Contributed Column

Creative Intelligence

by Erik Glitman

Using Win/Loss to build value and competitive insight

If you ask your sales team why they won the deal, the typical answer boils down to how skilled the salespeople were. If you ask them why they lost the deal, the answer generally comes down to price or a factor that is entirely beyond the control of the sales team. These seem reasonable at first glance but the answers really don’t provide any unique insights. A Win/Loss analysis might.

To get real insights and generate the greatest value from your Win/Loss, you have to go to the customers — the decision makers — and learn from them.

Effective business Win/Loss analysis is a method that looks at a full range of key decision factors and includes both quantitative and qualitative research with the buyer decision maker to compare how your company performed against those key decision factors.

There are four key elements to a successful Win/Loss program.

1. Determine the key decision factors for the products and services you sell. This includes looking at the ways that features, functions, integration, price, presentation, references, and so on affect the decision process. This is an iterative process and should be repeated on a regular basis to maintain relevance. You will need to rank each factor according to the amount of influence it has in the final decision.

2. Decide how to select deals that will be included in the Win/Loss program. You can do this in various ways. For example, it is possible to cover all deals or just a selection of them. It’s also possible to have different levels of detail collection in the deals covered, giving some a more in-depth interview and others a short, closed-ended survey. Typically, it’s a good idea to cover a minimum of 10 deals or 10 percent, whichever is greater. It’s also important that the deals selected be representative of all your deals. The goal is mixing the two and providing broader coverage.

Deal type

Which deals to include

Strategic

All deals

Transactional deals (sold without modification or customization)

Random sampling

Major accounts

Minimum of 20% or those above a $ value threshold

Specialty deals

All deals

Deals below a $ threshold

Random sampling

3. Determine how to collect the insight into the sales outcome from the sales team and the prospect. Who does the collection is also an important factor since data collection works best when it’s independent of the sales force. This independence is needed to remove the bias — which comes from both the sales team and the customer — that is present when the Win/Loss is done by the sales force. Using a third party consultant for collection offers the cleanest solution to remove bias, but it is also acceptable to use a different department within the company, as long as the department is seen to be separate from the sales operation. The two most popular collection methods are a) to have a closed-ended survey delivered over the Internet, or b) an open-ended survey conducted by telephone. Each has its advantages and when done properly, provide great insight into the root causes of the sales outcome.

4. Establish a program to distribute the Win/Loss information to produce change. Collecting and analyzing the data on why a deal was won or lost is a valuable process in its own right. However, to really make a change to how your company sells, and what it sells, you need to develop actionable recommendations that cut across the divisional lines. This is best when the Win/Loss is done using a cross section of company functions and has senior level support.

Recommendations and their implementation can lead to changes in the obvious areas such as how the sales team operates, but also can have impact on new-product development, marketing messaging, use of reference sites, and product features and functions.

Building a well-thought-out Win/Loss program that supplies recommendations based on the input from multiple customers and customer interactions can help the sales team close more deals and the marketing team develop messaging that more closely matches customer requirements. Engaging the entire company in Win/Loss makes it more likely that the results will be implemented. •

Erik Glitman is the CEO of Fletcher/CSI in Williston (www.fletchercsi.com).

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