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Close More Deals, Faster, with a Mutual Action Plan (MAP): The Ultimate Guide

A Mutual Action Plan (MAP) enables more effective interactions between sellers and buyers that improve sales results while ensuring customers’ success.

Introduction

Imagine a situation where you know exactly what needs to be done to close the deal and turn your prospect into a happy customer. To make this happen, your prospect agrees to become directly involved in defining the next steps along with a timetable and designation of responsibility for each task. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, this is exactly what a Mutual Action Plan (MAP) does and how top-performing sales executives win more deals, faster. Also known as a Mutual Success Plan, Mutually Agreed Plan, Close Plan, Go-Live Plan, or Joint Execution Plan, MAPs have been widely adopted as a best practice sales methodology among top-performing teams worldwide. In this guide, we will explore how a Mutual Action Plan is crucial for successfully managing both simple and complex deals and how you can create one to see for yourself.
Blog type
Mutual Action Plans
Categories
Sales efficiency
Digital Strategy
Remote selling
Shortening the sales cycle
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What is a Mutual Action Plan (MAP)?

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:

  1. Who are the teams and what are their responsibilities?
  2. What would success look like for the customer?
  3. When does the customer expect to achieve the desired business goal?
  4. What steps must be done to achieve success?

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:

  1. Share in writing how your process typically works and helps others achieve success
  2. Listen to them, and show them that you care by making a record of their insights
  3. Brainstorm together to create a path that combines your process with theirs
  4. Give them a tool to clarify responsibilities, track progress and simplify the process
  5. Focus on their goals to become a trusted resource and partners

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.

Why Is It Important to Create a MAP?

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:

1. Shorter Sales Cycles

Buying is a lengthy and complex process. According to the Gartner buyer survey, there are usually between 6 and 10 people involved in a purchase decision, and each of them will use 4 or 5 different resources to make their decision. Time is required to reach a conclusion, and 95% of purchasing groups reevaluate their choices when new information becomes available. A MAP can help smooth over these bumps in the road and speed up the sales process by simplifying the process for both sides and maintaining accountability for important tasks and timelines.

“A sale is something that happens when you are immersed in helping your buyers to get what they want” — Graham Hawkins

2. Increased Win Rates and Average Deal Size

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

3. Gain Control

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.

4. Improve Revenue Predictability

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.

5. The Use of a Formula

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.

6. Standardization using Templates

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.

How to Get Started?

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:

1. Don’t start too early

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.

2. Position yourself as a trusted advisor

Before you begin the planning process, position yourself and remind your prospect that you are here to help them successfully navigate through their buying journey and achieve business transformation. That will set the right tone for the relationship that will help you achieve better customer collaboration around your MAP.

3. Set clear expectations

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.

4. Allocate 30min to align on a ‘go-forward plan’

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.

How to Create a Mutual Action Plan?

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.

1. Provide a value summary

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.

2. List all relevant stakeholders

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.

3. Define what needs to be done

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. 

  1. Share what your process looks like, why it’s built that way, and ask for feedback 
  2. Find out what tasks your buyer needs complete (e.g. Security review) and what is important to each stakeholder (e.g Understanding the technical implementation)
  3. Understand the buyer’s approval process
  4. Set up tasks, and milestones and assign them to the different teams

4. Create schedules

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.

5. Write down what each party needs to do

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.

5. Concentrate on customer results and ROI

A MAP isn’t done until the customer achieves their goals and return on investment (ROI), not when the deal is closed. This means that the deliverables should include onboarding, implementation, and, in some cases, revenue targets as well.

How to Avoid Common Mistakes?

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:

1. Put yourself in your client’s shoes

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.

2. Adapt to your prospect

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.

3. Adapt to your business model

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.

4. Keep it simple

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.

5. Emphasize context

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. 

6. Build post-transaction relationships

You may consider your joint action plan complete when your consumer signs, but they don’t. Signing a contract is just the beginning for your consumer. Don’t make the contract signing your final MAP step. Your MAP should flow into customer follow-up.

7. Stay current

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.

Why Use Aligned vs MAP Spreadsheets

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?

Aligned vs MAP spreadsheets
It doesn’t mean that it won’t work. Many successful sellers have been doing this for a while. However, the difference is in how many prospects are they able to get into the MAP process, and to what extent that spreadsheet or slide-based MAP actually serves as that roadmap that keeps getting filled, monitored, and updated. This is where Aligned comes in. When using a collaborative workspace with your customers, which has a sales MAP component like Aligned, your chances of implementing a successful and effective MAP go through the roof. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Bring your MAP to where the deal takes place

As opposed to the spreadsheet or slide examples above, Aligned allows teams to create a MAP with their prospects where the actual deal is being managed. Teams using Aligned can replace redundant communications channels such as email and Slack. All resource sharing and communications now take place in their Aligned workspace. Having the MAP built-in to that workspace, define it as the space where prospects keep going to view decks, respond to questions, and more. This makes the deals much more accessible and easier to use for the buyer and seller alike.

2. Leverage familiar project management capabilities

Aligned turns the static boring Excels into a fun and easy-to-use project management tool that is purpose-built for the needs of revenue teams and their customers. Capabilities such as task reminders, connecting all activities to the person’s email, notes, and discussions that are happening in the context of the specific task or milestone. Working on MAPs with customers works by being simple and becoming a familiar experience for both sides.

3. Deliver a differentiated experience

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.

4. It’s focused on your buyers and simplifying their buying process

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?

4. It’s connected to a powerful analytics

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!

Key Takeaways

There are many reasons why MAPs are becoming a must-have for managing sales processes successfully. Especially in sales processes where reps and prospects are engaged in complex transactions that consist of many stages, and approval cycles and that could last for months. MAPs are critical for keeping deals on track, specifying every step of the way what tasks need to be completed and who is responsible for them. Now is the time to look into introducing MAPs into your sales process to improve your bottom line. A great way to start is by signing up for the free version of Aligned, or contacting sales for a free consultation on the best way to integrate an effective MAP process into your sales playbook.

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