PODCAST 110. Survivors Make Plans: Get Your Mutual Action Plan Into Gear with Tom Williams


This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Tom Williams, Cofounder and CEO at DealPoint

DealPoint is the first sales platform for customer-centric sales teams. The mutual action plan is a shared agreement between the buyer and the seller on the set of milestones that need to happen in order to achieve success for the buyer. But the ultimate milestone isn’t the contract. It’s the buyer’s ROI.

If you missed episode 109, check it out here: PODCAST 109: Forget Checkboxes and Focus on Asking Better Questions with Patrik Svanström

What You’ll Learn

  • The difference between top sellers and middle of the pack
  • The need for reps and customers to stay on the same page
  • Best practices for a mutual action plan (MAP)
  • Leaders should keep the stress from rolling downhill
  • Bonus: CEO stands for Chief Eating Officer?

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:09]
  2. About Tom Williams & DealPoint [2:11]
  3. Getting reps & customers on the same page [7:47]
  4. Best practices for a MAP [12:17]
  5. Transition strategy [17:16]
  6. When to use automated touches [27:09]
  7. Sam’s Corner [37:08]

Show Introduction [00:00]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody, it’s Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the Sales Hacker Podcast. Today we’ve got on the show Tom Williams, Cofounder and CEO of a company called DealPoint, the first sales platform for customer-centric sales teams. The mutual action plan is a shared agreement between the buyer and the seller on the set of milestones that need to happen in order to achieve success for the buyer.

I said it that way because you’ll learn from Tom why the biggest mistake people make in mutual action plans is setting the ultimate milestone as the signed agreement — but that’s not what gives success to the customer.

Before we get into the show, we want to thank two sponsors. The first one is Chorus.ai. As companies adapt to the new normal, keeping your sales team moving together is more central than ever. Chorus.ai is a conversation intelligence platform that provides key insights into the sales conversations your team is having every day. Record, share, review and coach your team based on the voice of your customer. With Chorus.ai, get your reps to hit quota consistently, ramp your new hires faster, and replicate your unicorns through coaching initiatives, all while together or fully remote. Go to chorus.ai/saleshacker to try it for yourself.

Our second sponsor is Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform. Outreach revolutionizes customer engagement by moving away from siloed conversations to a streamlined and customer-centric journey. Leveraging the next generation of artificial intelligence, the platform allows sales reps to deliver consistent, relevant, and responsible communication for each prospect every time, enabling personalization at scale that was previously impossible. With Outreach, it’s possible.

Now, without further ado, let’s listen to this interview with Tom Williams.

About Tom Williams & DealPoint [2:11]

Sam Jacobs: Today on the show, I’m excited to have Tom Williams. Tom is the Co-founder of DealPoint, the first sales platform for customer-centric sales teams. Tell us, what is DealPoint?

Tom Williams: DealPoint is a sales tool for buyers and sellers to get together and understand what needs to happen between today and the deal actually happening. So there’s a mutual action plan. Fundamentally, it gives the buyer the transparency and the trust that you, as a seller, know what you’re doing, and it gives the sales manager the confidence that their sales team are following the process and that they are qualifying the customers properly, getting all the discovery questions in and really anchoring their solution properly to that customer’s need, so that there’s no surprises throughout the sales cycle and everybody ends up happy.

What we observed is that an awful lot of top sellers already do this stuff. They make sure that they understand what needs to happen between now and the customer’s ultimate success, and they share that with the customer. But a lot of the middle of the pack reps don’t do it, they rely on personal charm or rapport or just answering the phone, then there’s going to be heartache at the end of the deal. You’ve put all this love into it and then find out there’s some horrible deal breaker that you didn’t ask about earlier. Top sellers already know that, so they make sure that all those details are taken care of and addressed. The middle of the pack guys are more likely just to cross their fingers and hope, which is why they’re middle of the pack.

Getting reps & customers on the same page [7:47]

Sam Jacobs: Tell us about the origin story of the business. What was the idea? Was it you being frustrated at different reps not implementing the sales process correctly?

