B2B Win Loss programs are gaining tailwinds as more companies look for ways to gain a competitive edge. And what better way to gain that edge than by finding out reasons for wins and losses in competitive sales opportunities?

Win Loss programs can seem daunting to the uninitiated. Where to start? Who to involve? How to gain traction to move the program forward without running into headwinds that will make progress difficult?

In our latest research on the State of Win Loss, Primary Intelligence asked Win Loss practitioners for their advice to companies who are just starting out on their Win Loss journeys. Below is a summary of these experts’ best and brightest ideas.

Do your homework

Before your Win Loss program starts, determine your program goals and desired outcomes, know what questions you want to ask buyers, and decide which customers and prospects you’ll reach out to for feedback.

Will you only seek feedback from large and/or strategic accounts, or all accounts? Will you only follow up on losses, or will you collect a balance of wins and losses?

Formalize the program

Implementing a structured Win Loss program provides a concrete framework, identifies a person or group to champion it, encourages a kick-off meeting, sets appropriate expectations, and provides a mechanism through which ongoing communication and pro-active program updates can be delivered.

Determine how Win Loss insights will be used and shared

If a buyer provides constructive—and possibly harsh—feedback about a sales rep’s performance, how will that information be communicated?

Decide if the buyer’s feedback will only be shared with the rep in the opportunity, or if it also be shared with the wider sales organization to build a culture of learning and best practices. No matter which approach is taken, use Win Loss programs as learning tools, not as performance management tools.

Also determine how Win Loss feedback about product, support, and pricing will be disseminated and used throughout the wider organization.

Engage sales teams early and often

It’s important to ensure that sales managers and reps are on board with Win Loss initiatives and that their goals and objectives are clearly understood and included in the program framework. Giving sales teams input on which interview questions to ask, along with regular read-outs of Win Loss findings, will help keep them engaged over the long term.

Get leadership buy-in

Win Loss program success is difficult, if not impossible, without support from the organization’s senior leadership team, including the CEO and senior sales, marketing, and service/support executives. Support from senior leadership will help to ensure the program becomes embedded in the organization’s culture, proving sustainable over time.

Look for common themes

While analysis and discussion of individual deal reports is important, it’s equally critical to look across the data and identify common issues or concerns that can be addressed at a strategic level.

Use analytics for greater control and better insights

As one Win Loss practitioner stated: “You’re going to get flooded with information and if you don’t have the tools to analyze that information, things are going to get lost.” Software that allows for filtering, searching, tagging, grouping, and presenting results will go a long way toward finding key insights and staying on top of the information deluge.

Link ROI to Win Loss initiatives

Tying return on investment to Win Loss efforts will help create traction for the program because it will demonstrate hard dollar benefits.

Update buyer discussion guide questions on a consistent basis

Markets and competitors change quickly, and so do product features and functionality. To get the most from your Win Loss program, make sure to review your Discussion Guide at regular intervals.

Accept imperfection

Starting and maintaining successful Win Loss programs can be time consuming and hard. Win Loss can also upend organizational cultures and processes. Accept that the program may take months—or years—to perfect. As one Sales Analyst in the Healthcare industry noted: “It’s going to take a while to get it right, but don’t let that stop you. Just because your data and your processes aren’t perfect doesn’t mean that there’s not value in it.”

Consider using a third party

While Win Loss initiatives can be and often are successful when done internally, some Win Loss practitioners strongly favor outsourcing Win Loss initiatives so they can focus on the strategic elements of Win Loss—the data, analysis, outcomes, best practices, root causes, and transformation—while offloading the tactical details of scheduling calls, conducting interviews, and aggregating the findings to a third party. Third parties also keep the feedback objective.