal, by staying aligned and collaborating more effectively.
If you will it – it is no dream, but if you want to create a successful MAP with your prospects, it takes some effort from all parties. Therefore, the benefits of using a MAP must be very clear to both the buyer and the seller prior to collaboration.
MAPs are a collaborative way for sellers and buyers to work together toward their goal of achieving a positive business outcome. They are mutually beneficial because each side has visibility throughout the process to see who’s involved, what they need to do, how much progress has been made, and what feedback has been provided during the process.
Here are the main reasons to integrate MAPs into your sales process:
“A sale is something that happens when you are immersed in helping your buyers to get what they want” — Graham Hawkins
A MAP helps you win more deals because it allows you to execute your sales efforts based on knowledge: who is involved, when, and what is required in order to get a positive buying outcome. It also ensures both sides are accountable, so when a certain step and timeline comes, there is a higher chance it will be completed, or that the prospect will update regarding a change, which allows the seller to gain more control over the deal. Lastly, a MAP brings visibility to the prospect as well. Sellers who offer data useful to prospects during the buying process increase the likelihood that they will make a larger, more confident purchase.
“Sale is an outcome, not a goal. It’s a function of doing numerous things right, starting from the moment you target a potential prospect until you finalize the deal.” ― Jill Konrath
MAPs move the seller-buyer dynamics from one of chasing after the next steps, to one where sellers and buyers work TOGETHER to get the job done. It helps sellers establish themselves as partners who help buyers navigate the complexity of buying, instead of being perceived as ‘salesy’ and pushy sellers, and by that gain more control over their deals.
With the use of a MAP, you can anticipate a more precise timeline for when a deal will close. Not only do you have dates written down and confirmed by your prospect, but the actual mechanism also allows you to keep your prospect committed to the timeline.
MAPs provide a methodical approach to interacting with the buyer. It’s helpful for inexperienced sellers and prospects, as well as seasoned pros looking to streamline their processes and make sure they have a winning formula to get their deals to the finish line.
A good MAP can serve as a reusable template, modified for different situations or clients, which helps standardize the sales process. You can make different templates depending on the type of buyer, the type of transaction, the size of the contract, and the size of the organization. Basically, you only need to adapt your successful approach to a new client and use it to generate new results.
Once you’ve committed to leveraging MAPs in your deals, before introducing it to a prospect, follow the following three steps to achieve successful results:
As much as you don’t discuss how many kids you’d like to have during your first date (or so we hope :)), you shouldn’t create a large detailed plan with a prospect when you just met. Typically, a good time to start is after the initial discovery and demo phase, when both sides are interested and committed to working more closely on the deal.
You don’t have to make it too official, but it is important to make a mutual commitment to each other, to ensure it is not just you that will be doing the work, as you’ll end up chasing and not gaining much control over the deal. Like any relationship, a successful business project requires that both sides will invest time and effort. Explain that you’d be happy to support them as they evaluate your solution, and ask them that before you do that, you’ll align and create a clear plan that both of you will work towards together.
Once you’ve established clear expectations and made a mutual commitment, you can begin creating your MAP as a roadmap for success. You can leave some time at the end of one of your meetings, or schedule a dedicated 30min sync in which you position the agenda as time for you to align on the process and create a go-forward plan for your success.
A successful MAP would look different based on the complexity of the deal and your go-to-market motion. For example, a high-velocity SMB deal could probably use a very simple list of steps shared between 2-4 people, while a large enterprise deal could have dozens of steps and stakeholders.
The tips below are a recommendation of what the ultimate MAP would look like for a large complex enterprise deal, so make sure to adjust your effort accordingly and always keep things as simple as possible – use your intuition and don’t overdo it.
A value summary should be at the very top of a MAP. Most of the time, this is made up of two to three sentences that explain what the solution does for the buyer. A value summary should be written from the buyer’s point of view.
While a prospect can think that making this purchase would improve their lives in some way, the value summary prompts them to consider it more systematically. It’s also a simple way to answer the concerns of those who don’t agree.
