Q & A from July 2015 SCIP Global Chapter Webinar: “Win/Loss Analysis: How to Clinch and Keep the Business You Want.”
- Competitor analysis comes from Win/Loss analysis (interviews) or comes from Win/Loss + research? If it comes from Win/Loss what is the weight?
Competitor analysis comes from many sources, and Win/Loss interviews should be a key source since they come directly from your customers and those who selected a competitor. I would give Win/Loss a high weight, but definitely continue other forms of research in your competitive intelligence operation. Win/Loss is another piece of your competitive arsenal to analyze the marketplace.
- Advantages / Examples of close ended questions versus open ended?
Close ended questions are those which can be quantified, often benchmarking such as comparing your company to the other competitors across a number of categories, such as clarity of sales proposal, effectiveness of the product demo, specific product features, and industry consultant assessment.
Open ended questions are qualitative and give your customers and potential customers the chance to share their buying process in their words and how they like to communicate. You often get incredible insight from the qualitative. Whereas you ask everyone the same close ended questions, and can pull out trends once you have enough interviews to analyze.
Examples of open ended questions are:
- What compelling goal or event spurred this buying decision?
- Why did you decide to include our company as a contender?
- Where did you get your information?
- What information source(s) were most influential?
3. Can you give examples of value propositions to use?
Value propositions are an individual thing, geared for your company, industry and your customer. I often ask Sales’ guidance in developing value propositions, since they know what will make their customers talk. Here are a few general ones you can use, but it’s more effective if you individualize your value proposition to maximize customer engagement.
- We want to improve how we do business with our customers.
- Our customers are our best source of intelligence. We continually strive to improve our sales, marketing and product development through your feedback.
- Win/Loss gives you an opportunity for a frank discussion about how we can improve our relationship with you and your company.
- Is Win/Loss just for B2B?
Win/loss is mostly for B2B. However, I have had excellent learning from B2C on occasion. In one case we got names off product registration lists and cold called the customers. The weakness was that we didn’t interview enough non-customers. Yet we gained intelligence for this customer that they had been unable to learn from any other source.
4A. If for B2C, do you think we can use Social Web Listening to do W/L? (Complementing interviews with social web listening)
Social media is a great source especially of complaints from customers, both of your products and your competitors. These comments can help you form questions to be used in Win/Loss, and beyond that product development and customer service improvements. Also you might be able to interview some of these folks, which extends your reach to customers and prospects you wouldn’t reach through more traditional means.
- Can you develop / give examples of causes why you “lose”?
Here are a few reasons from my experience: bad customer references, sales too pushy, unclear proposal, generic product demo instead of one geared to the customer’s industry, price, specific product features, competitor’s customer service is so excellent (competitor is incumbent and won the business…again). There are many more…
- How do senior executives benefit from Win/Loss?
Most are interested in trends, which might be early warning and new or surprise findings from Win/Loss. This will depend on your company’s goal in conducting Win/Loss analysis. What executives like is that one cannot argue with the results and analysis of Win/Loss interviews since they are fueled by your customers and those who chose a competitor.
For example, the executive might be interested in a new product’s market penetration. Win/Loss might uncover some unintended uses for the product where there is little competition.
An executive might be concerned that you are losing share in your flagship product. Win/loss interviews may indicate why, and what action(s) you might take to reverse this.
- In practice, how long does it take for the full Win/Loss process (Win/Loss cycle)?
You can learn a lot even from conducting of 10 – 20 interviews just once. However, you will gain the best intelligence by doing quarterly or monthly Win/Loss interviews over at least one year, and even more over two years and longer. Like competitive intelligence, Win/Loss analysis is ideally an ongoing practice.
Other factors to weigh in are length of the sales cycle, complexity of decision-making, and complexity of your products or service.
- If you outsource Win/Loss, how can you guarantee that the interviewer knows the business and does not bias the analysis, and can get to the bottom of things?
