Digital Sales

How to Empower Your Buyers (and Close More Deals) with Mutual Action Plans

When your sales cycles start to feel like marathons instead of just brisk jogs in the park, it's a sign to throw out your old playbook. Those tired strategies of endless demos and generic follow-ups that send your leads running don't have to be your sales story. The secret? Mutual Action Plans, or MAPs.

They might sound fancy, but MAPs are simply a framework that helps both you and your buyer understand your roles, see deadlines crystal clear, and keep communication flowing effortlessly.

And it's not just about closing more deals! Mutual action plans create a win-win scenario where your buyers feel empowered and your sellers become strategic partners.

It's all about creating that collaborative game plan to transform the buyer-seller relationship.

min read
Jun 20, 2024

But what is a mutual action plan and why are they the missing piece in your B2B sales puzzle? 

Let’s find out!

Mutual action plans 101: Beyond checklists and collaboration

A mutual action plan is more than a simple to-do list or project timeline. While it can take the form of a Google Doc checklist or live within a buyer enablement platform, its power lies in its function, not its format. It outlines the specific actions both the buyer and seller need to take to reach a successful outcome. 

The "mutual" aspect is key. This isn't just a roadmap for your sales team; it's a shared commitment, a partnership where both sides have skin in the game. The buyer isn't just a passive recipient of your sales pitch; they're an active participant in shaping the journey towards a solution that meets their unique needs.

This shared ownership is what sets MAPs apart from traditional sales tactics. It's about moving beyond the transactional and embracing the transformative power of collaboration.

Let's dive deeper into why mutual action plans in Sales are a game-changer for buyer and sales enablement and your bottom line.

The perfect match: Buyer enablement and MAPs for B2B sales success

We love to talk about buyer enablement around here, and with good reason. It’s simply the most effective way to empower your buyers with the right tools, resources, and guidance so they can make informed decisions - not just about your product, but about their entire buying journey

So, what about mutual action plans? It’s the key to getting buyer enablement done right.

How MAPs empower your buyers (and you)

No more guesswork

Ever walk into a store with the plan to just buy one thing but you leave with five? In contrast to B2C, B2B buying decisions are very rarely impulse purchases. They’re complex, involving multiple stakeholders, and often come with lots of uncertainty. 

Mutual action plans cut through that confusion by setting crystal clear expectations and timelines. This reduces buyer anxiety and keeps everyone on the same page, ensuring a smoother sales process for everyone.

Trust through transparency

No slick sales pitches and hard closes here. Today’s buyers want to know what’s going on behind the curtain and want to be part of the process. MAPs foster a sense of shared responsibility for outcomes, building trust and establishing a true partnership between you and the buyer.

The power of progress

There’s nothing worse than feeling stuck in limbo during the sales process, both for you or your buyer. Mutual action plans give buyers visibility into the progress already made and milestones that lie ahead so they see the clear path forward.

Empower your sales champion

Mutual action plans are particularly valuable for sales champions within the buyer's organization. They empower champions to navigate the internal selling and stakeholder alignment process. 

By providing a structured framework, clear milestones, and defined responsibilities, MAPs give champions the tools they need to effectively advocate for your solution and drive consensus among decision-makers.

By empowering the sales champion and providing transparency, structure, and progress visibility, MAPs create a win-win situation for both the buyer and seller.

But how do you put all this together? Sometimes, you just need the right tool for the job!

Making mutual action plans work with the right tool

We mentioned before that a MAP could really just be a Google Sheet or a simple checklist in a doc. 

Let’s take a look:

• Example MAP with Google Sheets •

a screenshot of a google sheet showing a mutual action plan template
Credit: Smartsheets Mutual Action Plan Example Template

• Example MAP within the emlen solution •

Task notification in the menu

Image of a MAP setup within the emlen solution

While standalone mutual action plan software doesn’t really exist, emlen has a simple checklist built in. 