As a salesperson, you need to be aware that you don’t deal with just one buyer. Even though you may only be talking to one or two people, you will need to convince a buying committee with many people who make decisions.
And how do you get them to agree? By getting to know who they are first. Then you can adjust your strategy.
The list of things to be done also plays an important part in the MAP. There are different ways to come up with this list.
By putting deadlines on MAP deliverables, you can check on your progress often and change course if you need to.
Create a schedule for how you plan to achieve your goals. This isn’t a strict schedule that must be followed religiously. The purpose is to give both sides a general understanding of timelines.
Every task should be assigned to a person that will have to fulfill it. While defining who these people are and what their duties are, make sure that your overall plan has multiple owners, both from the seller’s side and from the buyer’s side.
Sellers often think that they have to do everything themselves, but this misses the whole point of a MAP and solution selling. There has to be a give-and-get dynamic in a deal, or else sellers fail to gain control and are not taken seriously. A MAP can only produce results if both sides are working with it.
A MAP is a tool. What you do with your MAP will determine how helpful it is. Here are some of the ways you can successfully use a MAP and avoid common mistakes:
You may think of a MAP as a way to close deals, but its primary purpose is to achieve your customer’s desired outcomes. Think of it as a consumer instruction handbook. When writing your MAP, be buyer-centric. Milestones should match their ambitions, not yours. Don’t call the last milestone “Contract close.” Use “Project launch” to make your buyer feel successful. Build the closing date around the prospect’s timetable. Choosing a meaningful date helps them meet milestones.
Each organization has its own processes and ways of working. That’s why your MAP needs to be more than a to-do list that’s based on your sales process. It must be flexible enough to adapt to your prospects’ workflow while also covering your sales requirements. In the end, it must be a clear, simple roadmap that’s convenient for both sides to follow.
There’s a big difference between an Enterprise sales process with 14 stakeholders that takes 1-year to close and an SMB sale that closes in a few weeks. For the latter, a MAP should be basically stripped down to simple alignment on a few next steps and timelines that are monitored and keep both sides on track. Don’t approach a high-velocity deal like an enterprise project that needs to be simplified. If your process is not too complex, introducing a full-blown MAP will actually make it complex, so use a light version that is aimed at creating more alignment and visibility for you and your prospect.
Your mutual action plan should simplify, as much as possible, even the most complex sales processes. Keep MAPs simple, even if they’re complicated. Your prospect has to want to use it, but so does your sales team. If you add too many duties, responsibilities, and activities, it will get cluttered or disregarded. Include only the relevant phases and information.
Never leave your MAP blank. Without context, it’s just a client’s to-do list. Add important information in the description of each step. Use your MAP to highlight the value of your solution and how it benefits the prospect, not just the steps needed to complete the transaction.
Your joint action plan should show the current status of the project. If your prospect views your mutual action plan and sees outdated information, they’ll lose trust in it. Maintain an up-to-date MAP by regularly revising the project’s status, stakeholders, threats, and resources.
Now that you’ve gotten all the way to the end of the guide, the next question that comes to mind is – how can implement a MAP framework with my customers?
Most sales teams either use spreadsheets or slides to manage their MAPs. Now let’s think about that for a minute – do you really expect your prospects to start entering values into a spreadsheet and enter it frequently? Doesn’t sound like an effective plan, right?
Trying something for yourself is worth a thousand words. Instead of describing the experience to you, simply give Aligned a try and hear your prospects’ excitement from the ease of use, the friendly UI, and how it helps seamlessly move the deal along.
Aligned enables buyers to bring their stakeholders into the workspace, assign tasks, comment, add files, and ask questions. Any stakeholder joining late in the process can learn everything they need to know to bring them up to speed in no time. Aligned is built to make your MAP a tool that they could use to manage the buying process on their side. That’s pretty cool, right?
Think about how valuable it would be to know who is looking at your MAP, which comments and tasks they’re reading, and receive an alert for each new activity. Try doing that with a spreadsheet!
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