11 Questions & Answers about Win Loss Analysis

Recently I was interviewed about Win Loss analysis. This is what happens when you write a book.  I thought you might be interested.

1book

Question: Why did you write this book, Win/Loss Analysis?

Ellen: There wasn’t a book written on Win/Loss analysis and every time I complete a Win/Loss project, and my client makes the changes that I recommend, they make more money. I want more people to do this work so they can improve their sales retention and win rates.

Question: So what exactly is Win/Loss Analysis? How does it work?

Ellen: You interview your customers and those who chose a competitor about two or three months after the sale. That way they know you’re not selling to them. You’re listening. You want to learn why and how they made their buying decision, and how things might have changed during the buying process. Customers are very good about telling you what’s on their mind once they notice you’re actively listening.

Question: What is the most compelling reason for people to do Win/Loss analysis?

Ellen: The most compelling reason is that those companies who have a formal Win/Loss program can improve win rates 15 – 30%, if they act on the changes that are recommended.

Question: What size companies do Win/Loss analysis? Is there a certain threshold of revenue, employees or customers you need to hit before it’s relevant?

Ellen: It’s relevant even for a one person shop. Case in point: a gentleman who read my book runs a photography and video business. When he asked a loss customer “What did I do wrong? How can I improve?” and other questions, they were so impressed with his professionalism that he got three referrals. Of course, it’s more involved at a large company since you have politics, culture and so much more to deal with.

Question: If Win/Loss is so successful, why don’t more companies do it?

Ellen: The biggest reason is arrogance. Some companies don’t know about Win/Loss analysis. Others are uncomfortable with it since their sales force feels like they’re being picked on. Actually the sales force is a major beneficiary of Win/Loss. And besides they aren’t the only ones being assessed. We look at marketing, product development, R&D, and the company’s reputation.

Question: What skills does it take to be successful at Win/Loss analysis?

Ellen: Organization and being a good listener. Interviewing requires you to be a good listener. You need to be very organized before you conduct interviews. It’s a people business, and you have a limited time to conduct each interview.

Question: Is there a bigger payoff in focusing on wins or losses?

Ellen: I think it’s best to focus on both since they share different things. Wins will share what you’re doing right, but they’ll also tell you what the competition is saying. Often they’ll tell you more than losses will. It’s only human nature since they decided on your company’s solution. Wins will also tell you about your company’s implementation, customer service, etc.

Losses will tell you how you’re perceived in the marketplace, and you’ll often find out that you’re perceived differently than you thought you were. People buy based on perception.

Question: Is Win/Loss a tactical advantage for companies or do they also use it for some strategic reasons?

Ellen: Most of it is tactical in that sales and marketing benefit most immediately. Product development also can benefit. For example, sometimes you find out about unintended uses of your product or service and you can go after a new market segment. We used it at Bell Atlantic (Verizon subsidiary) many years ago to affect a strategic acquisition.

Question: What are the pros and cons of outsourcing Win/Loss?

Ellen: The biggest pro is that customers and those who chose a competitor will tell a Third Party more than they tell company employees. They don’t want to share bad news with the company. Consultants do this for a living and have more practice conducting Win/Loss interviews.

The major con is cost. Also, nobody know your business like you do. If your employees conduct the interviews, there is less cash outlay for a Third Party. However, this will take your employee’s time away from other projects.

Question: Are there other tips you would like to share for someone starting a Win/Loss program?

Ellen: Have it be a collaborative effort with your sales force. Sales is out there in real-time all the time. Get Sales’ input on what would be good questions to ask, and which customers might be most apt to share. However, don’t let them conduct the interviews.  Make sure you act on the changes from Win/Loss analysis. If not, you have wasted your time.

Question: Who do you target your book to? To those who would hire you or those who want to conduct their own Win/Loss?

Ellen: To both, and also to consultants who want to add Win/Loss analysis to their portfolio of services.

