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

In May, 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 sneak preview of my soon to be published book, Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want. (Amazon pre-sale until July 11 launch)

Since people often disconnect for Q&A, I am including them in this blog.

What internal group supports Win/Loss programs in your experience? If it’s not competitive intelligence (CI), as not all companies have a CI person or team, it’s usually a manager or executive in business development or marketing.

What are some of the best practices to break through internal company resistance to Win/Loss analysis? First, only one part of Win/Loss analysis targets sales performance and professionalism as you’ll see in the Win/Loss topics chart below.

win loss topics BIG

Other areas include product attributes, service issues and company reputation. Sales also is motivated to cooperate from this Win/Loss statistic: taking action from a formal Win/Loss program can improve win rates from 15 – 30%. On the other hand, know that Win/Loss isn’t for every company. As mentioned in the webinar, some companies have never heard of Win/Loss. Some think they’re doing it when they’re not. Others are going through the steps of Win/Loss, but aren’t making any changes from the results. Some are stymied by politics and/or arrogance to seriously consider a Win/Loss program.

When is the best time after the buying decision to conduct Win/Loss analysis interviews? Ideally it’s 2 to 3 months after the buying decision has been made, and people know you aren’t selling to them. If you wait too long, people forget the details of their buying decision, and sometimes they move onto another position within the company or leave the company. Sometimes I have great interviews when the decision-maker has left the company and I listen to the person who has been forced to adopt the solution or product. While I don’t learn about the decision-making process, I do find out how well the product is working, often in much more detail than I would have from the decision-maker.

Due to the sensitivity of Win/Loss analysis, is it better to hire a third party? First of all: if you conduct the interviews in-house, don’t have sales people do them. Customers don’t want to deliver bad news to sales people: it’s just human nature. You want to hear everything. Although it’s great to have sales people pave the way for whoever is conducting the Win/Loss interviews. In more complex deals, sales people might even be present for the Win/Loss interviews, but I would have someone else be the key interviewer. Marketing or Product Developers can conduct these interviews since they often have the product knowledge and the bigger picture of where your company wants to go. However, many of them are not expert interviewers, as this is just a small part of their job responsibilities.

Third parties are often preferred for two reasons: they are a neutral source so customers and those who chose a competitor feel more free to share; Win/Loss consultants are expert interviewers since this tends to be their full-time job. Their focus is customer intelligence. Don’t ask me why, but I find that when I conduct Win/Loss interviews, people are happy to share the good, the bad and the ugly with me, even though they know that my client is the recipient of all this information (although I do not disclose the names of the individuals interviewed).

I will include the next 5 questions in a future blog or on my LinkedIn blog.

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

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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.

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

Receive our 6-page Win/Loss Cheat Sheets

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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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Win Loss Interviews: Compensation and Recording

Win Lose or Draw

Win Lose or Draw

As many of you know, I am writing, Win, Lose or Draw, a book on how to set up a world class win loss program.

 

 

 

 

In this book I am sharing some best practices to capture customer intelligence through win loss interviews:

  • The Steps to Take to Establish a Sustainable Win Loss Program
  • How to Include Sales People in Your Win Loss Process
  • Determining Which Customers and Prospects to Target
  • The Value of Interviewing Wins AND Losses
  • How Your Company Culture Will Impact the Execution of Win Loss
  • What to Look for if You Outsource Win Loss Interviews and / or the Analysis
  • What You Should Cover in a Win Loss Interview
  • How to Conduct a Win Loss Interview to Maximize Sharing
  • Tips on How to Structure Win Loss Analysis

What are your best practices in there two areas:

  • Monetary Compensation to those you interview for a win or loss
  • Recording Win Loss Interviews

#1 Do you compensate the customers and prospects you interview?

If you compensate, has this improved your success at getting people to agree to be interviewed?

If you compensate, what do you think is a competitive rate per interview?

Which industries are you expected to compensate, such as doctors?

Where had you better not compensate, such as government employees?

 #2 How do you feel about recording interviews?

If you record interviews, do you transcribe them?

What software do you use?

Do you use the transcripts for data mining?

