Knowing which of your distinctive competencies are being recognized by the marketplace allows you to adjust your marketing and sales strategies accordingly.
And, understanding your customers’ perspectives and what separates you from your competitors is integral to improving your win rate.
To obtain this knowledge, however, you need an effective customer listening tool.
Win/loss programs are essential tools for capturing and understanding the voice of the customer.
When considering the importance of understanding distinctive competencies, there are two main ways a win/loss program can help:
- Identifying new differentiators
- Confirming hypothesized ones
Identifying New Differentiators
The best win/loss programs collect a mix of both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Each of these questions elicits valuable data about how unique a company’s positioning and offerings are in the marketplace.
Qualitative Feedback on Distinctive Competencies
Asking open-ended qualitative questions allows companies to understand their customers’ true opinions. Rather than biasing respondents by asking about a company’s postulated differentiators directly, you’ll gain immense value by leaving the related questions more open-ended. A question included in many of Anova’s win/loss programs is:
“What, if anything, did our client do to differentiate itself from the competition during the sales process?”
By leaving this question open-ended, with no prompting and no biasing, the company can be confident that the responses are the prospects’ true top-of-mind opinions.
Additionally, the potential responses are infinite rather than forcing answers into a specific designation. Given the endless possibilities for answers, it carries more weight when the exact differentiator comes up across multiple interviews.
That distinctive competency is truly resonating.
For example, Anova works with many B2B enterprise technology companies. One of these organizations, an Enterprise Content Management provider, did not clearly understand its distinctive competencies at the start of its win/loss program.
Based on the research, open-ended questions (like the one mentioned above) were asked, and two themes consistently emerged:
- The client’s unique approach to document management
- Its high-touch service model.
Anova did not prompt these answers; however, almost all prospects interviewed mentioned at least one of the two as a differentiator.
Knowing these competencies resonated with the marketplace allowed our client to feel confident that these were elements of their offering that genuinely stood out to prospects. These results convinced the company to continue positioning those elements in future sales processes.
Quantitative Feedback on Distinctive Competencies
In addition to asking open-ended questions about distinctive competencies, quantitative-type scoring questions can also help provide valuable feedback.
It is common within win/loss programs to ask respondents to rate their satisfaction with specific attributes on a numerical scale.
A best practice is to ask respondents to rate their satisfaction with a sales team’s ability to differentiate.
Back to our previous example with the B2B enterprise technology company, when asked to rate this attribute, nearly three-quarters of all prospects (both wins and losses) were satisfied with the team’s ability to differentiate. This high satisfaction rate further convinced our client that those points of differentiation truly stood out to prospects.
Open-ended questions that do not “lead the witness” are often the most effective way to determine if a distinctive competency is resonating with prospects.
However, another way to test if a particular element is unique and memorable is to ask about it more directly.
In win/loss programs, many companies will ask prospects if they are aware of certain strategies that are tied to the company’s unique business. Doing this allows a company to measure whether their team is effectively discussing those strategies. Feedback from these more direct types of questions can also be instrumental.
When the answer to these questions is yes, the organization knows its resources are being used well and can now direct its attention to the other parts of its business.
If most respondents answer no, however, the company must strategize whether it is worth it to continue investing in a message that is not resonating with its customers.
One example of the value of confirming whether a distinctive competency resonates with the marketplace involves another Anova client: an institutional financial services company that has a large part of its business focused on partnering with organizations in the public sector.
The organization wanted to know whether its focus in the public sector resonated positively with clients, so Anova has asked a question that directly addressed this over the last few years of win/loss programs. The finding has been consistent: nearly all prospects confirm that the company’s focus on the public sector is a key strength and differentiator.
The confidence of knowing their message resonated with the marketplace allowed the company to focus its attention on other areas of its business, as opposed to worrying if prospects were acknowledging their differentiators.
Conversely, Anova works with some organizations whose distinctive competencies do not resonate.
In a recent study, an insurance provider Anova partners with wanted to know if its focus on a specific type of care separated it from its competitors.
Anova took a similar approach as above and asked direct questions to determine if the client’s focus was a differentiator or not. In this case, only 35% of respondents thought focusing differentiated the insurance provider. Because the marketplace was not appreciating their competency, the company had to adjust its messaging to align with areas customers were interested in more closely.
- Whether helping to identify new differentiators or to confirm specific strategies for your company’s unique business resonate with prospects, win/loss programs are an effective tool for better understanding your distinctive competencies.
- The true value of these studies is providing the knowledge to help guide some of your most strategic decisions. They also shape the answers to a fundamental question: how do customers view our business?
Ultimately, actions taken because of the feedback from a win/loss program will help you win more business – something we all strive for.
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