Win/Loss Analysis: Validated Market Perception
A win/loss analysis could uncover much more than why a competitive opportunity was won or lost. It could continually align (or tune in) your organization’s marketing and sales strategies to your prospect’s perceptions.
But this task is often neglected because win-loss analysis:
- Is viewed as discretionary;
- Rarely have actionable goals for outcomes;
- Has non-existent templates;
- Is cast to the sales department to enter a single-reason field into a monthly loss report.
However, the greatest myth is that this type of work is a definitive means of securing the reality of why your company won or lost a competitive sales cycle.
But, the prospect has yet to use its acquired products or experience vendor services in a live production environment, so perception is the only knowledge that is extracted from win-loss analysis. Market perception can help better align your sales and marketing messages.
Perception is reality to your prospects.
Another benefit of win-loss analysis is that it enables you to verify your distinctive competency.
The only way to rediscover differentiation messaging is to understand the prospective buyer’s perceived reality of their needs and fulfilling those needs with market-leading company attributes and unique solution features.
Utilizing your unique company attributes to a unique product, service or solution creates your message alignment and helps you articulate the “story.”
Of course, all prospect, client, and shareholder communications should share this story and it all starts with extracting prospect perception.
The Eight Rules of Successful Win/Loss Analysis
What are the top three reasons sales representatives provide to management when asked, “Why did we lose that competition?”
If you said price, product, or lateness to the process, you might be correct. But the only way you can avoid assumptions is through talking to the prospects, customers and non-customers.
Also, win-loss analysis should be embedded into daily sales, marketing and development routines as a continual performance, differentiation and messaging buyer-alignment process.
Before adopting a discipline you should first have some ground rules, so let’s examine the eight rules of successful win/loss analysis:
1. Conduct equal interviews between all client and non-client competitions.
To preserve the statistical validation of post-decision findings, two reasons make it imperative that an equal number of wins and losses are interviewed.
The first is that client-only findings (post-decision and customer satisfaction) will affix higher responses to certain “ownership” attributes such as product functionality, service quality, commitment, vision and implementation methodology.An equal number of prospects who are not selecting your solution are needed to counter the skewed ratings.
The second reason is that a higher percentage of clients are willing to participate in interviews out of loyalty to their recent selection, so efforts must be increased to secure equal lost opportunity interviews.
2. Conduct interviews within three months of the final decision.
Interviews should be conducted prior to the prospect being live, or in production, with its acquired applications, services, or products because sales cycle knowledge is most credible immediately after decisions are made.
What’s more, memory perception is diminished six months after the decision; particularly when exposed to actual product installation services, maintenance and training.
The more complex the sales cycle solution is the quicker a post-decision interview needs to be scheduled because people retain less than 10% of what they have been exposed to.
We have found that the order of win-loss content is very important in stimulating a participant’s memory.
So it helps to start with simple questions about organizational statistics and the decision process enables participants time (usually 10 minutes) to forget about the event that had them distracted prior to your call. As a result, a clear channel with important knowledge opens up. At that point, competitive advantage and disadvantage is extracted and clearer decision-making thoughts are revealed.
3. Ensure a non-sales environment.
A sales cycle is not complete until the post-decision interview is conducted. A one-time win/loss analysis is typically conducted by sales personnel only after a vendor has finished second in a prospect decision process.
The objective of this interview is usually to discover any last-minute opportunity or opening that might still secure the interviewee’s business.
A win-loss environment should be free of conflict or judgment. An organization increases its probability of success if a separate department not staffed with the sales team conducts the post-decision interviews. And the objective is to maintain a common pulse on the industry, corporate culture, clients, brand, prospect needs and messaging.
4. If a non-sales environment can’t be achieved, outsource to an unbiased outside party.
The odds are stacked against most organizations that are trying to internally conduct post-decision interviews. Several tendencies contribute to this problem: difficulty in achieving objectivity; the inaccuracy of self-diagnosis; and the lack of continuity metrics.
If the win-loss interview cannot be conducted in a non-sales environment or if the tasks too daunting for an organization, then consider outsourcing it.
When assessing an outsourcing company for post-decision interviews four rules apply:
- Avoid conflict of interest (e.g., biased sales process training firms, consultants who sell services to your prospects).
- Ensure a reasonable interview-to-interviewer ratio (e.g., 1200 annual interviews: 1 interviewer).
- Select interviewers who understand your business and sales cycle.
- Make sure that the deliverable is actionable (e.g., recommendations that either validate your process or verify change).
5. Compile, compare, and present quarterly findings.
A one-time interview is helpful in assessing a single opportunity, yet it provides no indication of improvement or degradation of sales performance.
So, scripted post-decision interviews must be collected and compiled no less than quarterly to monitor changes in buyer decision criteria, process, perception, and sales performance.
6. Use a metric-based and structured template.
What a prospect declares after a decision process is steeped in emotion.
As a result, it is easier to secure a scale of how they feel about a subject than it’s to secure tangible and resolute free-form articulation of a complex sales cycle. It is easier for an interviewee to quantify their perception of the competition, products, sales cycle performance, services, and companies when ratings (e.g., 1-10), rankings (e.g., Top1-5), or weighted priorities (e.g., High, Medium, Low) are used.
Even though quantifiable evidence is preferred, capturing contextual free-form comments is essential to gaining insight into each response.
It is important to mention, however, that post-decision interviews must be carefully planned to: match the stages of your sales process; narrow the interview vehicle attributes or actions to a single word or hyphenated phrase; group attribute and actions into statistics, process, criteria, and performance categories.
7. Make the post-decision interview non-discretionary.
Few organizations conduct win/loss analysis and even fewer monitor the alignment between their selling process and the buyer process.
Whether the reason is fear(e.g., sales management doesn’t want executives to verify reality; marketing is unsure of its brand perception) or the value is unclear(e.g., corporate doesn’t want to invest the resources; company has not performed win-loss analysis in the past), this is an alarming oversight.
Post-decision interviews are the only means of capturing the knowledge needed to align any marketing and sales strategies to market perception. Post-decision interviews are not discretionary for successful organizations.
8. Understand that perception is reality.
Perception is more powerful than reality when a prospect evaluates a solution. Buyers buy what they believe is true.
Additionally, post-decision interviews are conducted prior to a prospect or customer using the acquired products or services, so the only knowledge gained is perception. Prospect’s perception, as obtained from a win-loss interview, is required to competitively differentiate and align a vendor company, product, and service to market perception.
The Good News: Most Organizations are Equipped to Conduct Unbiased Post-Decision Interviews
By making win-loss interviews non-discretionary and by internally adopting or outsourcing a diagnostic back-end to your sales cycle process, your firm can “tune in” to market perception. Armed with reality, you will gain competitive advantage by diagnosing your sales performance, verifying your differentiation, and aligning your selling process with your buyer’s process.
Improve Your Approach to Win/Loss Analysis by enrolling in Foundations
In this course you’ll learn how to:
- Understand the market and the problems it faces
- Use market knowledge to build and sell products people want to buy
- Master the Pragmatic Framework and the activities needed to bring a successful product to market
- Learn to listen to the market, prioritize projects and drive result