Examining the reasons behind why you win and lose deals will help you better understand your buyer’s decision-making criteria, improve your win ratio, explain why your competitors are winning, and identify training needs for your sales organization.
Win/Loss analysis may be one of the most important strategic activities for marketing and product leaders. Yet we often relegate this critical activity to other parts of the organization or to a traditional survey firm.
What did Steven Covey teach us? The time you spend on the important activities will reduce the time wasted on urgent activities.
Yet as an industry, we tend to focus on the urgent and the tactical. We’re involved with firefighting and emergencies. Product leaders and executives and developers get involved in daily hysteria when instead we should be examining behaviors and patterns that eliminate those emergencies in the future.
Sales people in particular are encouraged to be tactical. “Make this call.” “Check back with that customer.” And we want that. After all, instead of obsessing on the last deal, we want our sales execs concentrating on the next client. We want our sales professionals looking ahead instead of looking back.
We often see teams do win/loss reporting for one big deal that fell apart. This is like a post-mortem: what did you do wrong? In medicine, a pathologist examines the patient looking for evidence of what the surgical team did wrong. This is followed by a debrief with the surgical team and, at least on TV, often looks like a blame game. “Why did you do this?” “Did you know you did that?” But in addition to examining each instance, today’s hospitals also analyze for patterns. A series of health problems may instead lead back to the personnel who handled the charts or to a problem in one of the surgical theaters.
In sports, you have the play-by-play, picking apart each individual action throughout the game. And that makes for good television. But overall improved team success doesn’t come from reporting the plays but from watching multiple plays in multiple games against multiple competitors and examining what the team does again and again, both right and wrong.
Reporting is what an announcer does.
Analyzing is what a coach does.
And that’s what we should be doing in win/loss. Analysis is not a one-time event; it’s a process.
Product managers, competitive intelligence professionals, and marketing leaders should be actively analyzing both win and losses to see what patterns emerge. What do we do right? Let’s make sure everyone does it. What do we do wrong? Let’s fix that for all our sales teams. Let’s develop our own best practices and help our sales teams close more deals faster.
By the way, there are many places in the lifetime of a customer where a win analysis should take place: after the sale, after the initial implementation, after the full implementation, and each year thereafter. After all, don’t we want to know what we’re doing right year after year? We want to ask customers continually: “Are we still winning your business?”
As for losses, when did we lose the sale? At initial evaluation? Or even before serious consideration? There are many places in the sales process to do loss analysis: after a qualified lead chooses not to go to the next step; after the presentation fails to move the client to an evaluation; after losing an RFP, ITT, or other bid.
With up-to-date, accurate win and loss information, we can make for a more successful sales process. Marketing leaders should be examining loss information as a technique for more effective messaging, qualification criteria, sales tools, customer collateral, and more. Product leaders will see how improving the product features or even the key elements of a product demo could result in more revenue.
And the savvy sales executive can finally answer with confidence the question: “How are your sales teams doing?”