The book is available as a hardcover, paperback or e-book on Amazon. For a personally signed copy or volume discount (>5), please contact Ellen directly via phone/text at 720-480-9499 or email: Ellen@EllenNaylor.com.  Read more about Win/Loss analysis.

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7 Top Competitive Intelligence Blogs Read in 2016

competitive intelligenceFour of the top 7 competitive intelligence blogs were written in 2009. 2 were competitive intelligence analytic tools, which the other 2 were relationship skills: emotional intelligence; and marketing, R&D and product development relationships. These topics are timeless.

Here they are in order of popularity:

1. Templates for Win/Loss Analysis – The Win Loss request I get asked the most often is, “Can you share your Win Loss templates?” I break down Win Loss analysis questions into 4 buckets: relationship health, company reputation, product/service attributes, and servicing issues.

2. How a Good Relationship between Marketing and R&D Improves Product Development – When both marketing and R&D focus on understanding and acting on customer needs, it makes their jobs easier and their results more productive. This is a powerful competitive weapon since this is not the case at many companies. Perhaps R&D can be masters of the Art of Possibility while Marketing can master the Art of the Possible – that is what your customers want and are willing to pay for.

3. Sharpen Your Emotional Intelligence Skills – In competitive intelligence, strong emotional skills are essential since we’re often delivering bad news to management or threats to the business, which causes stress since they don’t want to hear it, even if it is the truth. Be sensitive as to how management will react to our news and analysis, and don’t spring surprises. What’s neat about EQ versus IQ, is that we can learn and be coached to improve our EQ skills.

4. How You Can Become a Conversation Rockstar – So much about life revolves around effective communication. As a primary researcher, I look for ways to motivate people to share. You need to understand what makes them comfortable to share with you. One source I read in 2016 is Traci Brown’s book, Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence. While the book focuses on closing sales, the same tactics will work to promote sharing when conducting competitive intelligence collection or Win Loss interviews.

5. 7 Timeless Competitive Intelligence Tips – Here are a few: Company insularity is not a competitive advantage. Don’t forget that your employees are smart. What ever happened to good old fashioned customer service? Let employees create and have access to customer, sales and market intelligence.

6. Visualize Your Competitiors on a Radar Screen Competitor Map, a Great Competitive Intelligence Tool – The Radar screen is a totally visual tool which fits on one page for easy digestion. It can be used both strategically and tactically, and is a great way to visualize how competitors are positioned relative to your company and each other. The uses for the Radar Screen are endless. It can be divided into 4 quadrants which might depict competitors by 4 separate business units, 4 geographies, or 4 different reasons why customers buy. Read more about the Radar Screen in Adrian Slywotsky’s book, Value Migration: How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition 

7. BCG Matrix Study: A Visual Strategic Competitive Intelligence Tool: Explanation and Case Study – Use the BCG Matrix to visually depict a share of market snap shot among competitors.

See you in 2017.

Win/Loss Analysis book gives you a process to learn why you’re losing business and how to keep more of it!

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Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want: Q and A Part II

Earlier this year, I was honored to give a Win Loss analysis webinar, as part of the competitive intelligence #IntelCollab series facilitated by Craig Fleisher, Chief Learning Officer at Aurora WDC.

You can view the slides and listen to the webinar entitled: Win/Loss Analysis Captures and Keeps New Business. You will get a preview of my recently published book, Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want.

win/loss analysisSince people often disconnect for Q&A, I am including the second group of them here. (The first Q & A)

What percent of Win Loss analysis interviews are blind versus not-blind? First let me explain the question. A blind interview means that the interviewer does not identify the company who hired him or her to conduct the Win Loss interviews. Not-blind Win Loss interviews mean that the interviewer discloses the name of the company who is conducting (or the recipient of, if outsourced) the interviews.

