From a Good Sales Call to a Great Sales Call: Book Review

From a Good Sales Call to a Great Sales Call focuses on improving Sales’ post-decision debrief process with prospects, referred to as win loss analysis in the competitive intelligence world. I like how the author, Richard Schroder, adds ‘post-decision debrief’ as the 7th element of the sales process. He insists Sales asks customers for their permission to conduct a post-sales interview during the presentation of your company’s solution rather than waiting until after the buying decision. A professional way to approach your prospect is: “We promote continuous improvement, and whether we win your business or lose it to a competitor, we value your feedback.”

Great Sales Call

Apparently only 18% of US companies have a formal win loss program. Thus, in most new business situations, sales people don’t have a complete and accurate understanding of why they won or lost sales. If armed with such data, Sales can make behavioral changes to improve close rates by 15%.

According to Anova Consulting Group’s research, the sales process is often a top driver of the purchase decision, whether the business is won or lost.

Great Sales Call: Key Reasons for Losses

  • Lack of a customized presentation
  • The salesperson doesn’t accurately uncover and understand the prospect’s unique needs, including decision making criteria
  • The salesperson and/or team does not thoroughly prepare for prospect meetings and the presentation

Richard believes that sales people should not conduct win loss interviews since they often take the loss too personally. They might try to re-sell the customer on their solution, be aggressive, defensive or dejected. This causes the customer to clam up or to tell just part of the story–the part that doesn’t involve Sales. Prospects can also be uncomfortable talking with the salesperson whose solution they just rejected.

Great Sales Call: Sales Conduct Win Loss Interviews

  • Do not attempt to gather win loss feedback during the same call when you learn the sales outcome.
  • Schedule a phone call or in-person visit with the decision-maker a couple of weeks after the sales decision.
  • Take time to prepare the questions you want answered and seek input from your sales organization.
  • This debrief questionnaire should include questions about the customer’s decision-making criteria; qualitative questions around your firm’s strengths and weaknesses; benchmarking against competitors; and the sales process.
  • This preparation will get you grounded, and will help you neutralize your emotions around the win or loss and let you focus on how and what you can learn.

At the end of the win loss interview, ask your customer if you missed anything. In my experience, this is when the floodgates open.

Great Sales Call: Sell Better

  • Build rapport. Learn as much about your prospect(s) as you can through the Internet, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter and industry associations.
  • Don’t just plan your presentation: prepare the initial discussion you will have with each prospect. Ask some open ended questions to engage them.
  • Develop a second approach to build rapport in case the first approach doesn’t work.
  • When in doubt, de-sell. For example, “Perhaps my service doesn’t quite fit your needs.”
  • Be consultative: if your product or service is not what the customer is looking for, refer them to someone who can help them.
  • Remember people want to buy from experts, not salespeople. Research Research Research!

Appendix B tells Sales Managers how to implement a win loss program. It is practical and well thought-out.

Two factors stand out from my experience in developing win loss programs.

  1. Does the program have executive level sponsorship and comprehensive buy-in from critical areas of your company?
  2.  Will the program be well integrated with existing processes already developed at your company?

I have learned the hard way that buy-in is essential at all levels. Some programs never get off the ground due to this lack of communication, sponsorship and integration.

My only criticism is Richard’s strong bias towards using a third party to conduct the win loss analysis. I agree a third party brings less bias to this process, and offers customers anonymity when reporting back to your company. However, I experienced good results conducting win loss analysis for my company prior to consulting.

There are some advantages that internal sources have: they know your company’s products and services better than any third party since this is their full time job. Thus, they can probe more deeply in these areas than can a consultant. They also know your company’s culture. Sometimes consulting firms recommend changes that won’t work with your company’s culture.

I recommend this book for those in marketing and sales who want to implement a win loss program. I particularly recommend this book for salespeople who want to be BETTER. It clearly defines the value proposition for conducting win loss analysis, especially for Sales. Don’t be left out!

Learn more about competitive intelligence

Win/Loss Analysis bookAmazon link to Win/Loss Analysis book

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