Outsourcing Win/Loss Analysis? How to Select the Right Consultant

I am excited that my book, Win, Lose or Draw: How to Grow Your Business through Win/Loss Analysis is now in the copy editing process.

This is a follow-on blog to Win/Loss Analysis: Outsourcing versus In-House where I share the pros and cons of doing Win/Loss analysis in-house, outsourcing it, or outsourcing part of it.

Win/Loss consultantIf you want to outsource Win/Loss analysis, here are 10 things to consider as you decide on a consulting firm:

 

 

 

  1. Industry Experience
  2. Connection to Sales
  3. Professionalism
  4. Project Management
  5. Team Player
  6. Written/Oral Skills
  7. Project Delivery
  8. Deliverables
  9. Fees
  10. Sharing Win/Loss Experience

1. How much experience do they have in your industry or a related industry? How much industry experience is required or can you educate the consultant adequately on your industry? I have been able to gain enough knowledge about the customer’s industry from client sharing and my own research. It’s mostly needed to probe more deeply on technical issues. Most of what you are asking about does not require technical expertise. It requires an understanding of how sales are made and how buyers find and make their decisions. The consultant learns more about your company, the industry and the marketplace each time they conduct Win/Loss interviews and analysis.

However, there are some industries that are so technical that you will need to hire someone who already has this experience, such as a retired employee or a consulting firm that focuses on your industry. Beware when you hire a consultant in your space that they are not working for your competition. Win/Loss interviews and analysis results are highly proprietary.

2. Rapport with sales and sales management is often overlooked in our anxiety that the consultant will connect well with our customers and non-customers. How well is that consultant going to relate to your sales people and sales managers to get their customer and non-customer (losses) data? Has the consultant ever been a sales rep? Do they speak sales? The ability to connect with sales is essential since the consultant needs to know how the account was left before calling their customer.

3. The consultant needs to be professional and respectful both with your company employees and customers and non-customers. It’s often a challenge to gauge their professionalism. However, you can get some clues from their proposal, website, blogs and other Win/Loss publications they have authored. Check out a couple of testimonials if the consulting firm wasn’t referred to you.

Interviewing skills are much harder to gauge than written skills. Perhaps the consultant gives presentations or webinars that you can listen to in order to get an idea of their attitude, tone and speaking style, although unlike Win/Loss interviews, these are mostly 1-way communication.

4. Project Management is a key requirement for Win/Loss analysis. The first 4 steps of Win/Loss are collaborative:

  1. Coordinate and develop the right questions with the right people at your company.
  2. Collaborate with sales to get customer/non-customer data.
  3. Keep track of each contact in the interview process.
  4. Conduct the interviews and write up the summaries soon thereafter.

5. How well will the consultant connect with your sales reps and sales management? How well will they collaborate with your company employees? Will they quickly establish rapport with your customers/non-customers? Is the consultant trustworthy? Is the consultant a good listener?

6. What is the consultant’s experience in conducting Win/Loss interviews and the analysis? Decide how you will assess their writing skills. Do they write or blog about Win/Loss?

Be sensitive about asking for a Win/Loss analysis report sample: Win/Loss findings are highly proprietary. Win/Loss is custom research. Your final report will look quite different from a scrubbed sample since it will reflect what is uncovered from your Win/Loss interviews.

7. Win/Loss is a relationship business. You rely on other people’s schedules for the first 4 steps listed under “#4 Project Management” above. To do Win/Loss analysis right, you need adequate time: don’t skimp on it. Don’t reward the hasty Win/Loss consultant, since they usually won’t be able to adhere to a hasty schedule.

8. Be clear on your expected deliverables. What communication do you expect from the consultant on project progress? Do you want interview summaries or transcripts of the Win/Loss interviews? How do you want the quantitative data presented? Do you have a preferred format for the final Win/Loss analysis report? Do you expect an oral presentation of the findings? Would your company benefit from an interactive brainstorming workshop? Often enough Win/Loss findings bring up more questions, so a facilitated brainstorming session with key sales, marketing and product developers can be quite fruitful.

9. Understand the full cost of outsourcing your Win/Loss program. This is custom research so consultants charge differently from each other.

There is typically a start-up fee to learn your industry, your sales process, your sales deliverables, the competition and to organize the Win/Loss template for interviews. There is a cost per completed interview, which might include a written summary or transcribed recordings. Some consultants charge a certain fee for unsuccessful interview attempts to incent clients to give them an accurate list of customer/non-customers to interview. There will be a cost for the final Win/Loss analysis report. There may be an additional cost to present the Win/Loss findings to your team or this might be included in the cost of the final Win/Loss report. There will be an additional cost for the consultant to facilitate an optional half/full day review of Win/Loss findings, recommendations and brainstorming on how/who should implement the changes at your company.