I have mixed emotions and experience in both of these areas. I tend to get a pretty good interviewing rate without compensation, but I haven’t queried doctors. I always have a good value proposition, and have an organized process which is more apt to lead to YES for the interview.

Win loss is a good use of a customer’s or prospect’s time, since it gives them an opportunity to tell you what they do and don’t like about doing business with you and the competition—after the pressure of the decision to buy has been made. Yet I am realistic in that people’s schedules are so filled these days that I am competing for their time, so sweetening the deal with a monetary reward will encourage them to find the time.

I feel kind of like a spy when I record conversations. Call me old fashioned. I have such an established shorthand for note taking that I don’t miss much, and have no problem asking them to clarify or I repeat what I thought I heard them say to slow them down a bit. I don’t mind getting back with a question after the interview since I always have their email. I always provide interview summaries, which can be data mined. My clients are more apt to read the summaries since they are a quick read compared to transcripts.

While Win Loss is a relationship business, like all business processes, it continues to evolve. With the advent of big data, some companies include win loss transcripts in their big data to more scientifically uncover trends, for example.

If you’re uncomfortable sharing your best practices on social media or my blog, please email me at ellen at thebisource.com or send me a private message on LinkedIn or Twitter.  Thanks so much. I am closing in on my rough draft for the book. It feels good to get this far.

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Recent Competitive Intelligence Insight

Here are some insightful articles related to competitive intelligence and customer intelligence.

Make A Choice Between 2 Alternatives - Two-Way Street SignEmotional Intelligence: Cult or Competitive Advantage This is a great rebuttal to Adam Grant’s recent article, “Emotional Intelligence is Overrated.” There is a lot more scientific proof that a high EQ is a teachable skill, and that people respond well to those who have empathy. Competitive intelligence is a people business, and those who can motivate people to share have a leg up. Having a high EQ and empathy motivates most people to share. As Dr. Kenneth M. Nowack concluded in his article on this subject, “It’s not how smart you really are that matters in terms of work and life success, but how you are smart.”

How to Build a Culture of Givers: 4 Tips Authored by Laura Montini, this article reports on Prof Adam Grant’s recommendations, the same one who somewhat slammed emotional intelligence above. You can see this perspective here, “What you want is a disagreeable giver–one who will tell it like it is without regard for your feelings, but only because he or she has the best intentions for your organization at heart.” As a proponent of emotional intelligence, I think it’s better if they do have some regard for your feelings.

In competitive intelligence, we expect our sources to share with us. I enjoy Prof Grant’s Reciprocity Ring as a crowdsourcing way to get people to ask and provide answers in an open forum within the company. Everyone in the ring is required to ask for something. “When the whole room is making requests, it’s not uncomfortable,” Grant said.

When everyone’s requests are out in the open, individuals in the group decide which ones they’re best equipped to handle based on their expertise. “And make no mistake. Everyone will give,” Grant says.

“The takers actually start giving because everybody’s contributions are visible and they worry that if they don’t volunteer to help anyone, they’re going to get caught. The end result? Employees will get on board with the idea of building a culture of givers. That’s because they’ll see that if they give more, everyone can get more of what they want.”

This is a visible and cooperative way to engage your fellow employees to ask for and give tips to strengthen your company’s competitive position. How do you engage your employees to share?

Employers Want Critical Thinkers, But Do They Know What It Means? This article spoke to me as a competitive intelligence professional since many in our profession spend too much time monitoring the competitive market and place too much weight on digital information. Critical thinking takes time and reflection, which corporations don’t give in the rush, rush, rush culture of most. Critical thinking is an essential skill for competitive intelligence professionals, and many of us are too reactive due to the influx of data that is streaming our way. What do you think?

10 Great Questions Product Managers Should Ask Customers, shares some great questions that can also be used in win loss interviews. After all product managers need to know how and why customers use your products, and how they could work better for them. Customer intelligence is such a key piece of competitive intelligence. My 3 favorite questions that Jim Semick suggests are:

  • How do you feel about the current solution or product? This one is good for understanding opportunities to differentiate your product from competitors or simply learning how they use the product or service presently.
  • What is the most frustrating thing about the current solution or product? This is how to discover your customer’s pain. You can go deep on this one with some follow up probing.
  • What do you wish you could do with this product or solution that you can’t do today? This is a great feed to product development, and sometimes opens up unintended uses for the product.

