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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7 Top Competitive Intelligence Blogs Read in 2016

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

Here they are in order of popularity:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you in 2017.

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

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How You Can Become a Conversation Rockstar

So much about life revolves around effective communication.

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

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

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

Traci describes four communication preferences:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic
  • Auditory Digital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflecting on Present Moments with Amy Cuddy

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

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

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

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

“Confidence without arrogance.” Rohan, Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love this from Maya Angelou:

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

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

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

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Win Loss 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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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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