4 Steps to Plan for Successful Win Loss Interviews

I am in the planning stages of a win loss analysis project and in the spirit of cooperative intelligence will share why many of these endeavors don’t shed much light and never really get off the ground. One reason is the person conducting the win or loss interview does not have all the material s/he needs before conducting the interviews. Often people ask me for the template that I use when conducting the interviews. While that’s important, I find that people will tell me what they know once I get to interview them. The real challenge is convincing them to take the time for the interview in the first place!

What you need to get in the door:

 #1 Basic Sales Intelligence about the situation for each person/company you will be interviewing. At a minimum, I like to have:

The Company’s Name I will be interviewing

The Customer’s Name(s) (I like to get two or three if possible and let the customer decide who has time for this interview.)

Customer’s Title

Customer’s Contact Information: Phone number AND email address

Account Rep’s Name

How Long with the Company

Annual Revenue from theSale

Approximate Date of the Sales Decision

Win, Loss or Undecided

If Win, check what applies: Incumbent, Win back, Win with Competition, Win with little competition, Customer testimonial already

If Loss, check what applies: Was previously a customer, Was Never a Customer. Loss to ______ fill in the name of the Winner

All competitors whether win, loss or undecided

Deal Summary (Share the relevant details around the win or loss including the key challenges.)

Specific to the industry or customer. I will create categories of “customer” based on what marketing tells me, so sales can just check that off. I want to make this as easy as I can for Sales.

#2 A good value proposition as to why the customer or prospect wants to talk to you that you will either tell them over the phone or email to them in advance of a phone call to schedule a convenient time to connect.

#3 Flexibility on time and communication for the feedback you need on the win or loss situation. This is the real challenge today. So many people are doing the work of 4 people that they simply don’t have time. Some have that 15-20 minutes that you need to go over a survey and also allow them to simply tell you the real reasons why you won or loss and share precious nuggets about their business and the competitors. Others don’t, so you need to be creative about letting them tell you their story. Sometimes it’s useful to let them tell you some hard hitting information via email and then have a 10 minute call.  Somehow this isn’t as painful to them. Ironically it would probably take less of their time to give you a 20 minute call since email does take time to compose but somehow it often isn’t perceived that way.

#4 Research the companies and the people that you will be interviewing. In yesteryear I spoke to Sales to get this information. Now Sales doesn’t have time to talk to me in most situations, so I check out LinkedIn and other social networks to get an idea of how that person I need to connect with will be motivated to share based on their communication style. This is a good use of time since you can customize your communication based on this intelligence and this really opens up sharing. If you don’t know the company, check out their site so you can appreciate what they do.

So, I have shared the start to my win/loss projects, what do you have to add?

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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Strategies, Techniques & Sources to Find Local Business Information

I just listened to a most informative AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) webinar on finding and using local sources—Internet, Social Networks & People—by Marcy Phelps, CEO of Phelps Research and author of the recently published, Research on Main Street. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, I would like to share some of the key points I learned.

As a primary researcher, I was listening to clues which provide connection to people, often the best and most current sources of intelligence, recognizing that the web contains numerous sites for companies, demographics, population statistics, country, city, county and state data—the core for research.

Marcy’s 5th strategy tipper “Go Off-line” resonated with me. So much local information is simply not in print anywhere, including the Internet. Also when searching privately held companies or subsidiaries within a large company, it’s great to interview local people, since these companies are often the big fish in a small pond. Some of Marcy’s favorite local sources include: journalists, government workers, librarians, local chapter association leaders, local economists, and economic development executives.

Chamber of commerce sites and their employees are a rich source of local data, and often brag about their local companies and personalities, and can refer you to other people, local newspapers and librarians, among others. Speaking to locals is essential to get at sentiment and opinion, which often bring life to research findings. Other local sources include convention/visitors bureaus, economic development  organizations and local chapters of national associations.

I also liked Marcy’s discussion around local news sources since they can lead you to the right people.

American City Business Journals

ABYZ News Links

News Voyager

Radio-Locator

Google News advance search

Topix

Marcy also included discussion around social networks, a fertile source for finding experts. She included LinkedIn and Twitter, but did you know about Nearby Tweets or Local Tweeps to find people by location? Twitter’s advanced search allows you to find local Tweeters and so much more. Placebloggers is a good resource to find bloggers by location. Others include Feedmap and InOtherNews.

