Who Says Librarians Can’t be Analytic Competitive Intelligence Professionals?

I taught a couple of courses about analytical tools and techniques to librarians as part of SLA’s (Special Library’s Association) competitive intelligence certificate program.  I was amazed at how quickly these librarians built off their information expertise and applied it to analytics.  Here’s an example of how they dove into win loss analysis, my favorite sales intelligence tool. We used the scenario that they sold for Dialog and were losing cases to Lexis-Nexis.

First we would identify all the products that both vendors sell by geography and their perceived value proposition to our customers. We would divide sales according to our market segments to learn which segments are growing and shrinking. We would also consider our product bundling, and would ask Sales about this. We also would look to Sales and Customer Service for their perception of client’s needs versus wants and our competitor. We would tap into our Customer Service people to learn what problems they deal with and how they resolve them. We would incorporate strategic changes to our product line and how projected new releases would affect our position in the marketplace.

This information would help us develop a profile of our product and positioning versus the competition and identify the important issues so we ask the right questions in win loss interviews.

Start-up Issues
How often do we conduct win/loss interviews? We should conduct these interviews within 3 months of the sales event so people remember. Do we involve Sales in the process or do we conduct these calls anonymously without Sales’ knowledge? The argument for anonymity is that you will get less biased answers with neutrality.  However, you might get less deep answers since the customer isn’t sure where this information is going, even though you promise confidentiality. In all cases, we must stress the confidentiality of customer’s answers.

Is Sales already doing some form of win loss analysis or did they do it previously and discontinue it “for some reason”? If you involve Sales, they have great insight as to what questions we to ask since they know their customer’s decision-making criteria.  They also can help us target the right person at each account who has the most knowledge. Overall we thought it would be better to have sales involved in helping us develop questions, to tell us who to call and some facts about their dealings with this customer, their customer’s personality, motivation and communication style. Sales can also tell us why they think they won or lost a sale. Sales might not be as strong in developing questions around product development.

We needed to have the support of senior management all the way down to Sales if we include Sales in this process. We also need to be sensitive to Sales’ relationships with their customers. Perhaps win loss analysis was conducted before and it was not a positive experience for sales, so we need to find out why and overcome those objections and make it cooperative, a win:win for all, which if done correctly, win loss analysis is!

Questions for Win Interviews
Why did they select us? Was there a particular deal swinger?
How close a call was our “win”? Was this new business or a larger contract or was it harder to win than before? Was there some hesitation to continue business with us or to maintain the same level of business?
Did they consider competitors? Who?
What do we do well that we better continue to do if we want to keep their business? What does the competition do well that we could adopt or build on?
What improvements can we make in how we conduct business?
Are there specific wants or needs that we’re not addressing?

Questions for Loss Interviews
Why did we lose? (not in those words)
Who did we lose to?
Were there also other competitors & if so, how did we rate? Why?
Terms: price and contract duration
What was the customer’s budget for this service?
What improvements can we make in how we conduct business?
Are there specific wants or needs that we’re not addressing? Is there anything we could have done which would have caused us to win the business?

I particularly liked this question for both win and loss interviews: What do we offer, which is included in our cost, which is superfluous to our customers—that is they don’t need it?

Obviously we would reword our questions and perhaps incorporate some elicitation skills to be more conversational, but I was impressed that these librarians were so insightful!

Here is an article to supplement your knowledge in win loss analysis.

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