I suspect that most B2B Win Loss interviews are not blind as it is more professional to be upfront about the company who wants the information. It is another touch-point with your customer or potential customer, in the case of losses. I have found that for every 2o Win Loss interviews I conduct, I find one lead for my client’s sales reps. This wouldn’t happen were it a blind interview.

Trust needs to be earned when interviews are blind. You need to offer those you interview something in exchange for not disclosing the company’s identity. This is not necessary when you are open about the hiring company. You also get on the same page sooner when you share the company’s identity. When you don’t, those you interview will be trying to guess who hired you to conduct the interview. This is just human nature. I think it’s playing games not to disclose the hiring company when I conduct B2B Win Loss interviews, which is what most of them are.

That said, there are companies who specialize in conducting Win Loss interviews that are blind. I suspect they are a minority. I am not one of them.

Do you have a horror story to share about a Win Loss interview that went badly? Do you have tips on how to deal with this? The worst thing that will happen is they will hang up on you, although I have never had that happen. These are warm calls, so there is a low risk that things will go wrong. Win Loss interviews are not cold calls, where the person has no idea who you are, when you’ll be calling or what you’ll be calling about.

In Win/Loss interviews, you have a warm introduction to the person you’ll be interviewing either directly from Sales or an introductory email that explains why you want to connect with them, giving them some good reasons why they would want to talk with you. The closest thing to disappointment is that more people don’t agree to Win Loss interviews or they forget about our scheduled interview time.

My biggest disappointment has come from a company who hired me to conduct Win Loss analysis. When I called the Sales person to find out more about their account before calling their customer, and I realized that their sales management hadn’t told them word one about this Win Loss process. They had no idea what it was, that management had agreed to this process, what was in it for them, and that they were to cooperate with me.

You mentioned that you use a decision tree approach to developing the Win Loss questions. How do you prepare them? Do you share with the sales force to validate it? I don’t share my decision tree with my clients. They don’t care to see this level of detail. They just want results.

I develop the decision tree approach especially around areas where I need to learn more before I conduct the Win Loss interviews. Examples might be technology or a manufacturing process. I would need to learn all the innuendos of the technology that might impact a decision to buy the customer’s product. I learn enough about the technology to probe deeper and deeper depending on how the customer might answer the questions. For example, I might learn all the technical features, training on how to use it, and the strengths and weaknesses the marketplace perceives about this company’s technology.

The decision-tree is thinking and plotting all the different ways that a customer could possibly answer my questions, and what questions I might pose depending on how they answer. Not only does this process give me ammunition to probe more deeply. There are fewer surprises in these interviews since I have done my homework. They run more smoothly.

Another example is decision-making criteria. It could be based on price, features, customer service, ease of use, compatibility with the customer’s other technology, company reputation/longevity, account rep, professionalism, or what others are saying about the company (industry consultants, other customers, Wall Street). Usually there are several factors at play, and if you do your homework, you’ll find out which are the most important ones and why.

To learn more about how to conduct your company’s Win Loss analysis, check out my book: Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want.

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Rocky Mountain #SCIP Meeting: Mar 30 #Denver

You are invited to our Rocky Mountain SCIP networking meeting on March 30.

Rocky Mountain SCIP MeetingWhere: The Bookbar MAP

Address: 4280 Tennyson St. Denver, CO 80212

Time: 6 – 8 p.m.

Cost: Cash bar. Food available too. MENU

 

Come to meet fellow competitive intelligence professionals.

We also want your suggestions for programs!

  • Where to meet?
  • What time/day to meet?
  • How often to meet?
  • What topics do you want to hear more about?
  • Which CI speakers do you want at future meetings?
  • Local speakers? National speakers? International?

We have a table reserved under Gordon’s name and SCIP. Feel free to reach out to Gordon or me (Ellen) with program suggestions, especially if you can’t attend our meeting.

BTW we have a Denver/Rocky Mountain LinkedIn group, where you can share ideas and pose questions.

