I have been doing competitive intelligence since 1985. Win/loss interviews and analysis, are still one of my favorite tactical collection techniques. This is a low cost form of primary collection which always provides a high return for improving your company’s bottom line. Who better than your customers and those who decided on a competitor to tell you what you are doing well and what you need to change? I have noticed that actions taken from win loss analysis are particularly effective at improving customer retention. Retaining customers is more economic than obtaining new ones.
Yet many companies still don’t include win loss analysis as part of their sales process:
- They think they are conducting win/loss interviews, and they aren’t. Sales fills out a few reason codes for the win or loss, and that passes for win loss analysis…NOT
- Sales doesn’t want any part of this process since it challenges their egos and they fear this customer connection by an outsider will jeopardize their customer relationship
- The company doesn’t want to change how it’s doing business. Win/loss analysis provides ammunition around behaviors, product features, and so much more, which if changed will improve sales results
- Ignorance. Some companies have no idea how much valuable information their customers/non customers will share, if only they ask.
What are the traits of someone who masterfully conducts win loss interviews?
#1 Be organized. Make sure you have all the relevant facts around the sale or lost business, before you dial. Share your process for conducting win loss interviews with those in marketing and sales who need to know. They need to understand why you are calling their customers, how this process works, and that this form of communication is not a threat to their livelihood. On a cooperative note, include their good ideas in win loss interviews to their customers/prospects.
#2 Be grounded before you dial. I take some deep breaths, and think, “I want this person to feel better about themself at the end of our call than they do when they pick up the telephone.” Intention is powerful and people sense this immediately, and tend to engage unless they’re really tied up.
#3 Be sensitive to those you’re calling. Make sure you are calling at a good time. I can always tell without asking since they’re usually agitated when the time is bad. Be punctual and stick to the prearranged length for the call unless you sense they are in the sharing mode, and you don’t want to interrupt their flow. Often they are venting, and I would rather they vent to me than to their sales rep.
#4 Find that balance between professional, curious and somewhat playful. This is a fine line. People enjoy sharing with people who are interested in them, and at the same time don’t take themselves too seriously. Most people like a little humor. I find that just smiling as I am speaking on the telephone leads to more sharing on the other end.
#5 Be persistent. We conduct these interviews over the telephone, and many people view telephone conversation as an unwelcome interruption to their work flow. You need to figure out the best way to get that person to pick up their phone and engage with you. I start by creating a compelling email to get their attention, and then follow up with those who don’t respond, however it best makes sense. It’s different with everyone, so follow your intuition. In some cases, they don’t want to connect, so let it go. In other cases, they will say they have very little time, and once they start talking, you almost have to cut them off.
#6 Be a good listener, but guide the conversation. This is a most important trait for all collection conversations. Lay aside your ego, and let them broadcast theirs.
If you want to learn more about the value of conducting win loss analysis; how to do it; and what you can expect to learn, please join host, Arik Johnson, Founder of Aurora WDC, and me, President of The Business Intelligence Source, on September 4 for a webinar at Noon Eastern US time. It’s free to attend. Details including sign-up here. I will speak for a half hour, then we will open up the discussion to you.
Get your free copy of the most comprehensive list of competitive intelligence books with links to purchasing them. One of my favorite books on win loss analysis is Win Loss Reviews: A New Knowledge Model for Competitive Intelligence by Rick Marcet.
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