10. Does the consultant write about Win/Loss aside from their website? Is it all just promotional material or does it impart some “how to” knowledge? Does the consultant present or teach Win/Loss analysis? Has the consultant been published in Win/Loss in trade journals, magazines or a book? How clear is their Win/Loss proposal? Is it customized to your needs or just a Win/Loss proposal template?

In the end you need to decide who you are most comfortable working with. Chemistry is important as Win/Loss is a relationship business. If you decide to embark on a Win/Loss program, I hope you’ll consider The Business Intelligence Source as a partner for the parts of the process that you want to outsource.

Research from various sources indicates that a formal Win/Loss program can improve win rates up to 30%. However, there are no guarantees. Beware of consultants who guarantee that they can improve your win rates by a certain percentage. Nothing happens until you take action based on Win/Loss analysis findings. We consultants can only make recommendations for change. We don’t know the culture of your company like you do, which is imperative for making change. Closing deals can be improved by many actions, and not all of them come from Win/Loss recommendations.

Good luck with your Win/Loss program.

Here is a Win/Loss Analysis Slideshare to help you develop your Win/Loss analysis program.

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Aligning Sales and Marketing through Win/Loss Analysis

I have listened to a couple of interesting webinars recently around the changing role of sales people in B2B. I was listening to learn how this might change the composition of the Win/Loss analysis and Win/Loss questions. This was best addressed in a recent Pragmatic Marketing webinar, “Making the Perfect Match: Adapting to Your Buyer’s Process” presented by Larry Torri, VP of Sales at AssureSign, who has over 15 years in sales management.

Win/Loss Analysis

Larry Torri, VP Sales AssureSign

Most agree with the Corporate Executive Board’s research that the purchasing decision is about 60% made before buyers contact your sales force. So your on-line presence is more important than ever. You need to push out information widely, and respond almost in real-time. Provide enough information on your website to answer common customer questions. Give buyers some guidance and have a resources page with white papers and calls to action throughout your website. You need to analyze web impressions such as your blog, your partners, your industry and social media especially the major places where buyers look: LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Google+ and how buyers find you through the major search engines like Google, Bing or your blog. Is there crowdsourcing where people can find out more about other buyer’s experiences with you and your competition? TrustRadius, IT Central Station, G2 Crowd and FindTheBest are examples in the IT space. In many companies Sales Development Reps (SDRs) qualify leads more specifically to pass on to sales people, using marketing automation to enable this lead generation like Eloqua, Hubspot, Marketo or Pardot among others. SDRs tend to be right out of school and stay in the job 12 – 18 months before they’re promoted to sales rep or leave the firm.

What does this mean for Win/Loss analysis?

Win/Loss analysis is more important than ever since sales people are brought into buyer’s decision-making quite late in the process. Win/Loss is another precious touchpoint with customers that is in person, usually a phone call a couple of months after the buying decision has been made. We need to include questions to understand their total decision-making process. Previously most of the Win/Loss interview focused on sales performance and behavior, which is still part of Win/Loss. However, since 60% of the purchasing decision is done before buyers contact sales, you need to ask how they researched your company. So you are querying around how well your company is marketing to capture business as a major part of Win/Loss.

  • Where did they get their information?
  • Which information influenced them the most? Why?
  • Did our company educate you during the sales process or did you find the information somewhere else?

In one of my Win/Loss interviews, the customer told me that they had found a most informative white paper on a competitor’s website, but preferred our company’s solution. I suggested that my client write a white paper, and referenced the one that their customer had been influenced by. In Win/Loss analysis today you get more tips like that which you can almost immediately take action on. Make sure to ask probing questions about how they found your company, and which sources influenced them the most, so you know where to focus your resources. Keep in mind that your SDRs can be most informative. They are dealing in the on-line world constantly as they qualify prospects to pass on to sales people. Make sure to share Win/Loss finding with them to engage them to share their thoughts and impressions on how customers find your company, and which sources seem to influence the buying decision the most for their best qualified leads.

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3 New Competitive Intelligence Books

Red open bookIt is my pleasure to share 3 great competitive intelligence books that came to my attention this week.

Business and Competitive Analysis: Effective Applications of New and Classic Methods, 2nd Edition by Craig Fleisher and Babette Bensoussan, Pearson, 2015.

So what’s changed in this version?

  • They have included new techniques not included in the 1st edition
  • They include Key Intelligence Questions for each technique
  • They give you ideas for other similar or complementary techniques you can use
  • There is a worksheet that you can use for each technique, handy for teachers too
  • They also teach you a better SWOT.
  • Babette Bensoussan promises once you use this improved SWOT, you won’t turn back to the old 4 boxes one.