Read Marcy’s handouts from this webinar. You can also link to numerous, relevant links which correspond to each chapter in Marcy’s book, Research on Main Street. While these links are valuable, learning how to use them in context is the key. I recommend that you buy the book to learn how to strategically plan your quest for research, whether it’s to locate your new business, conduct an opportunity analysis, provide sales intelligence or conduct competitive intelligence. She covers so much more especially government sources (chapters 4 & 5), which I didn’t even discuss here. One last tipper: use your creativity and have a Plan B in place! Local information is not that easy to locate, but this book will surely boost your approach to finding it!

You must be an AIIP member for the full transcript and PowerPoint for Marcy’s webinar, which can be accessed anytime through AIIP’s website. Learn more about the benefits of being an AIIP member. If you’re an independent running a research, private eye, library or competitive intelligence practice, AIIP is the place to get invaluable advice and resources to help you start and run your business successfully!

How to Encourage Cooperative Communication from Sales

Many in competitive intelligence, marketing, research and product development complain about poor communication from their sales force, who has a direct conduit to your customers—one of the best sources of knowledge about what your company is doing right and wrong as well as ideas for new products, services and tweaks to your existing products that can be revenue generating!

So how do you encourage cooperative communication from Sales?

1. Give to Get

This is a golden rule with any person or group that you deal with, but especially with Sales who has a very short attention span. You need to feed them snippets and golden nuggets which help them sell. I can’t tell you what they are: you have to figure that out since it changes constantly. But responsiveness and a cooperative attitude of giving, along with supplying those nuggets, will convince Sales that you’re worth giving back to.

2. Teach Sales How to Give

As you provide Sales with golden nuggets, teach them how to give. One way I have been successful is by teaching sales people elicitation skills. This means creating a purposeful conversation to get customers to share what they know about the competition, innovation, and improvements to your products and services—including customer service.

Oh, and by the way, elicitation skills help Sales close more deals, sooner, which is the value proposition to Sales. In my sales experience, customers are almost waiting to be asked since it’s human nature to want to teach, share and correct you. However, beware, as your sales force starts asking, your customers will also be asking more about your future products and services. Make sure Sales is armed with the right information to share at the right time!

3. Make it Easy for Sales to Share

This is the downfall of many organizations. They make it hard for Sales to share. What are they already sharing through their sales process that you can access? Can your information sharing be tacked onto what they already do? Can you set up a tips line, so they can just call it in? Text it in? Email it in?

4. Acknowledge Sales Contribution

Go beyond Thank-You. Write up the best sales tips in your company magazine, Intranet site—wherever is most likely to be noticed and read. Get on the agenda for sales force gatherings such as conference calls and meetings where you can share the good news about great tippers that individual sales people have given, and specifically cite how they have helped. Write their boss and/or Sales VP about their contribution.

5. Share Share Share

Go the next step and set up a mechanism to share tippers you hear from one sales person to your sales force. This can be high tech if your company is set up that way, but it doesn’t have to be. Talk to top contributing sales people to get clarification and insight that goes beyond information sharing. Share that insight with your sales force, marketing, product developers and whoever else will benefit from this insight, AND acknowledge that sales person or sales team.

My shameless sales plugs.

1. AMA’s Spring Marketing Workshop (April 6-8): I will be leading a workshop (April 6) which teaches sales elicitation skills among other best practices to improve sales and marketing’s productivity.

2. AIIP’s annual conference (April 6-10): I will be sharing a poster session (April 7) on how I have reinvented myself in my 18 years in business from primary research collector to win loss collection and analysis to workshops such as elicitation which empowers Sales to close more deals and provides companies with needed sales intelligence.

Use Rivalry to Spur Innovation & Competitive Intelligence Sharing

In a recent McKinsey Quarterly, Mark Little, head of General Electric’s Global Research Group described how GE uses rivalry to stimulate innovation. I think these practices help GE be the powerhouse in the many fields where it is a market leader. Rivalry can mean outright competition—a zero-sum contest in which two individuals or teams go head-to-head and one is declared the winner at the expense of the other. But in the case of GE, rivalry is linked to a second notion, called paragon which means comparison. The motivation behind collaboration often is rivalry as two or more teams compete to develop the best product.

