Voice of the Buyer Research

How to Make the Grade: Achieve the Outcome You Need

Launching a win loss program is like starting a new school year. Hopes are high to earn an “A” in math, to win the science fair, and to be crowned homecoming king or queen. Win loss programs often start out this way too: We sharpen our pencils and draft a new interview guide; we make sure our interview invitations are polished and attention-getting; and we daydream about the beautiful spread Analytics will soon show (well, maybe that last part is just me).

In any case, our ambitions for a new school year don’t always unfold the way we’d hoped. While Primary Intelligence can’t promise good grades and homecoming crowns, we can make sure you see results from your win loss program. Here are three steps to make the most of your buyer feedback and increase your win rate:

Don’t try to memorize the entire textbook.

It’s easy to fall into thinking, “If I consume everything my buyers said, then I will definitely serve them better.” While details can give you helpful context, trying to master each and every buyer’s in depth feedback is more likely to distract you from answering the bigger questionswhy am I winning and losing? How do I turn this into results for my company?

Whether you are looking at an individual interview or a spread of interviews, pay attention to the major impact areas first and fill in the details later.  If your buyer didn’t rank a topic as important to them or if it wasn’t a key decision point, then put it aside. When you streamline information this way, it will be easier for you to interpret the findings and share the key takeaways with your team.

Try This: Company A collected each area their buyer said was highly important and categorized them as a strength or a weakness for their company. Their approach was concise and focused, and it put the spotlight on topics that mattered to buyers. Their audience:

  • Understood their competitive standing at a glance
  • Was confident the takeaways held weight: All topics recently influenced buying decisions
  • Saw an attainable goal. They focused their efforts on improving one or two areas—not a mound of one-off comments

Not This: Company B compiled a summary of all of their strengths and weaknesses with a supporting comment for each. Yikes. It was a huge report, and it was wordy. But, the company insisted their internal team wouldn’t trust the feedback unless they saw all of the data for themselves. This was a costly and unfortunate lesson.  Their audience:

  • Was overwhelmed with the spread of information
  • Lacked direction. They left the presentation feeling bogged down and unclear where they should focus their effort

Use at least two primary-source resources.

There’s nothing like a good history class to drill the importance of using primary sources to draw conclusions, and voice of the buyer research isn’t any different. While voice of the buyer programs do capture direct buyer feedback, there is another primary source that is often overlooked: your sales representative. Their insights about the deal complete the picture of the opportunity. While your buyer provides an external perspective, your sales representative can share the internal activities that influenced the deal, and they also have an ear to the ground for competitor activity. They can relate both of these influencers to the buyer’s perspective.

Discovery Sessions have contributed to a collaborative effort within the company in areas that require our attention – Director of Business Strategy

So, how do you capture your sales representative’s experience? At Primary Intelligence, we host Discovery Sessions. Our consultant hosts a call with your sales team to understand why the deal went the way it did. You can conduct a similar exercise by starting with your most important areas (the same major decision influencers you defined above) and by asking your sales representative to share their perspective for each area. The goal is to uncover the reason why these important decision points went the way they did. You’ll know you have the right answer when you can take action from your sales rep’s responses.

Here’s an example from one of our recent Discovery Sessions:

This is what the buyer said about our client: “Their sales process was too long, and it took too long to reach a desired service offering.”

What action can you take from this? Shortening the sales process sounds like the right path. But, there are unknowns: How do we shorten the sales process? Where did the time-sink happen? Why did this time-sink happen, and is it a typical problem?

Let’s add what the sales team shared in the Discovery Session: “For each new request the buyer had, we had to go back to the contracting department, who would revise the offering. Contracting doesn’t interface with the buyer, so even their best effort couldn’t align with what the buyer wanted.  We went back-and-forth with contracting to reach a viable proposal, and this slowed our sales cycle.”

What action can you take from buyer plus sales feedback? The sales feedback revealed there was more to the deal than their activities. The time-sink wasn’t a sales-specific issue but a company process that wasn’t working. Our client knew they either needed to give the sales team more authority to modify contracts, or include contracting personnel in the sales process.

Without the sales team’s insights, our client wouldn’t have had an actionable finding, and the problem would have been perpetuated for other buyers, causing revenue loss. However, our client swiftly corrected the snag and has benefited from the results of a smoother selling process.

Craft your thesis statement and present your learnings.

The capstone of your voice of the buyer program is a strategy and action discussion (or what we refer to as a Transformation Session). This discussion with a cross-functional team is your opportunity to: 1) Give a condensed answer to, why are we winning and losing business? And, 2) Enable your team to answer, what will we do to improve? If you expect to see a consistent uptick in wins and an increase in revenue, this is the most important activity!

If you’ve already followed the two steps above, there’s no need to panic. The leg-work is already completed, and you’re in a position to craft your thesis with ease. Here’s what to do:

  1. Aggregate your major impact areas from all of your interviews (this is what your buyers said influenced the deal significantly)
  2. Aggregate the reason why each impact area turned out the way it did (this is where the feedback from your sales rep comes in)

When you evaluate these pieces together, you’ll end up with a thesis that describes what happened and how you arrived at that result. The answer to, what now? will follow naturally in your thesis and should become the focal point of your strategy and action discussion. Here’s an example from one of our clients:

We win when we show a strong understanding of the buyer’s needs because it gives buyers confidence we’ll deliver a valuable solution. We understand a buyer’s needs in-depth when we engage them early and spend at least a month learning about their pain points and exceptions.

What makes this a strong thesis? First, we can see cause and effect. We see what happened, and we can see why it happened. Second, it answers, what should we do next? Our client updated their sales strategy and made it a standard practice to engage early and to spend a month understanding the buyer’s requirements.  As a result, they’ve seen an increase in wins and have been able to offer their buyers detailed problem-solution proposals.

Whether you’ve just launched a voice of the buyer program or if you’re halfway through one, following these three steps will help you achieve results—but not just any results. You’ll see quantifiable improvements that translate to increased value for your company and a higher scorecard from your customers. Oh, and one more thing: You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing something you learned in school did make a difference outside of the classroom.

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