Craig Fleisher informs that customer orders for printed copies overwhelmed their publisher, Pearson, this week. They should be available again next week. For those of you who need it more quickly, the digital version is available at Amazon and other digital on-line retailers.

 

The Guide to Online Due Diligence Investigations: The Professional Approach on How to Use Traditional and Social Media Resources by Cynthia Hetherington, Facts on Demand Press, 2015.

Learn “Hetherington’s methods” in this book which provide the information for you to:

  • Conduct an online background on any business, person or entity, foreign or domestic
  • Hunt down online social network profiles and locate assets
  • Set up alerts for asset tracking or any type of investigation
  • Learn how to keep up with cutting edge services that are coming up daily.
  • Expose fraudulent business enterprises, locate assets, and find undercover intelligence.
  • Learn about database resources and online sources for conducting research online.
  • A demonstration of actual Web sites to utilize in their own investigations.
  • Found Online – Learn where and how your personal life ends up databases and how it is sold.

 

Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Market the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Harvard Business Review Press, 2015.  Following are excerpts from Amazon reviews.

According to John Gibbs, an Amazon Top 1000 reviewer:

“While not every reader of the book will discover a perfectly formed blue ocean strategy, almost every reader who spends time and effort working through the tools provided by the authors will come up with some creative strategic ideas which might not otherwise have arisen. This is one of my favourite books on strategy and, although the changes between the first edition and the expanded edition are not substantial, they are still enough to justify the price of buying the new edition.”

Another more anonymous reviewer adds:

“This new expanded edition adds new chapters at the back covering unanswered questions from the original. The new chapter on the issue of what the authors call “alignment”, that explains how to get your staff and suppliers on board with you when you decide to make a ‘blue ocean’ move, is particularly useful. That new chapter alone made this a worthwhile purchase for me.”

Zunaira Munar comments:

“The new expanded edition of the book now puts the big picture in perspective by showing how strategic alignment of value, profit and people propositions is achieved to create a successful blue ocean strategy. The new chapter about red ocean traps is particularly insightful as it shows, through interesting examples, what keeps companies stuck in red oceans and how to overcome those mental models. The addition of two new principles of blue ocean strategy for addressing execution risks related to renewal and sustainability answer some of the very important questions that my clients have asked over the years about blue ocean strategy. It is also interesting to see how the case studies described in the original book ten years ago have evolved over the years, presenting useful insights into the sustainability of blue oceans.”

Jacqueline Chang comments:

“My favourite part about the expanded edition is that there is even more emphasis on how Blue Ocean Strategy can be applied to illuminate the human dimension of organisations, to engage people’s hearts and minds in carrying out their activities. The book illustrates how to build execution into strategy and create trust among employees and other partners. I found many useful examples that other project managers can learn from, particularly in terms of how a new strategy can be implemented quickly and at low cost.”

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Win/Loss Analysis: Outsourcing versus In-House

Do you outsource or use in-house resources to conduct Win/Loss interviews and the analysis? This is a question I have been asked frequently in the 25 ywin loss outsourcing pros and consears that I have done Win/Loss work. There are pros and cons to each approach, and your company’s and industry’s cultures will often dictate which approach will work better for you. Sometimes it’s a combination of in-house and consultant resources that works best.

  • Who will be the best at obtaining the customer intelligence and analyzing it?
  • Who will be best for collaboration among the different parties (sales and other employees, customers, non-customers) to maximize what you will learn from a Win/Loss program?

Outsourcing Advantages According to numerous sources, most buyers will rarely reveal the full story to your company’s sources, especially to sales. Buyers are usually more candid with a third party, who is viewed as neutral and objective. They can often uncover hidden customer satisfaction issues that the customer might be unwilling to share directly with your company.

Third parties have built an expertise to get people to share from conducting Win/Loss interviews for a living. This gives them an advantage over company employees who usually don’t conduct Win/Loss interviews and the ensuing analysis as a full time job.

Sometimes you are too close to the situation to think of the right questions and pose them in the right way which an objective third party offers. Thus third party interviewers are more apt to ask those questions which will expose your company’s blind spots.

Due to company politics, your sales force might prefer to have an outside party conduct the Win/Loss interviews. Often enough there is some amount of tension between sales and marketing, so sales might share less of the relevant customer/non-customer pre-interview information with a company employee. In this vein, sales might more likely provide an outside party an introduction to their customers, which heightens the odds that the customer will agree to a Win/Loss interview.

If you outsource Win/Loss interviews, you will need to get senior level budget approval. The executive who is paying for Win/Loss will watch closely for what results you get from these interviews, and more importantly what changes you make that improve your company’s ROI. Thus, the executive is more likely to insist that the ROI improvement changes are implemented.

