11 Questions & Answers about Win Loss Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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