Tom Williams: Sure. So when I was running sales and marketing at Audio Precision, I’d have my regular deal reviews with my team, and I had guaranteed closed by the end of the month a lot. And then from time to time, I would pick up the phone and call the customer. They’d say, “Yeah it’s interesting, but the project isn’t launching until next year,” or whatever.

There was just this massive divide between what my reps were saying and what the customers were saying. So I kind of stuck that in my mind. Actually, we implemented Salesforce over there, and I withheld commissions until they had filled in Salesforce to my satisfaction. But it really was pulling teeth and it would be like, is 60 words enough? How about 62 words? It was a real fight.

I remember realizing, well, it’s because my reps are not on the same page as our customers. So if everybody is looking at the same plan, there wouldn’t be this miscommunication and this total cross purposes of priority. If we can get the buying team to share what their priorities are and what their needs are and put them on the same view as what I know our sales person’s needs are, then everybody’s better off.

So about a year ago, I wrote an article for Sales Hacker on the best practices of mutual action plans, and it really took off. I got a lot of people asking about it. We rejigged DealPoint to be less focused on the now and more on what’s happening over the next 6 months.

Best practices for a MAP [12:17]

Sam Jacobs: You mentioned the best practices article that you posted on Sales Hacker. What are the common mistakes people make when putting together a mutual action plan?

Tom Williams: Easily the biggest mistake that I see that is also the easiest to fix. If you look down the list of milestones, the final milestone is signed contract. It’s terrible, because it puts the buyer thinking, “I’m just making this guy’s boat payment.” The final milestone in your list of things is the buyer’s return on investment, that benefit that you’re all working towards, because it keeps everybody focused with the eye on the prize. In the middle of a deal, you bring in the CEO, like, why am I looking at this? It’s real easy, it’s because we said we can give you a 75% return on your IoT efficiency, or whatever that thing is, by month nine. So now we’re not working towards my close date, my contract date, we’re working towards their benefit.

The secondary advantage to that is that now signing the contract is just step five of seven rather than the last one. So it’s just a means to an end. It’s just something that has to happen in order for them to realize their fantastic benefit. So think about the customer’s benefit.

Then the second mistake I see is to really understand who the buying team is. So for each of those milestones, make it part of your discovery to get a name to a milestone. The cool thing is when you present it as, here’s the milestone, here’s what we need to happen in order for your success. We know we need a network analyst for this. Who would that be on your side? That feels a lot different than me saying, “Who’s your network analyst?” Because now it’s in the context of helping them, they are a lot more likely to share that information with you, so now you have contacted that network analyst.

Transition strategy [17:16]

Sam Jacobs: We’re recording this on April 24th, and we’re all working remotely. But what’s your strategy for this transition? How has it impacted your team, and what are the lessons, the strategies, the tactics that you’re employing to manage the team remotely and to help people navigate this crisis?

Tom Williams: There’s two really big sides to it. So on the management and sales side… I think we’re fortunate, because I’ve certainly done my share of conference calls from hotel rooms. Every sales person ever has managed remotely. We’re totally comfortable having video based conference calls for our deal reviews and all that stuff.

On the engineering side, it’s become a little bit more challenging, just because they’re used to sitting next to each other and looking at each other’s code. What we’ve actually done is a couple of them will pair up, and they’ll just leave Slack on all day long so that they can hear each other typing and they can just kind of quip to each other and talk, which gets rid of a lot of the loneliness that they were facing.

The part that really opened my eyes was, I was less receptive to phone calls, because I’m busy and I’m stressed out. I suddenly had this realization that all of our buyers are feeling that stress. We are addressing the fact that our prospects are stressed out, and they’re paralyzed by fear. So we’re saying to them, “Your relationships with your buyers are probably under pressure right now. The easiest thing to do to make everything be smoother is to have a plan.” I firmly believe that people who think are the ones who make it through any crisis. If you have a plan and you share that plan, then you’re a lot less likely to get paralyzed by doubt or fear or uncertainty, and you’re more likely to be able to get ahead of the pack.

Sam Jacobs: To the point of planning, has the crisis impacted your business? How have you adjusted your forecast or have you made different decisions?