Outsourcing gives companies the flexibility to decide which pieces of Win/Loss they are best suited for versus a consultant. For example, some companies outsource the Win/Loss interviews, but do the analysis in-house. They might split up the Win/Loss interviews between themselves and the consultant. Others might use a consultant to train them on how to develop a win loss program, and then create their program in-house.

In-House Advantages

The plus for in-house interviewing is that no one knows your business like you do. While the third party is objective and presumably an expert interviewer—which will encourage your buyers to share more readily—they may not probe as deeply since they don’t know your business as well as you do.

There is the risk that the consultant you hire will not be a good fit to conduct interviews in your industry or with your customer base.

There is the risk that the consultant won’t connect well with your company employees to create the best Win/Loss questions.

Your customers may prefer to speak to a company employee versus an outside consultant.

Your sales force may be more comfortable having a company employee conduct the Win/Loss interviews since they might trust a company employee more than an outside consultant.

  • They may be more comfortable sharing the relevant customer/non-customer pre-interview information with a company employee.
  • They may be more likely to provide a letter of introduction to enable the Win/Loss interview for an internal employee.

The consultant will provide the analysis of the Win/Loss interviews, and like sales, be on to the next client. Meanwhile the internal company interviewers are company employees, thus are more accountable.

The expense of using an outside source will have to come out of the company’s budget. Remember: using in-house sources isn’t free. The in-house resources will spend time doing Win/Loss versus other job responsibilities.

Your Turn

  • If you don’t have a Win/Loss program, what are your thoughts about developing an in-house program versus outsourcing?
  • If you do Win/Loss, please share your experiences with in-house versus outsourcing.

We are happy to be your outsourcing partner to develop or to train you on how to develop a Win/Loss program.

Here is a SlideShare on “how to conduct” Win/Loss analysis.

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Best Sales Intelligence Practices

Sales Team Working Together Reaching Selling GoalThis week I spoke with a competitive intelligence manager in the auto industry, who has engaged about 1/3 of his workforce in his competitive intelligence program. I think that’s pretty awesome! His key audience is sales, and he also serves product management and account managers who service the accounts. I felt a kindred spirit in our discussion since we both came from sales before plunging into competitive intelligence, although that was 30 years ago for me.

I was impressed with what he had accomplished in three years and will share some of his best practices, geared mostly to gaining competitive intelligence from sales people.

  • The company has a technology a lot like Facebook that sales and marketing use to ask and answer questions. There are so many questions that marketing will ferret out those that he can best address
  • He has set up a Sharepoint site for CI since it’s scalable
  • He set up an easy to remember email address with good brand ID that comes directly to him
  • He monitors over 100 competitors, housed in a self-service technology for employees to access
  • When he gets a question repeatedly he puts it in the CI Sharepoint, and reminds users what’s there
  • He gives presentations to sales each month. He has a goal of 10 per month, but so far his biggest month has been 7
  • He is involved in sales conference calls both as a listener and contributor
  • He is the last person on the roster to give new sales rep training. I think that’s great psychology to be last. He follows up soon after the training and they remember him. Many of them engage in the competitive intelligence program right away
  • When he sees a new person engages with the system, he reaches out to him/her to find out how he can help them further
  • He never says “no,” but he does refer non-CI requests to other departments
  • He addresses ethical issues in collection from competitors with his sales force

I appreciated his attitude to try new things. For a while, he tracked which sales were made after he gave a sales rep some information to help. He was looking to show management a ROI for his work. Sales didn’t appreciate this since his guidance wasn’t the only reason they won the deal. He discontinued this practice as soon as he learned that it was not popular with Sales, as they are both his major client and source of competitive intelligence.

Sales force management is anxious to learn how they can close more deals, so I suggested that he consider a win loss analysis program. Since his company closes thousands of deals per year, he was concerned that he might have to conduct hundreds to be statistically significant. When I asked what his specific goal for win loss is, we agreed that 100 win loss interviews could go a long way to gather in-depth customer intelligence, which appears to be a weaker link.

He produces videos and said Sales didn’t look at them as much. I suggested that he produce podcasts on competitors, new announcements etc., since sales spends a lot of time in the car. Perhaps he could interview a sales person who just won a major deal, or perhaps a win back.

What are some of your best practices to gather or give competitive intelligence to your sales reps?

Here is a timeless article, Capture Competitive Intelligence from Sales.

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Sales People Are Not Automatons! http://

Sales People Are Not Automatons! http://ow.ly/2RKNZh

Prime-Time Psychology And Persuasion htt

Prime-Time Psychology And Persuasion http://ow.ly/2RKNZD

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