No one knows your business like you do. However, most Win/Loss interviewers can learn your business, as long as you’re willing to share the ins and outs of how you conduct business, the sales cycle, sales proposals, product demos, the competition, industry consultant assessments, and let them communicate directly with your sales, marketing and product managers, especially at the outset of the Win/Loss engagement.
There is so much information consultants can gather on the Internet and social media as well. Unless your business is extremely technical and complex, most consultants are capable of learning enough about your business to conduct Win/Loss interviews, and will get better at it over time, not unlike how it works when you use internal sources, who usually aren’t as good at interviewing customers since they don’t do it as a full-time job.
Those who conduct Win/Loss interviews continuously pick up on new industries pretty readily, and tend to be less biased than company interviewers. In most cases, customers and non-customers share more information with a neutral third party than they will with company employees, even though they know that the consultant will be sharing the results with your company.
- How much time is the customer willing to spend in Win/Loss interviews?
20 – 30 minutes is the industry average. People are so busy these days. That’s why you need to learn as much about each situation before you call the customer. “Know me before you call me,” is today’s mantra in Win/Loss interviews.
The length of time might differ depending on the industry, and the customer’s culture. Those in technology often are pressed for time, and thus it’s more challenging to get them to agree to a Win/Loss interview. It also depends on the position they hold in the company. Executives tend to give me less time, but they usually impart great information quickly which is spot on.
10. Is Win/Loss an activity that is just for large contracts or unexpected losses, or can it be used on a much smaller level by sales reps looking to turn a small account around?
Win/Loss is best suited for larger, more strategic wins and losses. That said, Win/Loss can be used however you think your company will best benefit from it. It could be that what you learn from turning around that small account can be used for numerous other accounts, which might be highly profitable.
11. Who should be involved in the Win/Loss process? My previous experience suggests that sales people do not take kindly to evaluation from other departments. Are CI teams well placed for this or should this be a bigger exercise involving sales, country directors, etc.?
This is a great question, and it involves assessing your company’s culture, and how best to sell Win/Loss to Sales and other departments such as marketing, product development, and your Web intelligence collectors.
Ideally sales, marketing and product development should be involved in setting up the Win/Loss process. CI is often part of one of these groups, and is well suited to do the analysis as long as they have the tactical knowledge of the company’s and competitor’s products and services.
Win/Loss is not just assessing sales performance. You are assessing marketing, product development and your company’s reputation. Most of the buying decision is made before Sales is contacted by prospective customers. A big part of Win/Loss is learning how your company made the short list before they called Sales. Sales is more challenged by this process since someone else is contacting their customers/prospects, and they don’t have control over this, and many in Sales feel they own the customer relationship.
A great way to get Sales’ buy-in for Win/Loss is to have them help set it up, and form the questions that they would like to learn from customers. In my experience over time, Sales will give you customers and lost customers they want interviewed for Win/Loss.
- How would you go about starting Win/Loss in a company that doesn’t currently embrace it?
Much of this is answered in question #11 above.
You need to assess your company’s culture, and figure out who is likely to support Win/Loss and who is likely to feel challenged by it. Win/Loss is a sales job, not unlike competitive intelligence.
There is much confusion about what Win/Loss analysis is. Part of the sales job is to educate people as to what it is, and what’s in it for them to cooperate, and specific benefits they can expect from the results.
It is the only form of competitive intelligence I know of that has a clear measurable ROI (return on investment). Following are some of the measurable benefits from Win/Loss analysis.
- Increased revenue, profit or volume of sales.
- Increased customer loyalty from interviewing wins means improved customer retention: how much repeat business is that worth?
- Reduction of buying cycles: how much additional revenue or profit does that generate?
- Reduced costs through insights into competitors’ value chains.
- Identification of new markets and applications for existing products where competition might be low.
- Increased sales force productivity.
- Increased proposal win rate.
- Improved product design by identifying features and functionality customers will buy.
- Refined capacity for negotiation with vendors and buyers.
- Better quality prospects: less time wasted on poor prospects.
To learn more about how to conduct your company’s Win Loss analysis, check out my book: Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want.