Ellen Naylor                                                    Gordon Muschett

answers@thebisource.com                         gmuschett1@gmail.com

How You Can Become a Conversation Rockstar

So much about life revolves around effective communication.

As a primary research expert, I am always looking to for ways to motivate others to share. You need to understand what makes them comfortable to share.

Traci Brown Persuasion PointI recently read Traci Brown’s book, Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence. While the book focuses on closing sales deals, the same tactics will work to promote sharing when conducting competitive intelligence collection or win/loss interviews. I will focus on speech, since we are often conducting these interviews over the telephone, so we don’t have the benefit of seeing the other person, although we can surely sense beyond their words.

One quick and easy way to start the connection is to match their speed and tone of speech. This also pushes you over to their side by being flexible, and forgetting about yourself.

Traci describes four communication preferences:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic
  • Auditory Digital

First, figure out your own communication preference, so you learn how to modify your language, tone and pace to match the other person’s communication preference. If you don’t, you’re apt to lose them in your conversation.

Visual people are quick as they are often competent and confident. They think and speak quickly. If you slow down, their mind will wander. They require less detail to process information, and when they change the subject you know they are ready for the next topic. They are interested in how things look or will look. They often focus on the future and have a big picture, strategic focus. They can easily think other are idiots. They are judgmental, very observant and don’t automatically like you or your ideas until you prove yourself.

Words/phrases to use: see, look, appear, show, dawn, view. “I see what you’re saying. It’s unclear. How does this look to you?”

Auditory people learn by listening, and are interested in how things sound. They are easily distracted by noise. Tone of voice is important, and they can be hurt by the wrong tone. They like sequence and order and to be told how they’re doing. They are less interested in how things look, and live in the here and now. Structure kills them as they like freedom. A plus is they automatically like you and your idea.

Words/phrases to use: hear, listen, sound, harmonize, music. “I hear you. That rings a bell. How does this sound? Clear as a bell.”

Kinesthetic people tend to speak slowly, in long phrases and breathe deeply. Slow your speech if you’re a fast talker and be patient as conversations tend to be longer. Listen for their deep feelings to emerge slowly. They’re often in occupations that use their hands: carpenter, chef, mechanic, artist.

They need more extensive detail to process information, and respond to touch. They tend to like you and your ideas, a plus. Like Auditories, they live in the here and now.

Words/phrases to use: feel, touch, grasp, get a hold of, slip through. “Does it feel right? Do you grasp this idea?”

Auditory Digital people like detail, structure and order. They are often lawyers, computer programmers, engineers or financial professionals. They often exhibit characteristics of the other three communication preferences.

They tend to be smart, curious and know a little about most things. They can operate in their own head, are often judgmental and don’t necessarily like you or your ideas, until you objectively prove yourself.

Words/phrases to use: think, learn, process, understand, learn. “So does this make sense to you? This is a great way to learn. Do you think this is a good idea?”

In reality, many people jump among these communication preferences depending on what you’re talking about. Sometimes you can’t detect a communication style quickly enough in a telephone conversation. So pepper words of each of the communication preferences, and note what they seem to resonate most by listening to their tone and words.

Win/Loss Analysis book gives you a process to learn why you’re losing business and how to keep more of it!

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Reflecting on Present Moments with Amy Cuddy

amy cuddyEarly this week Amy Cuddy presented her book, Presence, at our Denver independent bookstore, Tattered Cover.  Here are some of my favorite nuggets from Presence, and how they relate to primary research and Win/Loss analysis interviewing.

Presence has a number of definitions in Amy’s book.

“Removing judgment, walls, and masks so as to create a true and deep connection with people and experiences.” Pam, Washington State

“Being myself and keeping confident, whatever happens.” Abdelghani, Morocco

“Confidence without arrogance.” Rohan, Australia

“When all your senses agree on one thing at the same time.” Majiid, United Arab Emirates

So let’s interpret presence in primary research—such as Win/Loss interviews—where you had better be present. Not only do you need to be prepared with the questions you want answered, you need to be you: a confident interviewer, who expects the other person to be responsive, while being polite and not arrogant. You need to listen with all your senses.