What are your favorite questions?

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How Culture Affects the Win Loss Process

Culture in Win LossI continue to write my Guide to Win Loss Analysis book, which is the best of source of customer intelligence I know of. I still need to find a better title: any ideas?

I have had the pleasure of interviewing two impressive Directors of Win Loss programs. Both work for large companies that have done win loss analysis for a long while. Both emphasized the importance of company culture in how they set up their win loss programs; how they conduct win loss interviews—both internally and with customers—and how they write up the win loss analysis.

Culture at a Telecommunications Company

At a large telecommunications firm, the win loss team and sales people work cooperatively. At the outset, the win loss team worked with the various sales organizations and other key stakeholders, such as pricing and product groups, to develop an exhaustive set of testable hypotheses regarding root causes of sales successes and failures. This process had the benefits of buy-in from Sales and other key stakeholders as well as a higher quality analysis.

This telecommunication firm holds a full blown 360 internal company debrief before conducting a win loss interview with the customer or prospect. The meeting is not recorded so people share freely. Lessons learned along the way are noted as well as why those at the meeting think they won or lost the deal.

After the internal company debrief, the win loss person accompanies the sales person to conduct the win loss interview. The win loss team does not want to interfere with the rapport that sales people have developed with the customer. Thus the sales person is a member of the win loss interviewing team.

The win loss process is not a Sales witch hunt. Rather it is more holistic:

  • Why did we win or lose the bid?
  • What are the gaps in the RFP (request for proposal)?

The aim is not to assess or critique the performance of Sales outside of factual relationship questions that can be tied to a win or a loss:

  • Frequency of sales visits
  • Executive alignment from the telecommunications company with the client company’s C-levels

This cooperation permeates the win loss report. The win loss team is empathetic and sensitive to company politics and face saving in their reports on losses. The recommendations you make at the conclusion of the win loss report can impact people’s jobs. In this vein, the win loss team interviews those who are criticized during a loss interview to get their side of the story before publishing the quarterly win loss report.

Culture at a Big Four Firm

Win Loss is particularly sensitive since consulting firms only provide services. Thus there is no product to assess like there is at the telecommunications firm, so it’s entirely subjective. It’s all about the people: their skills, expertise, presentation, communication and project management. Professional services work tends to be long term, and the projects major, so wins and losses have the potential to make or break a career.

The lead sales person is an Account Partner, which adds another level of politics to the win loss process. Thus the Win Loss Director realized he needed to be collaborative with Account Partners to gain access to their accounts. Being a Director rather than a Manager gives him credibility with his company’s Account Partners and their senior level clients.

Every win loss interview is a sales job in this culture, so the Win Loss Director reduces the politics around which clients to query. He will ask the Account Partner if he can conduct a win loss interview with his client, just after the Account Partner has pitched the sale. Since this request is put forth before knowing how the deal with close, win loss is seen as less punitive.

Due to the company culture and the high stakes of most sales, the Win Loss Director assures the Account Partners, while letting them know he needs their help to be positioned for win loss interviews with their clients:

  • I am an internal third party, but I’m outside of Sales. I need you Mr./Ms. Account Partner to gain entrée to your client
  • Remember we work for the same firm so we have consistent client service standards
  • The first person I will get back to is you, Mr./Ms. Account Partner. At a minimum, I will go to you first with sensitive information so you will not be blind-sided
  • If I find damaging information, I will act with discretion, consideration, and a sense of partnership. We use what we uncover in win loss interviews as lessons learned

Recording Win loss Interviews

The culture around recording is different between the telecommunications company and this big four firm. At the big four firm, the Win Loss Director records every conversation, and asks for permission beforehand. This process gives internal clients assurance that the quoted client verbatim statements are accurate. This also gives the Win Loss Director the ability to pull out the conversation that led up to the verbatim. The report makes a great impact especially from direct client quotes which add credibility and authority to the win loss analysis. Since their conversation is being recorded, the client being interviewed feels important. They know that their feedback is appreciated and that they will not be misunderstood.

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