Win/loss analysis is all about capturing intel about the buying process from the buyer’s perspective. It’s impactful work but is often underutilized. In fact, a recent Pragmatic survey found only 35 percent of product teams were doing win/loss analysis.
And yet, so often companies struggle to understand why prospects make the buying decision they do.
A prospect appears to be a perfect fit, but they decide to go with the competitor at the end of the day with little or no clear explanation of their decision.
That’s when we start questioning ourselves.
Was it our offering?
Was it our price?
Or was it our sales process?
Those are key questions that companies need to ask to grow constantly.
But to hone in on that knowledge, it’s essential to adopt a structured approach to collecting buyer insights. If companies decide just to do an ad-hoc win/loss interview, and there’s not a more structured process around that, then companies will end up relying on anecdotal knowledge and never truly understanding the buyer.
And that’s where win/loss analysis comes into play.
Win/loss analysis is a great way to generate a fresh flow of buyer feedback that adds value to several functions across the organization.
Key Components of a Structured Win/Loss Program
1. Stakeholder Buy-In
An organization that’s ready to invest in a win/loss program will have the right mindset. It’s a growth mindset, and teams are ready to take action. That’s not always the case. Often, a program leader is invested in the program but not the rest of the organization.
Getting stakeholders involved early in the process is important so you can work to understand their needs. You also want to know what they want to learn from their buyers and what hypotheses they might have that they want to prove or disprove.
Opening up that dialogue early on with your key stakeholders will be key to getting the program in place and making it valuable and actionable to multiple departments.
The key players who need to be involved in the win-loss program are the head of marketing, head of product and head of sales, and the executive team. Additionally, the entire sales team is crucial to have on your side because they can be extremely helpful in delivering interview target leads, identifying the right person to interview, and securing interviews.
2. Identify the Program’s Focus
Your company may offer multiple products to various buyers in different regions across numerous industries. With so many variables, it is critical to remember that trend analysis is only possible when a set of win/loss interviews share three or four characteristics, also called research cohorts. Otherwise, you may end up with interesting one-off stories that are not great for trend analysis.
For example, maybe you have the same price for all of your buyers. Perception of value, pricing and budget negotiations will look very different depending on the organization’s size. So you want to target specific types of buyers and use research cohorts to structure your study.
3. Outline the Criteria for Interview Target Selection
It’s critically important to qualify leads. Identifying and selecting the right interview target is essential to a successful win/loss program. You want to select buyers able to provide the greatest value.
Here are several identifiers of excellent candidates for win/loss interviews:
- Look for late-stage competitive deals
- Conducting Interviews is another vital component of a successful win/loss program.
- Someone who also considered your competitors
- The recency of their decision. The sooner you speak with a candidate, the more likely they recall their decision-making process and more likely to engage.
4. A System to Organize Data
After you’ve conducted all the interviews, you need a system or tool to help you organize all the qualitative, unstructured win/loss data. You’ll also need tagging methodologies to sift through the data and easily identify and visualize trends and common themes in areas like sales performance, product feedback, competitive intelligence, and so forth.
5. Share Findings Broadly in the Organization
You’ll help influence a company’s growth mindset by constantly sharing your win/loss insights across your organization. When a win/loss program is up and running, the best thing that helps accelerate it is presenting the findings to various stakeholders to help them answer their hypotheses and questions that they may have about your buyers.
That’s when people start to get it, saying, “wow, this is great, detailed information that we need, and we need to keep doing this to make decisions and refine our strategy.”
How to Recruit Interviewees
There are two outreach approaches: the leadership-first approach and the sales-first approach.
In the leadership-first approach, a member of the leadership team who might be recognized by the target group will send off the initial email and invite them to participate in a win/loss interview. This approach is ideal for companies with a strong prequalified interview target list that want to move quickly into the recruitment phase.
The advantage of this approach is it is straightforward, and teams fairly quickly start capturing insights. The disadvantage is only if the target leads aren’t correct, the results may not be as actionable.
The sales-first approach is when the sales team provides warm leads. This approach is excellent for companies where sellers develop a strong relationship with the buyer over time. It’s also good when the purchase decision is strategically important to the buying organization.
The advantage of this approach is there is a higher conversion rate because of the relationship. The disadvantage is leveraging sales may slow down the process for a couple of reasons.
First, salespeople are extremely busy and might take time to respond because closing deals is their priority. Second, if they are not promoting the program, you’ll experience pushback.
The Role of Incentives
Incentives are a good way to get the target audience involved in a win/loss interview. It’s usually easier to schedule an interview with someone who purchased the product versus someone whose business we did not win.
So, incentives for wins are slightly lower than incentives for losses. We also have to keep in mind the audience and their schedules. For example, a medical practitioner could be extremely hard to meet with, so we might have to be creative in our approach.
How Teams Can Leverage Win/Loss Data
The research that comes through win/loss analysis will help identify whether you’re offering is aligned with the current market needs or not. Those insights will enable companies to inform product roadmaps and help develop more customer-centric products.
Win/loss will bring to life sales coaching and sales training. By capturing quotes from those buyers and embedding those into their training modules, they can help new sellers get up to speed with best practices to drive higher win rates.
Win/loss can capture competitive intelligence and provide a better view of their competitive landscape. It will help to highlight key differentiators of your product or services. Also, you have a view into the advantages and disadvantages of competitors’ competitive offerings versus your own.
Win/loss provides insights into how the market views your organization and your offering. So, this work will help with brand awareness. It will help you drive more effective lead generation campaigns, inform the content you’re putting on your website and identify areas where you need to adjust your messaging.
Moving From Anecdotal to Reliable Intelligence
Having that constant flow of fresh feedback will help the organization make better, smarter, more informed decisions, mainly because you are replacing that anecdotal knowledge with reliable intelligence.
The anecdotal evidence that we use can be inaccurate.
There’s often (but not always) a difference between self-reported reasons why a buyer did or didn’t choose us and the real reason for the buying decision. A structured win/loss program will provide a deeper level of insight.
And this feedback is powerful because it captures the unfiltered truth from buyers and customers about their experiences. Evaluating a vendor is often actionable and close to revenue because its insights are embedded in the sales process.
Acting upon those insights and making the necessary changes for people already in the sales funnel can directly impact win rates.
So many organizations show one sales story or one extreme, and they can have knee-jerk reactions to these singular stories. It might be accurate. Just because it’s an anecdote from one buyer doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate–but it’s just one story.
Moving from one story to a collection of conversations and a repository of reports is game-changing.
Keep Learning How to Become Truly Market-Driven
When you enroll in Foundations, you’ll take a deep look at how to develop a structured win/loss analysis program.
You’ll also learn the Pragmatic Framework and how to use market knowledge to build and sell products people want to buy.