This is challenging, as primary research is often done over the telephone so there is no body language to read. But you do have words, intonation, pauses, changes of tone, breathing, and facial expressions that you can sense like a smile or a frown as people talk. You also have your intuition to tap into.

William (Bill) Ury, world famous negotiator, cofounder of Harvard ‘s Program on Negotiation, and author of the decades old acclaimed book, Getting to Yes, offers great advice.

“When you listen to someone, it’s the most profound act of human respect.” Bill Ury.

Marianne Williamson adds to this, “As we let our own light shine, we … give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Why is it so hard to be quiet and listen? When we meet someone for the first time, we fear we won’t be taken seriously. So we talk first. We want to show what we know, what we think and what we have accomplished. Talking first says I know better than you. I am smarter than you. I should speak while you listen.

When I let you talk first, who knows what you’ll say? I am giving up control of the situation, and where will that leave me?

Listening is difficult at times and the eagerness to reach a quick solution can take over, when in negotiations like Bill Ury. Bill says look for the present moment. In most situations, there is an opening if we are attentive enough to see or hear it. It is all too easy to miss since we may not be paying full attention. It is easy to be distracted thinking about some past event or worrying about a future one. Yet it is only in the present moment that we can change the direction of a conversation (towards agreement…Bill Ury).

This is also true in Win/Loss interviews. You need to be sensitive as to what the interviewee knows and what they don’t know. While your company wants answers to 10 questions, for example, the interviewee may only be knowledgeable and willing to share on 5 of them, and two of them in great depth. As the interviewer you need to be present to pick up on the cues to probe more deeply, and to pass over quickly those questions that the interviewee doesn’t know the answer to or won’t share.

Real listening is crucial to presence. But it can’t happen unless you have a real desire to understand what you’re hearing. This means you have to suspend judgement, even if you’re bored, scared, anxious, impatient, frustrated or feeling threatened. Give the other person the space and safety to be honest. You can’t respond defensively when you’re truly listening. This also means you need to overcome the fear of silence as you let the other person speak their mind.

Remaining silent is one of the main behaviors of a good interviewer. You want the interviewee—in the case of Win/Loss—the customer or former prospect to do the talking. They need to feel comfortable when you are silent that you are giving them time to think, and are listening to what they’re saying. That’s why mirroring or a simple, “uh huh” encourages the interviewee to continue sharing.

By listening, which is viewed by many as relinquishing power, you become more powerful. When you stop talking and listen, you can expect:

  • People will trust you.
  • They will feed you useful information.

That’s what you are looking for in a Win/Loss interviewer, that they will build trust almost instantly so the customer or former prospect will share how they went about making their buying decision, and for example, what variables would have changed their buying decision, if any.

When people feel heard, they are more willing to listen.

You value this as an interviewer as well since you want people to answer your questions honestly. Once they feel heard, they will listen more closely as you probe more deeply into some of the issues where you sense they know more.

Meanwhile keep in mind that listening to another person does not guarantee a favorable outcome every time.  Part of presence is accepting the possibility of disappointment, and moving on.

In Win/Loss interviews, not everyone is going to give you great information. In fact, some won’t agree to be interviewed. In my experience, everyone you interview shares some valuable information. However, about a third of them share the most insightful information. In primary research, we often cold call, so we experience even more disappointment when people are unresponsive and/or don’t take our calls. It’s good to keep in mind that you can always find another person who has the knowledge and willingness to help you. You just need to be persistent.

I love this from Maya Angelou:

“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances.”

Presence bookOh yes, I recommend you buy a copy of Presence.

Check out our book, Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want.

