A typical B2B buying journey can take 233 days on average from first touch to won deal, which has more than doubled in the past 9 years.
When the processes are getting longer and longer, and the number of people involved is ever-increasing, it’s important to have systems in place to ensure everyone is focused, and any unnecessary friction is eliminated.
This is where mutual action plans come into play as a single source of truth for the buying process.
A well constructed, effective mutual action plan can help you manage whatever process you have at hand a lot more efficiently, and save you significant time.
Today we’ll explore how mutual action plans can help you and how you can implement them effectively (including a free mutual action plan template you can steal).
What are mutual action plans?
Mutual action plans are essentially a framework that you collaboratively work on with multiple stakeholders to manage sales deals and complex contract negotiations, onboarding new customers, or working out partnership agreements.
It includes outlining and reaching consensus between a sales rep and the B2B buyers on the specific action items, responsibilities, timelines, and milestones to achieve a common end goal.
Some of the questions that you should aim for your mutual action plans to answer are:
- What needs to happen (i.e., your success criteria)?
- Who will be involved and what they will be responsible for?
- What is the timeline?
Why are mutual action plans important?
Mutual action plans help you drive your processes forward a lot more smoothly, saving time & effort, and they create a much more frictionless and pleasant experience overall for B2B buyers and everyone involved.
Before jumping into how you can use them, here are a few reasons why they are important.
Clarity & alignment
Mutual action plans create clarity, and help set accurate expectations on what the desired outcome is for both parties. They map out what the road to achieve that end goal is going to look like, step-by-step. This eliminates any potential misalignments and disappointments down the line while consequently increasing the win rates.
Urgency & accountability
Sales or onboarding processes require active collaboration from both your selling team and your customers. But often the effort can feel one-sided for revenue teams, where they feel like they’re dragging the deal along all alone. Sounds familiar?
Mutual action plans can help highlight the mutual in the process.
With task owners and deadlines for each step, mutual action plans instill a sense of urgency and accountability, and keeps multiple stakeholders focused on their responsibilities.
It will not only increase your buyer engagement, but also offload some of the strain off your sales team.
Less confusion & mistakes
When utilized correctly, mutual action plans are essentially a written map of the entire process and its roadmap that everyone can easily refer back to, any time they need. This effectively eliminates any confusion or errors that could easily be avoided for a smoother buying process and shorter sales cycles.
Better communication & collaboration
How many times have you begun a process with a few people, and then other stakeholders unexpectedly got involved halfway through?
It’s a very common situation in B2B sales that creates extra workload for revenue teams, since they have to go back and bring everyone up to speed on everything.
Mutual action plans make it easier to communicate and discuss the process, and work on it collaboratively when necessary without leaving anyone out of the loop.
Increased likelihood of success
Since they enable you to collaboratively work on the process’ roadmap and align on a very clear framework, mutual action plans eliminate the biggest evil that often sidetracks projects: unnecessary friction.
They ensure that you see your processes through (and close deals), without distractions, stalls, or any frustration.
How do you introduce a mutual action plan?
To introduce a mutual action plan, you should effectively communicate its purpose, benefits, and implementation process to your sales team and your customers.
Here’s a 4-step guide to help you.
1. Define the purpose
A great way to start is articulating why you are proposing a mutual action plan. Emphasize that the plan can enhance collaboration, align efforts, and improve the project’s overall success.
At this stage, defining the action items towards the goal, and presenting a rough outline will not only ensure that your stakeholders know what you have in mind, but your discussions will also be more focused and productive.
2. Explain the benefits
The last thing you want your customers to think when they look at a mutual action plan is see a laundry list of chores. You need to clearly communicate why using one will help them.
Explain how implementing a mutual action plan will benefit the process and your stakeholders. Highlight its ability to promote clarity, accountability, and coordination among team members. Discuss how it will help in managing resources effectively, mitigating risks, and ensuring stakeholder satisfaction and creating foundation for customer success.
3. Create the plan collaboratively
Again, the keyword in a mutual action plan is mutual, so ensure that the key stakeholders actively participate in the development of the project plan. This encourages their buy-in and commitment to the plan's objectives.
Additionally, it will help the plan be cohesive and holistic since different perspectives and inputs will ensure nothing is being overlooked or missed.
4. Address questions & concerns
The final step to consider when proposing a joint execution plan is making sure your stakeholders are seen and heard.
Be prepared to listen, and let them ask questions. Address their concerns, and provide clarifications. Make sure their specific needs are met to ensure they feel confident and engaged in the sales process.
How do you use a mutual action plan?
Each team, goal, and project will have different requirements from mutual action plans, so the end product will depend on your unique needs.
But here are a few things you need to make sure to include for desired outcome.
Assign tasks and responsibilities: Each step in your mutual action plan should have a clear task owner/s. This is crucial for clarity and accountability, and ensures your stakeholders take action.
Set deadlines for each task: Setting clear deadlines (or at least some key dates throughout the sales cycle) will be another step towards clearer expectations, and it will be essential to reach the defined goals within a reasonable timeframe.
Determine how progress will be tracked and reported: Tracking progress will allow you to understand the process better, and intervene whenever necessary, so make sure you set up mutual action plan software for measuring and reporting. Update the project plan with completed tasks, milestones achieved, or deviations encountered. Keep a record of the progress made to ensure transparency and accountability.
Regularly review the plan: Plan check-ins with your stakeholders to go over the progress, ensure everyone’s on track, discuss any challenges or roadblocks you or they encounter, and seek their input for a smooth execution of the plan.
Make adjustments as necessary: Periodically review the mutual action plan to assess if it’s still effective and relevant. Evaluate if the actions you’ve initially decided on are still aligned with the project's goals and objectives. If you identify any necessary revisions or adjustments, communicate them to the relevant stakeholders.
These steps are the backbone of a mutual actual plan. They ensure everyone involved in the project knows their responsibilities and deadlines, and that progress is being made towards the desired end goal.
Tips to get your mutual action plan right
Not sure how to build a mutual success plan for your team?
Use a proven mutual action plan template: Starting from scratch might be intimidating. To make it easier, you can copy and adapt our free mutual action plan template to match your current needs. With clearly defined steps, responsibilities, and timelines, it will help you map out your own process with ease.
Keep it simple: The whole point of using a mutual action plan is to make the process easier, so make sure when you create one, it doesn’t become a task in itself. Keep it to the point and easy to understand for everyone, so if you’re in doubt, just stick to the basics.
Ensure everyone is on board: After the mutual plan is finalized, double check with everyone to ensure the right people are on board, understand the part they play in reaching the goals, as well as the responsibilities that fall on them.
Provide progress updates: Regular progress updates will not only add another layer of accountability, but also it fosters more commitment from everyone by motivating them since it highlights the progress made.
Be willing to make adjustments: If at any point your stakeholders point out inefficiencies in the process or voice concerns about changes being needed, provide flexibility and rework the plan to ensure everything flows smoothly.
Use a mutual action plan software: Handling any project plan effectively could be chaotic without helpful tools to map the process for you. And while some might find Google Sheets helpful, mutual action plan software like Flowla will take your process to a whole new level. You can turn a flow into a complete, collaborative mutual action plan with task owners, deadlines, necessary materials, and easy progress tracking. Explore it for free here.
Do mutual action plans work?
By clarifying expectations, keeping everyone accountable, reducing misunderstandings, enabling collaboration, and increasing the likelihood of success, mutual action plans can be an essential part of any B2B sales, renewal, or onboarding process.
Start small, and try to incorporate mutual action plans in your revenue team’s workflows, and see how they help you achieve your goals not only more quickly, but also more smoothly for everyone involved.