Scientists are motivated a lot like anyone else in that they want to be the best: yes, they’re competitive! Due to my love of aviation, my favorite example cited was the GE90, the large, high-thrust engine developed in the 1990s for the Boeing 777, which was developed by two independent teams. While one team won the competition, the other was assigned to challenge and push the winning team. While this pushing process made the teams uncomfortable, it made the GE90 a better engine and helped advance product development.

In the competitive intelligence field, I think of wargaming as a similar exercise where members of each team collaborate and role play as if they were specific competitors, so there is a healthy rivalry among the teams. However, the goal overall in a war game is to help your company be more competitive. More specifically the goal might be to prepare for a competitor’s new product launch, so it isn’t just the competitors who are represented by a team. One team might represent the marketplace which might include customer’s reactions and regulatory hurdles, for example.

Another example where rivalry works is in sales intelligence, when you reward individual sales people for being the best competition detective. Winners might share information around a new competitor entering your company’s space; a significant change in a competitor’s management team; how a team achieved a win back against a key competitor; new innovation in the marketplace; or how to win sales in spite of regulatory constraints. This is fun since most sales people like publicity and you can lay it on thick through your company’s communication channels: sales rallies, sales teleconference calls, complimentary write ups in the company wiki/newsletter or intranet and a handwritten letter to the sales person’s boss and others like the VP of Sales! While your reward system will never compete with a sales person’s commission, this publicity can. This playful rivalry will only grow over time if you figure out different ways to let Sales compete and continue to publicize your thank-you to the best competition detectives.

The real learning is you can use healthy rivalry to stimulate various behaviors since most people are naturally competitive and want to be the best. You need to figure out how best to motivate individuals to reach your company’s goals whether it’s product innovation, competitive intelligence or sales intelligence, the examples cited here. Depending on an individual’s personality type, this healthy rivalry might be fun or it might make them squirm a bit.

In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, here is an article on sales intelligence for your reading pleasure.

Capture Win Loss Analysis Cooperatively

Last week, I shared a summary of “5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace using Competitive Intelligence Skills” originally published by Adam Sutton of MarketingSherpa. As promised, I am focusing on the first one, and will cover Tactics 2-5 individually in future blogs.

#1 Conduct win loss analysis
Win loss interviews and the ensuing analysis are one of my favorite cooperative intelligence tools, since it’s a win/win. Your company receives valuable information from your customers and prospects, and you make them feel important since you care enough to query them and give them an opportunity to provide honest, candid feedback on what they like and don’t like about you, and what they like about the competition, for example.

During these interviews, uncover the motivations behind their decisions and learn from what they impart to improve product development, tweak your existing products or service, change your marketing message, learn how and when in the sales process your competitors are successfully unseating you and so much more.

Many companies ask me to develop their win loss analysis process, and just want to focus on their losses. This is a shame as they get an unbalanced view of their win loss track record. Let’s face it: loss customers are gone, unless they buy other products or services from your company. In all cases those who continue to be your customers often care for your wellbeing, and usually give deeper answers that you can use towards product development. Remember they want you to continue to be successful since your product/service helps them in their business, especially B to B.

I recommend you conduct these interviews in cooperation with your sales force, rather than behind their back. Building trust with Sales is the biggest reason to include them as part of the win loss analysis process. Additionally, Sales can save you so much time by telling you how the people you’re going to interview are motivated to share. You only have a short window to conduct this interview, so having sales intelligence, recognizing Sales’ bias is a good use of time. Wow, that reason alone is enough to work with Sales. I shared this point last week since some clients want me to conduct win loss interviews without letting sales know we’re even querying their customers. This is such a bad idea. Sales will find out soon enough that this is going on and will often feel betrayed.

On a final note, it is also demoralizing for Sales if you conduct only loss interviews with their customers. How would you like it if only your losses were being queried and amplified about the company? I feel like Darth Vader when I am reduced to connecting with Sales only around their losses. They know when I call it’s always in connection with another loss. Is that how you want to treat your sales force? I don’t think so!

Here are a couple of articles I have written about the benefits of conducting win loss analysis:

Win/Loss Analysis: The Cooperative Angle + Increasing Sales through Win Loss Analysis

What has been your experience in conducting win loss analysis? Do you conduct it in cooperation with Sales? Do you prefer to conduct win loss analysis blind, where people don’t know the identity of the company you represent and Sales doesn’t know this is happening?

Be notified when our book, Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want is published.

Reviewing Early Chapters of “Competitive Intelligence Advantage”

I am reading Seena Sharp’s book Competitive Intelligence Advantage. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, I am reading a couple of chapters at a time and will share what I like in this blog.