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Win/Loss Analysis: Create a Value Proposition that Gets YES for the Interview

we build relationships

we build relationships

One of the most common questions I am asked in the Win/Loss analysis process is, “How do we create a value proposition to get our customers or non-customers to participate in a Win/loss conversation?” Include the value proposition as to why you are reaching out to interview each customer and prospect. The value proposition will vary depending whether the company chose your product or a competitor’s.

Interviewers seems to want to have a one size fits all value proposition. That’s not how it works: this is an individual you want to connect with. How would you like to be presented with a one-size fits all value proposition if the roles were reversed? It might feel phony, and you sure won’t feel very important since you can sense a generic value proposition.

That said you can lead in with a generic value proposition such as the following:

  • We want to improve how we do business with our customers.
  • Our customers are our best source of intelligence. We continually strive to improve our sales, marketing and products through your feedback.
  • Win/Loss gives you an opportunity for a frank discussion about how we can improve our relationship with you and your company.

Stuck for a more tailored value proposition, think, “What’s in it for them to give me their time?”

I think doing a little research on each person you’ll call is a great way to improve connectivity, especially if Sales is not introducing you to their customers/non-customers. I look on social media.  Since most Win/Loss interviews are B2B, most people are on the more common social media outlets such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. You might look at more industry-specific social media groups, if that makes sense. Perhaps they write a blog.

If their social media presence is weak, look at their company website to see if you can work an angle of familiarity into your introduction. If you can add just one tidbit of interest in your introduction, you will improve your odds at getting a YES for the conversation with that customer.

Perhaps you went to the same school, worked in the same industry, or have a common hobby. Comment on an insightful article or blog they wrote, or talk about something remarkable their company does that you admire.

Good luck with you Win/Loss analysis program.

Check out our book, Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want.

For a list of common questions about Win/Loss Analysis check out: Win/Loss Analysis Q&A from July SCIP Webinar.

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Win/Loss Analysis Q&A from July SCIP Webinar

Q & A from July 2015 SCIP Global Chapter Webinar: “Win/Loss Analysis: How to Clinch and Keep the Business You Want.”

Win/Loss analysis

  1. Competitor analysis comes from Win/Loss analysis (interviews) or comes from Win/Loss + research? If it comes from Win/Loss what is the weight?

Competitor analysis comes from many sources, and Win/Loss interviews should be a key source since they come directly from your customers and those who selected a competitor. I would give Win/Loss a high weight, but definitely continue other forms of research in your competitive intelligence operation. Win/Loss is another piece of your competitive arsenal to analyze the marketplace.

  1. Advantages / Examples of close ended questions versus open ended?

Close ended questions are those which can be quantified, often benchmarking such as comparing your company to the other competitors across a number of categories, such as clarity of sales proposal, effectiveness of the product demo, specific product features, and industry consultant assessment.

Open ended questions are qualitative and give your customers and potential customers the chance to share their buying process in their words and how they like to communicate. You often get incredible insight from the qualitative. Whereas you ask everyone the same close ended questions, and can pull out trends once you have enough interviews to analyze.

Examples of open ended questions are:

  • What compelling goal or event spurred this buying decision?
  • Why did you decide to include our company as a contender?
  1. Where did you get your information?
  2. What information source(s) were most influential?

      3.  Can you give examples of value propositions to use?

Value propositions are an individual thing, geared for your company, industry and your customer. I often ask Sales’ guidance in developing value propositions, since they know what will make their customers talk. Here are a few general ones you can use, but it’s more effective if you individualize your value proposition to maximize customer engagement.

  • We want to improve how we do business with our customers.
  • Our customers are our best source of intelligence. We continually strive to improve our sales, marketing and product development through your feedback.
  • Win/Loss gives you an opportunity for a frank discussion about how we can improve our relationship with you and your company.
  1. Is Win/Loss just for B2B?

Win/loss is mostly for B2B. However, I have had excellent learning from B2C on occasion. In one case we got names off product registration lists and cold called the customers. The weakness was that we didn’t interview enough non-customers. Yet we gained intelligence for this customer that they had been unable to learn from any other source.