Tom Williams: I’ve told the team I don’t worry about the quotas. I want my team to know that I’m okay with that, because that’s the reality. If I shouted at them, it’s not going to make our prospects any more likely to make a decision. If I put my stress on my guys and if my guys then put that stress on, “Please, please, please close the deal, I’ll give you a 50% discount,” that doesn’t make anybody feel good.

So we’re in this real fortunate position where we’ve got money in the bank and we’ve got money coming in. As a leader, take the stress and keep it on your shoulders, don’t let it slide downhill. This has never happened before, so just got to chill a little bit, and don’t panic, and don’t let your people panic, and certainly don’t let them put their stress onto your customers, because that’s going to wreck the relationship forever.

RELATED: Your Crisis Management Blueprint: What to Do Before, During & After a Crisis

When to use automated touches [27:09]

Sam Jacobs: One of the last topics I wanted to cover, and it is particularly important now just in terms of how people are reaching out to folks, the quality of the personalized automation that you’re experiencing. Give us your point of view on this.

Tom Williams: I know, you get a thousand of them a day. The ones that are particularly egregious… So on LinkedIn, our company name is DealPoint.io because Merrill Lynch has an old DealRoom product called DealPoint, so I can’t be DealPoint on LinkedIn. But you would never say, “Hey, I hear you work at DealPoint.io.” You can smell it from a mile away. It’s such a wrong way to begin a trust-based relationship to lie to you.

You can certainly automate later parts of the process. I think the best role of automation is reminding the salespeople to follow up, not to say, “Hey, I’m just following up.” But what I’ll do is I’ll have a great conversation with somebody and then I’ve got a million lunches to buy. So I’ve got a lot of things to do, and I will forget to stay on it. As the seller, it’s your responsibility to make things happen. So my favorite use of Outreach as a tool is to set myself tasks at certain increments to make sure that we’re sticking with the plans that we said.

Sam Jacobs: Do you find that using a tool like DealPoint actually helps with compliance of adherence to the milestones?

Tom Williams: Yeah. It gamifies a little bit because the actual UI is attractive, it looks good, and you get these little green buttons when you’ve accomplished the outcomes, or they’re a big red ones when it’s not accomplished. So it’s very, very visceral. I think knowing that the larger buying team is looking at this makes it easier to hold the people accountable who agreed to do the thing. The third thing is focusing on that buyer outcome, that buyer ROI. The reason you’re following up is not to say, “I’m just following up.” You’re saying, “If we want to hit your goal that you told me about, you are blowing it, because milestone two is critical to this whole thing going according to plan.

Get in touch with Tom on LinkedIn or his company website.

Sam’s Corner [37:08]

Sam Jacobs: Hello everyone, this is Sam’s Corner. I really enjoyed that conversation with Tom Williams. First of all, just a critical, easy insight: The ultimate milestone, the end point for you and your customer, should not be the signed contract. Their end point is the time when they finally start experiencing the benefits of purchasing your solution, and that could be many months after they’ve signed the contract.

What We Learned

  • The difference between top sellers and middle of the pack
  • The need for reps and customers to stay on the same page
  • Best practices for a mutual action plan (MAP)
  • Leaders should keep the stress from rolling downhill

Don’t miss episode 111 next week!

I hope you enjoyed the show. Before we go, let’s thank our sponsors. The first is Chorus.ai, the leading conversation intelligence platform. Go to Chorus.ai/saleshacker to try out the leading conversation intelligence platform. Our second sponsor is Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform.

If you want to reach out to me with feedback, you can find me on LinkedIn. If you haven’t rated the show, please give us five stars on the iTunes rating system so that we can remain in business and continue to bring you this show.

As always, thanks so much for listening, I’ll talk to you next time.

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    • Profile picture of Tom Williams
      ( 530 POINTS )
      1 month, 2 weeks ago

      Talking with Sam is like hanging out with that friend who you only see once a year, but you instantly click back into whatever you were talking about last time you were together. Thanks so much Sam for a thoroughly enjoyable convo.

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