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!

Receive our 6-page Win/Loss Cheat Sheets

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Aligning Sales and Marketing through Win/Loss Analysis

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

Win/Loss Analysis

Larry Torri, VP Sales AssureSign

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

What does this mean for Win/Loss analysis?

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

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

In one of my Win/Loss interviews, the customer told me that they had found a most informative white paper on a competitor’s website, but preferred our company’s solution. I suggested that my client write a white paper, and referenced the one that their customer had been influenced by. In Win/Loss analysis today you get more tips like that which you can almost immediately take action on. Make sure to ask probing questions about how they found your company, and which sources influenced them the most, so you know where to focus your resources.

Keep in mind that your SDRs can be most informative. They are dealing in the on-line world constantly as they qualify prospects to pass on to sales people. Make sure to share Win/Loss finding with them to engage them to share their thoughts and impressions on how customers find your company, and which sources seem to influence the buying decision the most for their best qualified leads.

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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3 New Competitive Intelligence Books

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

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

So what’s changed in this version?

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

According to John Gibbs, an Amazon Top 1000 reviewer:

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

Another more anonymous reviewer adds:

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

Zunaira Munar comments:

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

Jacqueline Chang comments:

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

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Win/Loss Analysis: Outsourcing versus In-House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In-House Advantages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Turn

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

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

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

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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How to Connect with Senior Leaders

I was sorry to miss Scott Leeb’s talk, “CI Guerilla Warfare: Winning the Hearts and Minds of Senior Leadership.” Turns out I didn’t: it was videotaped here.

Small business team in theSo my Thanksgiving treat is a recap of Scott’s talk. Almost everyone I know in competitive intelligence complains about their lack of connection to senior management.

Many of us in competitive intelligence are our own worst enemy since we are steeped in competitive intelligence DNA and language, and don’t understand how the c-suite operates.

Treat getting in with the c-suite like battle:  “If you know the enemy and you yourself you need not fear the results of a 100 battles.” Sun Tzu, 500BC

Mind your Ps and Qs

Over deliver, but don’t overwhelm. Start with how your insight ties into the business results the executive cares about. Use their language, which is the language of business and know enough about the executive to understand his/her quirks. Their Admin will know these. Scott would schedule 5 minutes with an executive before his talk to make sure he was touching on what the executive cared about. They will find 5 minutes for you: it’s in their best interest, right?

Scott also applies his 7Ps from his military training to knowing how executives operate:

  • Proper
  • Planning and
  • Preparation
  • Prevent
  • Pitifully
  • Poor
  • Performance

Recognize the differences

Most executives live to work. They are under tremendous pressure and you don’t want to add to it.

Pick and maintain a voice, which is consistent and in alignment with the business goals

  • Be Bold
  • Be Brief
  • Be Gone
  • Be Authoritative
  • Be Opinionated
  • Be Balanced
  • Be Flexible
  • Be Careful (politics)

Scott suggests three practices when communicating with executives:

  • BLUFF: Bottom Line Up Front results Fast
  • KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid
  • 4Qs: Quantify Qualify Quality Quickly – Fast and Forcefully make your presentation to executives

Show them the tip of the iceberg from your analysis. Use appropriate language, not CI, and tie your deliverable to business results that you know the executive is focused on. But be prepared with all the supporting data for questions.

Scott’s motto here:

  • Get the analysis to the
  • Right person at the
  • Right time……to Support the
  • Right decision

Be a Salesperson

Build a competitive intelligence brand in your company with a logo and a name to your group that everyone can easily identify with. While many in competitive intelligence have this stealth mode for what we do, we need to be more outgoing in order to be seen and heard. Scott had a catchy name for his CI group at Prudential, PruView.

If you aren’t good at selling, find champions who are. Ideally they should have some skin in the game, that is rely on you for good work. Ideally these champions should be senior, vocal, CI smart and committed.

I recall when I was at Bell Atlantic, now part of Verizon, I gained a VP of Sales as my champion. I didn’t realize he was testing me when he sent me on what I thought was a wild goose chase to lead a competitor response analysis in a highly political RFP that our sales folks had already answered. What would be the value of this, I thought as I drove to their site with very little notice.

The sales team thought if we didn’t win, AT&T would. There were two other competitors: Rolm (now part of Siemens) and Nortel. They didn’t think either of them had a good chance to win the business. I thought that Rolm had the best chance to win as this was a university, and Rolm was owned by IBM, who manufactured PCs at this time. They could sweeten the deal through discounted PCs, which were very expensive then. Rolm won the business for the reason I had suspected, and the Sales VP became my champion.

Provide Insights

  • Focus on what they need and keeping asking “so what” until you get to this.
  • Also get them to think about, “What’s the cost of inaction?”

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it.

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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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Win Loss: A Cooperative Relationship Business

I am having a blast writing my book on how to develop and implement a sustainable win loss program. I am 2/3 done with my rough draft: no writer’s cramp yet. Here are some tidbits for you to noodle on as you think about your win loss efforts.

Win Loss is a Cooperative Relationship Business: You need to treat people the way they like to be treated throughout the process.

we build relationshipsIt starts with soliciting feedback for the win loss questions from multiple people in relevant departments such as sales, marketing, product management, PR and executives. The next touch point is the internal interviews you conduct before reaching out to customers. Treat sales people with respect. They are the gateway to the customer.

Be sensitive especially around losses as it’s easy for account reps to lose face in this process. You want them to realize how much they can learn for future deals by interviewing their customers, and that their customer isn’t the only one you’re reaching out to interview. Sales managers usually get this, but they aren’t the one who just lost the deal and the commission check that went along with it. This is one reason you also include win interviews, to keep sales uplifted about the process. Of course you learn things from win interviews that you don’t from losses.

With the customer, you want to engage early and frequently throughout the sales process. Relationships can make or break deals, especially when there is little differentiation among competitor’s products or services. You need to be respectful and polite when conducting these interviews as you represent your company (or the hiring company if you’re a consultant). Sales works hard to develop customer relationships. You don’t want to upset these relationships. That’s why I like to get plenty of information on each account before I even reach out to schedule a business to business win loss interview.

Rather than conducting a witch hunt on sales people in win loss interviews, go for a more holistic approach such as:

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

Remember that the recommendations you make at the conclusion of your win loss report can impact people’s jobs. Be sensitive to company politics and face saving in your loss reports. Don’t assume a trend or fully believe everything customers tell you. Find several examples of the same trend before reporting it as such. If there is a complaint against a certain person, crosscheck and give that person a chance to tell their side of the story. Sometimes the customer really didn’t get along with an account rep, and they can’t say anything good about him or her. You need to dig deep enough to get the full scoop as to what happened. You will get a more balanced perspective, make the accused employee feel better and feel better about what you’re writing in your win loss report. This is so important for a sustainable win loss analysis program.

Consistency

In closing, one key to your program’s success is consistency. If you have the same person or couple of people conduct win loss interviews (both internally and to customers and prospects), you gain progressively more insight. In the first year, you will learn the issues. By the third year, the interviewer(s) has a solid relationship with sales teams, management and has an incredible grasp of the issues, which gives them the ability to know when and how to probe to gain maximum information from each win loss interview.

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