   4A. If for B2C, do you think we can use Social Web Listening to do W/L? (Complementing interviews with social web listening)

Social media is a great source especially of complaints from customers, both of your products and your competitors. These comments can help you form questions to be used in Win/Loss, and beyond that product development and customer service improvements. Also you might be able to interview some of these folks, which extends your reach to customers and prospects you wouldn’t reach through more traditional means.

  1. Can you develop / give examples of causes why you “lose”?

Here are a few reasons from my experience: bad customer references, sales too pushy, unclear proposal, generic product demo instead of one geared to the customer’s industry, price, specific product features, competitor’s customer service is so excellent (competitor is incumbent and won the business…again). There are many more…

  1. How do senior executives benefit from Win/Loss?

Most are interested in trends, which might be early warning and new or surprise findings from Win/Loss. This will depend on your company’s goal in conducting Win/Loss analysis. What executives like is that one cannot argue with the results and analysis of Win/Loss interviews since they are fueled by your customers and those who chose a competitor.

For example, the executive might be interested in a new product’s market penetration. Win/Loss might uncover some unintended uses for the product where there is little competition.

An executive might be concerned that you are losing share in your flagship product. Win/loss interviews may indicate why, and what action(s) you might take to reverse this.

  1. In practice, how long does it take for the full Win/Loss process (Win/Loss cycle)?

You can learn a lot even from conducting of 10 – 20 interviews just once. However, you will gain the best intelligence by doing quarterly or monthly Win/Loss interviews over at least one year, and even more over two years and longer. Like competitive intelligence, Win/Loss analysis is ideally an ongoing practice.

Other factors to weigh in are length of the sales cycle, complexity of decision-making, and complexity of your products or service.

  1. If you outsource Win/Loss, how can you guarantee that the interviewer knows the business and does not bias the analysis, and can get to the bottom of things?

No one knows your business like you do. However, most Win/Loss interviewers can learn your business, as long as you’re willing to share the ins and outs of how you conduct business, the sales cycle, sales proposals, product demos, the competition, industry consultant assessments, and let them communicate directly with your sales, marketing and product managers, especially at the outset of the Win/Loss engagement.

There is so much information consultants can gather on the Internet and social media as well. Unless your business is extremely technical and complex, most consultants are capable of learning enough about your business to conduct Win/Loss interviews, and will get better at it over time, not unlike how it works when you use internal sources, who usually aren’t as good at interviewing customers since they don’t do it as a full-time job.

Those who conduct Win/Loss interviews continuously pick up on new industries pretty readily, and tend to be less biased than company interviewers. In most cases, customers and non-customers share more information with a neutral third party than they will with company employees, even though they know that the consultant will be sharing the results with your company.

  1. How much time is the customer willing to spend in Win/Loss interviews?

20 – 30 minutes is the industry average. People are so busy these days. That’s why you need to learn as much about each situation before you call the customer. “Know me before you call me,” is today’s mantra in Win/Loss interviews.

The length of time might differ depending on the industry, and the customer’s culture. Those in technology often are pressed for time, and thus it’s more challenging to get them to agree to a Win/Loss interview. It also depends on the position they hold in the company. Executives tend to give me less time, but they usually impart great information quickly which is spot on.

   10. Is Win/Loss an activity that is just for large contracts or unexpected losses, or can it be used on a much smaller level by sales reps looking to turn a small account around?

Win/Loss is best suited for larger, more strategic wins and losses. That said, Win/Loss can be used however you think your company will best benefit from it. It could be that what you learn from turning around that small account can be used for numerous other accounts, which might be highly profitable.

   11. Who should be involved in the Win/Loss process? My previous experience suggests that sales people do not take kindly to evaluation from other departments. Are CI teams well placed for this or should this be a bigger exercise involving sales, country directors, etc.?

