Fish or Cut Bait? Win-Lose Sales Metrics Can Help


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One of our customers, a high-technology software company with a relatively long sales cycle, once decided to stop pursuing a prospect after 90 days in the game. The effort needed to win the business was significant, and the sales team deemed the risk and reward unacceptable. When the prospect asked why the company was bowing out of competition, the company pointed to the results of its win-scoring model, and then a funny thing happened.

The prospect helped the salesperson correct some scores in its “win-scoring” model, and the software company eventually landed the sale.

Every salesperson has heard his or her sales manager ask, “Fish or cut bait?” This question is so important because the investment a salesperson makes to win the business is essentially the same as it is to come in second, and no salesperson can afford to consistently come in second. Because of this, we see more companies developing a set of formal win-lose metrics that can be used to help answer the question.

Although each company has win-lose metrics that are unique to its environment, there are generic metrics that apply to many selling situations. The following represents a very simplistic win-lose model. Note that each win-lose metric has degrees of conformance from very good to very bad, so you can derive a win score.

Customer’s Need-to-Buy (The Business Problem) Score
  Need-to-Buy quantified, we are the vendor of choice 20
  Need-to-Buy quantified, customer committed to buy “a” solution 10
  Need-to-Buy identified, customer interested in a solution 0
  Need-to-Buy questionable (nice to have), no commitment – 5
  No Need-to-Buy, (little interest), no commitment -10
Solution fit (as perceived by the prospect)  
  Our solution is unique and provides enough value for change 20
  Our solution is better than existing solution 10
  Our solution is similar to existing solution 0
  Our solution conflicts with existing solution – 5
  Our competitor has a better fit or superior solution -10
The Business Case  
  We are involved in building the business case 20
  We understand the business case framework 10
  We do not know the business case framework 0
  There is no business case framework – 5
  Business case built based on competitor’s advantages -10
The Decision-Making Process  
  We know and heavily influences the DMP 20
  We know the DMP and has some influence 10
  We know the DMP, but has little influence 0
  We do not know the DMP – 5
  Our competitor controls/has positive impact on the DMP -10
  Funding is committed now for this purchase 20
  Funding will be approved within 60 days 10
  Funding identified, but not committed to this project 0
  Sponsor is trying to obtain funding for project – 5
  No funding available this year or business period -10

To determine a score, the salesperson decides what statement best fits the current selling situation. This is not a one-shot model; rather, scores are derived and tracked over time. You would expect that the longer the salesperson is engaged in the selling effort, the trend would be toward higher and higher win scores. Each of the win score categories also provides guidance on what needs to be done to win the business. If today you checked, “We do not know the DMP,” the goal would be to check off, “We know the DMP, and heavily influences the DMP” at a future date. Note that the win score is only an indicator of the potential to win or lose and only as good as the metrics presented and the honesty of the salesperson.

Lessons learned

When our customer’s sales rep told the prospect that the win-scoring model indicated the business wasn’t winnable, the prospect requested a meeting. When the rep and the sales manager reviewed the company’s win-scoring model with the prospect, the prospect corrected a number of misconceptions the sales team had had. The win score increased significantly, and the company decided to pursue the opportunity. And as I said, the company eventually won the business.

If the company had withdrawn earlier, it would have lost a key opportunity. It didn’t, however, mean that the win-scoring approach was seriously flawed. Instead, it allowed the company to take a hard look at the deal. Win-scoring gives your sales team the opportunity to:

  • Take an objective and consistent look at each deal
  • Conduct constructive dialogue among team members
  • Identify actions and activities needed to improve the chance to win
  • Track the deal progress over time and insure that the score is always going up not down
  • Share the win model with a prospect, so you can uncover key misconceptions—both positive and negative

Without the win-scoring model, the company probably would have won the business anyway—without the bauble of almost pulling out. But the sales team would have missed the opportunity to understand how it was perceived by the prospect and some of the nuances behind the business.

In retrospect, the win-scoring model became the agenda for establishing a win-win relationship. The most competitive people I know are salespeople. Failure is not an option for them. Perseverance is one of their greatest strengths and often their greatest weakness. A win-scoring model gives salespeople an important tool to capitalize on this strength and minimize its downside.

Mike Ehrensberger
Sales Force Systems, LLC
Since 1995 Mike Ehrensberger has concentrated on sales performance and effectiveness training and tools with Sales Force Systems. Earlier, he spent 1 years with Teradata Corporation in sales management and customer support management positions.


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