So yes, a simple spreadsheet can get the job done. But using a solution like emlen with a MAP feature built-in can significantly enhance your buyer enablement strategy. Here's why:

  • Everything in one place: emlen brings together content, communication, and your MAP in a single, intuitive platform. This makes it easy and enjoyable for your buyers to engage with the process, fostering a seamless experience.
  • Save time with templates: emlen's templates allow you to quickly create customized MAPs for each deal. Start with your standard mutual action plan, then tailor it to the specific needs and goals of each buyer. This saves you valuable time and ensures consistency across your sales process.
  • Intuitive and easy to use: emlen is designed with user experience in mind. Its intuitive interface makes it simple for both you and your buyers to collaborate on the MAP, track progress, and stay aligned throughout the sales journey.

With the right tool, mutual action plans can transform your buyer enablement strategy, fostering transparency, collaboration, and ultimately, sales success. But the key question remains: How do you build a MAP that delivers on these promises?

Let's break down the common steps of a mutual action plan that empowers your buyers and propels your deals forward.

How to build an effective mutual action plan step-by-step

There are 5 main steps to building and executing an effective mutual action plan:

Step 1: Analyze past successes

Review your most successful deals and identify the key actions buyers took along their B2B buyer journey to reach a decision. Look for patterns and commonalities across these deals.

Step 2: Identify essential buyer actions

Based on your analysis, determine the actions that are most likely to be relevant for your target buyers. Focus on actions that help them navigate their internal selling process and address their specific pain points.

Step 3: Create a generic MAP template

Using the essential buyer actions, create a generic mutual action plan template that you can customize for individual deals. Ensure the template is buyer-centric, addressing their needs and guiding them through the decision-making process.

Step 4: Present the template to your buyer

Share your mutual action plan template with your buyer, framing it as a valuable resource based on your experience with similar companies. This demonstrates your expertise and commitment to their success.

Step 5: Collaborate and customize

Work with your buyer to refine the MAP, tailoring it to their unique context and needs. This collaborative process fosters trust and ensures that the plan aligns with their specific goals and challenges.

💡Remember, as the seller, you have a critical role to play in guiding the sales champion through the internal selling process. You've likely navigated this path many times, while the champion might be doing it for the first time with a major purchase. 

Use the MAP as a structured framework to educate and empower the champion, helping them navigate the complexities of their organization and advocate for your solution effectively.

By following these steps, you can create a mutual action plan that not only streamlines the sales process but also empowers buyers to become champions for your solution within their organization.

While these steps give you a clear process, it’s equally crucial to understand the core elements that should be included in every mutual action plan to ensure its effectiveness and adaptability.

7 Key elements of a mutual action plan

Every customer is different which means there isn’t a ‘standard’ list of things that you’re going to use every single time. However, it’s important to have a solid foundation.

These are the seven things we feel should be in your MAPs:

  1. Goals and objectives: Clearly define the desired outcomes for you and the buyer. What problem is the buyer trying to solve, and how will the seller's solution help? Articulate these objectives in specific, measurable terms.
  2. Timeline with milestones: Break down the sales process into manageable steps with clear deadlines. Identify key milestones such as product demos, presentations, proposal reviews, contract negotiations, and implementation.
  3. Roles and responsibilities: Assign ownership for each action item to specific individuals on both teams. Ensure everyone understands their role and expectations.
  4. Action items for both parties: Detail the specific tasks and activities each party will undertake to move the deal forward. This includes tasks like:
  • Gather and align data for business case development (led by the sales champion)
  • Create business case for the decision maker (led by the seller)
  • Get business case approved (led by the sales champion)
  • Find the right contract person for IT/InfoSec topics (led by the sales champion or seller)
  • Provide pricing structure (led by the seller)
  • Involve key departments on the project like procurement, legal, relevant departments (led by the sales champion or seller)
  • Set a timeline with milestones for product demos, technical evaluations, contract negotiations, and onboarding.
  1. Resources and support needed: Outline the resources, tools, and support required from both sides to execute the plan successfully. This could involve technical expertise, marketing materials, or access to decision-makers.
  2. Communication channels and cadence: Determine the preferred methods of communication (e.g., email, phone calls, video conferences) and how often updates will be shared. Regular check-ins ensure alignment and address any issues promptly.
  3. Alignment with all buyer center stakeholders: Ensure the MAP aligns with the needs and concerns of all key stakeholders involved in the buying decision. This includes addressing technical, financial, and operational requirements – something that often gets forgotten!