This is a great question, and it involves assessing your company’s culture, and how best to sell Win/Loss to Sales and other departments such as marketing, product development, and your Web intelligence collectors.

Ideally sales, marketing and product development should be involved in setting up the Win/Loss process. CI is often part of one of these groups, and is well suited to do the analysis as long as they have the tactical knowledge of the company’s and competitor’s products and services.

Win/Loss is not just assessing sales performance. You are assessing marketing, product development and your company’s reputation. Most of the buying decision is made before Sales is contacted by prospective customers. A big part of Win/Loss is learning how your company made the short list before they called Sales. Sales is more challenged by this process since someone else is contacting their customers/prospects, and they don’t have control over this, and many in Sales feel they own the customer relationship.

A great way to get Sales’ buy-in for Win/Loss is to have them help set it up, and form the questions that they would like to learn from customers. In my experience over time, Sales will give you customers and lost customers they want interviewed for Win/Loss.

  1. How would you go about starting Win/Loss in a company that doesn’t currently embrace it?

Much of this is answered in question #11 above.

You need to assess your company’s culture, and figure out who is likely to support Win/Loss and who is likely to feel challenged by it. Win/Loss is a sales job, not unlike competitive intelligence.

There is much confusion about what Win/Loss analysis is. Part of the sales job is to educate people as to what it is, and what’s in it for them to cooperate, and specific benefits they can expect from the results.

It is the only form of competitive intelligence I know of that has a clear measurable ROI (return on investment). Following are some of the measurable benefits from Win/Loss analysis.

  • Increased revenue, profit or volume of sales.
  • Increased customer loyalty from interviewing wins means improved customer retention: how much repeat business is that worth?
  • Reduction of buying cycles: how much additional revenue or profit does that generate?
  • Reduced costs through insights into competitors’ value chains.
  • Identification of new markets and applications for existing products where competition might be low.
  • Increased sales force productivity.
  • Increased proposal win rate.
  • Improved product design by identifying features and functionality customers will buy.
  • Refined capacity for negotiation with vendors and buyers.
  • Better quality prospects: less time wasted on poor prospects.

To learn more about how to conduct your company’s Win Loss analysis, check out my book: Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want.

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Selling Win/Loss Analysis to Sales Teams

Win/Loss analysisSales may initially exhibit fear and resistance to Win/Loss analysis since individual sales people’s performance will be critiqued by customers in ways it hasn’t been, outside of sales management. Others, whose products and services are continually being upgraded, are more likely to appreciate Win/Loss analysis since their marketplace and products are a fast moving target. But, Win/Loss analysis focuses on buyer’s entire decision-making process, most of which is made before they contact sales. Thus, a major objective in Win/Loss analysis is improved lead generation: Find where buyers look and how they are influenced by what they learn before they call sales …so more do connect with sales. What are the strategic benefits that Sales gains from Win/Loss analysis?

  • Improved customer retention
  • Higher win rates
  • Expanded pipelines
  • Increased customer spend
  • Untapped opportunities with little competition

Here are a few of the tactical benefits for Sales from Win/Loss analysis.

  • Better quality leads
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Silver bullets to win against the competition
  • Repurpose Win/Loss data for
    • Competitor webinars or podcasts
    • Sales tactics workshops
    • Sales battle cards

And besides, Win/Loss is not focused on critiquing of individual sales people. Ask general questions such as:

  • Why did we win or lose the business?
  • What were the gaps in our proposal?
  • What did we do well that they value?
  • Where can we make improvements?
  • What did the competition do well that they value?
  • Where can the competition make improvements?

By hearing first-hand why their peers won or lost deals, sales people can replicate successes and avoid costly mistakes that impact their ability to win business. Marketing can also use the success stories to develop case studies to use with customers as proof points on why the customer should choose your company’s solution.

Learn how to build your company’s Win Loss analysis program from my book: Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want.

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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.

Win/Loss Analysis book gives you a process to learn why you’re losing business and how to keep more of it!

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