Her introduction is compelling. Seena enumerates what questions a person might ask who will benefit from competitive intelligence. Here are my favorites from her list of 12:

Have you been blindsided by the loss of a sale to a competitor—especially one who is unknown, emerging or to a substitute?

Do you question if your assumptions are still valid about your industry, competitors, customers and products?

Have you noticed possible signs of an opportunity, but aren’t sure if it makes sense for your company?

In her first chapter Ms. Sharp explains the dilemma we face when we deal with company executives who are often arrogant and overconfident and don’t want to hear bad or contrarian news (even though that’s what they pay us to do in competitive intelligence). While those who lead companies are often brilliant, all can benefit from better intelligence when making strategic decisions.

I particularly enjoyed chapter 2 which provides the most thorough definitions around competitive intelligence (CI) that I have read anywhere. In an effort to describe and define the benefits of CI, Seena describes other more commonly understood processes such as knowledge management, market research, scenario planning and business intelligence. I especially appreciated her distinctions between market research and competitive intelligence. Both include research on the market while market research tends to focus on consumers or business customers and is more quantitative while competitive intelligence is more qualitative and future oriented as it looks at what is emerging in a market or an industry, and considers other external factors in addition to customers.

Did you know that only 38% provide correct phone numbers all the time? 60% don’t always provide accurate info about their company’s size. 45% do not always provide their company’s true name. These are interesting facts in connection around how consumer technology buyers fill out registration forms, a common form of market research. (Source: a survey by Marketing Sherpa and KnowledgeStorm.) These findings make me question the validity of market research findings taken in isolation. That is why it’s often valuable to include market research as a component of CI. I recall our market research team at Verizon benefited when we added some competitor questions to their major annual survey to our strategic customers.

Also in chapter 2, I enjoyed Seena’s example of knowledge management which started as a simple suggestion box at a company. Due to the company’s sharing and expansion of these suggestions at lunchtime sessions, this process was encouraged and became engrained in this company’s culture. People who made suggestions were positively recognized. This reminded me of similar programs that companies have put in place to gather good sales intelligence from Sales about competitors, emerging competitors, product development and industry trends. If you give employees the freedom to communicate their ideas and drill down deeper, it’s amazing what you learn, and a little recognition and thank you goes a long way.

Improve Your ROI by Integrating Marketing & Sales Intelligence

 

I (Ellen Naylor) will be giving a 2 hour session at the American Marketing Association’s Spring Marketing Workshop which takes place in Denver, Colorado from March 22 – 25 at the Westin Tabor Center. My talk, “Improve Your ROI by Integrating Marketing & Sales” will be given on March 23 from 2:45 – 4:45 pm, about a week before my birthday.

The Marketing Workshop allows attendees to mix and match sessions according to the following topics:

• Marketing ROI
• Pricing Strategy and Tactics
• Social Media and Marketing
• Branding
• Sales and Marketing Integration
• Customer Loyalty and Relationship Management
• Search Engine Optimization

Below is the write up which is buried in the AMA’s 20 page marketing workshop e-booklet.

Sales and marketing are often at odds. This workshop will focus on tools and techniques that are tried and tested, which integrate the smarts of sales, marketing and product development employees. Elicitation is usually used to collect competitive intelligence. Learn what elicitation is and how it can be used to improve your company’s sales intelligence by closing more deals and enabling Sales to collect valuable information from customers to boost your company’s knowledge about market trends, customer needs and the competition to name a few. Likewise, learn how win loss analysis and trade show analysis integrate sales and marketing often with the voice of the customer and other market intelligence.

You will learn:

Elicitation: what it is and why it’s a more effective means to collect information than direct questioning for interviews
Close more sales deals and collect valuable customer insight through the practice of elicitation
Implement a cooperative win loss analysis process that integrates feedback from sales, marketing and your customers
Improve both your sales lead generation and collection skills at trade shows

Matt Kelly, VP Business Development at Strategy Software will be presenting, “Competitive Affairs: Leveraging Competitor Information to Drive Revenue and Increase Market Share. His session takes place on March 24 from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m. Matt is an engaging speaker who I have known for years through SCIP.

I wanted to share this is the spirit of cooperative intelligence as it is pretty rare for the AMA to host events in Denver. March is also a great month to visit the Rocky Mountains if you like to ski as it’s our snowiest month.

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