Now that you’ve put together the basic elements of a mutual action plan, the next step is to maximize its success.

Our tips for MAP success

To get the most out of your MAP and to deal with any challenges that arise, here are our suggestions for maximum success:

💡 Introduce your mutual action plan early in the sales process

This helps build trust and collaboration right from the start, setting the stage for a transparent and productive partnership. Keep in mind, however, that starting too early can also work against you. We recommend starting when it’s clear you’re the vendor of choice for your sales champion. So, the champion wants you but still needs to persuade and align with others in their company.

💡 Keep the MAP dynamic and updated

The buyer’s journey is never linear. Regularly review and update the MAP to reflect changing circumstances, new insights, or shifting priorities.

💡 Regularly review progress together

Schedule recurring meetings to review progress, discuss challenges, and celebrate successes. This helps keep everyone engaged and committed through collaboration. 

💡 Base your MAP template on your past successful deals

Analyze your past successful deals to identify common patterns, milestones, and action items. Use these insights to create a standardized template that can be adapted for future deals, saving time and increasing your chances of success.

Now you know which elements a mutual action plan needs and how to set yourself up for success. But how can you really tell if things are going as planned? The final step is measuring success:

Assessing the success of your mutual action plan

Without understanding the metrics and how to analyze and align moving forward, a MAP is just words. To make sure you and your buyer are moving in the right direction, here are the three questions you need to ask:

1. Increased engagement: Are both parties actively participating and contributing to the plan’s execution?

2. Mutual value: Have both you and your customer realized tangible benefits from the partnership?

3. Focus on your champion: Did you make the sales process more simple? Did you give adequate guidance so they know what to do next?

By following the steps we outlined, you and your buyers have a powerful tool that guides the sales process, enhances collaboration, and drives success for both parties! 

Need to see all of this in action? We’ve created a hypothetical scenario of what this entire process would look like:

Case study snapshot: MAPs in action

To illustrate the power of mutual action plans in practice, let's explore a hypothetical scenario involving a B2B technology company (Seller) and a large enterprise (Buyer).

The challenge

The Buyer was seeking a comprehensive software solution to streamline their operations and improve efficiency. The Seller offered a suite of products that could meet these needs, but the sales process was complex, involving multiple stakeholders, and a lengthy evaluation period.

The Solution: A Mutual action plan

To deal with this complexity, the Seller and Buyer collaborated to develop a detailed mutual action plan. The MAP outlined the following:

  • Goals and objectives: Both parties agreed on the specific outcomes they wanted to achieve, including cost savings, productivity improvements, and a successful implementation timeline.
  • Roles and responsibilities: Each milestone had a designated owner from both teams, ensuring accountability and progress.
  • Action items for both parties: The plan detailed the specific tasks each party would complete, such as data migration, user training, and integration with existing systems.
  • Communication cadence: Regular check-in meetings were scheduled to review progress, address concerns, and make necessary adjustments to the plan.

The results

The mutual action plan proved to be a game-changer for both parties:

  • Accelerated sales cycle: The structured approach of the MAP streamlined the sales process, reducing the time to close by 25%.
  • Improved collaboration: The collaborative nature of the MAP fostered trust and transparency between the Seller and Buyer, leading to a stronger partnership.
  • Successful implementation: The clear milestones and action items ensured a smooth and efficient implementation process, minimizing disruptions to the Buyer's operations.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: The Buyer was highly satisfied with the outcome, reporting significant cost savings and productivity gains.

Mutual action plans: Your roadmap for joint success

This case study demonstrates how a well-crafted mutual action plan can transform a complex B2B sales cycle into a collaborative and successful journey. And that’s really the beauty of MAPs! 

By aligning goals, establishing clear expectations, and fostering open communication, both the buyer and seller can achieve their desired outcomes for sustainable collaboration.

Ready to implement MAPs in your sales process? Reach out and we’ll be happy to help you. Want to know more about emlen? Check out our product tour to take a sneak peek behind the curtains! 

Marc is co-founder of emlen and responsible for the go-to-market strategy and execution that convinces today's modern B2B buyer.

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