How we're using mutual action plans to transform enterprise sales

Posted October 26, 2021

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By Ryan Jander

Account Executive at Outreach

This article is part of our Outreach on Outreach content series, in which we showcase our own revenue team’s use of the Outreach Engagement & Intelligence Platform to help you drive success at your own company. We share workflows and strategies, backed by original research and data from the results of our own experiments and customer base.

Top enterprise sales reps tell their prospects how to buy their product.

That’s not the same as telling them to buy their product. (That’s how you get hung up on and ghosted.)

What I’m talking about is agreeing to a shared buying process.

You reveal how your sales motion works. Your buyer explains how their procurement process operates. Together, you set expectations and track progress.

It’s a simple strategy. But it refines the buying experience, boosts your close rate, and improves your forecasting. Some sellers even see higher ACV because it builds trust!

Want to know how we do it?

Read on.

What is a Mutual Action Plan?

Years ago, one of my customers came to me after the sale and shared their internal buying process. I can’t share the actual document but it was similar to the 27-step B2B buying process Gartner defined a couple of years ago:

  • Status Quo (steps 1-3)
  • Identify Opportunity or Problem (steps 4-7)
  • Understand Requirements or Options (steps 8-15)
  • Engage Vendors (steps 16-23)
  • Make Decisions or Purchase (steps 24-27)

We were in this strange situation where they had a process and we had a process… but we never shared the details with each other. I realized most of my other prospects probably had similar processes.

Anyhow, Manny Medina, one of our founders, heard about this from me and a bunch of other reps. He said, “This keeps coming up. We need a way to guide our customers through the buying journey.”

The result was a Mutual Action Plan—or MAP. (You might also call it a mutual success plan, go-live plan, or close plan.)

mutual action plan example

A MAP is simply a shared document that helps a buyer and seller collaborate on a shared buying process.

Here’s what you’re looking at:

  1. Value summary
  2. Go live dates
  3. Deadlines and progress
  4. Milestones
  5. Owner
  6. Outcomes and notes

Scrolling down the milestone column, you can see all the steps the buyer and seller want to complete. Our first milestone is an intro call to establish fit. Next, we’ll explore use cases. Then we’ll visit their office (those were the days) and scope out how we could help.

Notice that I’m setting each milestone a due date. We’re saying, “Let’s complete the security check by September 1” or “Let’s get all the signatures we need by October 5.”

That’s really important.

A lot of prospects don’t think about deadlines. When they’re presented with a proposed timeline, more often than not, they’ll agree. That lets me dramatically shorten sales cycles and refine my forecasting. I’m no longer waiting for deals to close, I’m setting the schedule.

Other times, prospects will push back and say my proposal isn’t feasible. That’s just as good. I can adjust the timeline until we both agree. Again, that improves my forecasting.

The example above is how MAPs look when they’re underway—but they don’t start like that.

Building a MAP can be tricky.

After all, you need to adapt it to both the selling and buying processes.

So let’s take a look at how that works.

Building the MAP — together

All of our MAPs start with a template. We have templates for each of our market sizes: Enterprise, Corporate, SMB, and so on. Each template includes our key milestones along with boilerplate success criteria and resources.

Let’s say Acme Corp comes in. They’re a midmarket manufacturing company with 500 employees and $40 million in revenue. I’ll create a new deal using our Corporate template and that forms the basis of my MAP.

Mutual action plan outreach

That’s my starting point.

As I do discovery and learn about Acme Corp’s internal process, I’ll add in more milestones.

To add some structure, many reps use a qualification methodology like MEDDPICC.

  • Metrics: What hard numbers are they using in their buying process? Revenue growth? Rep productivity?
  • Economic Buyer: Who holds the purse strings? Specifically, who can spend money, who has budget, who can create budget, and who can sign your contract?
  • Decision Criteria: What’s on the wish list? What features, functions, and capabilities will push buyers towards a deal?
  • Decision Process: When do they want to go live? What’s the process that’ll get them there?
  • Paper Process: What administrative tasks have to happen to get this deal over the line? Security, legal, and executive reviews are common.
  • Identify Pain: What’s motivating their buying process? What’s so frustrating about the status quo that they have kicked off a procurement process?
  • Champions: Who’s on your side? Who can you turn to on the buyer’s side to champion the deal and drive progress?
  • Competition: What companies are gunning for you? How do you compete and where are your strengths?

Say they want to run an in-house trial. Well, that’s not in our standard corporate sales process so I’ll add it in or I’ll push back and try to understand why. Or perhaps they want to talk to some of our existing customers? Great, I’ll include that, too.

Other steps add nuance and detail to milestones that already exist.

Say my economic buyer, Wile E. Coyote, doesn’t care about anything except Return on Investment (ROI). Well, I’m dropping that straight into the Success Criteria section on my MAP alongside all the boilerplate stuff.

By the end of the discovery phase, the goal is to have a mutually agreed action plan.

Again, the goal isn’t for me to dictate the process.

It’s a collaborative experience that establishes timelines and brings the buyer and seller together in one place to work with one common goal: creating a shared buying process.

Optimizing the MAP on Outreach

When we began experimenting with MAPs, we prototyped our system on a spreadsheet. It got us up and running instantly—but that approach does have a couple of drawbacks:

  • People download files, creating duplicates and uncertainty
  • It’s difficult to protect information from accidental edits
  • The buying experience isn’t great

When Manny heard about this, he didn’t just want to replicate MAP spreadsheets. He wanted to do it better.

So we rebuilt the functionality on Outreach, launching Outreach Success Plans in the summer of 2021.

Mutual action success plan example between two companies

Now, we and our buyers have access to a shared portal on Outreach. We can see all the milestones, due dates, and statuses. We can store/share documents and data. The experience is slicker and frictionless.

And the impact has been huge. To learn more about Success Plans best practices, check out our knowledge base article on the topic.

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