Why sales should never do win/loss reports…

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Win-loss reports can provide remarkably valuable insights into the mind of your prospects and the ways in which they make their buying decisions.

But you should never, ever, leave sales to conduct the interviews.  If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of their reports, you’ll know why – but for those of you who haven’t…

  • When you loose, it was because your price was too high or your product lacked key functionality.
  • When you win, it was all down to the strategy and skills of the salesperson.

Either way, you’ll never learn what the prospect really thought, because prospects lie to sales people – they can’t help it – or they reflect on their post-purchase priorities rather than the things that influenced their decision if, what and how to buy.

It’s also likely that the most attention is paid to the closing stages of the sales process – rather than the often more illuminating questions of what triggered the prospect’s search for a solution in the first place, what they thought they were looking for, and who they turned to for advice.

It’s nigh-on inevitable that nothing new or of any value will be learned from a sales-led win/loss exercise. That’s not to say, of course, that the exercise of understanding your prospect’s buying process isn’t critical – just that there has to be a better way.

First, conduct the win-loss analysis as a structured conversation – not a questionnaire – that encourages the prospect to recall what caused them to start searching for solutions in the first place.

Second, seek to understand how the prospect approached the problem solving process – who was involved, and who did they turn to for advice?

Third, having identified potential solutions, how did they go about getting their organisation to accept the need for change – or if the deal ended in “no decision”, what were the barriers to change?

Finally, think seriously about having an external facilitator conduct the conversations.  It prevents the prospect’s answers being filtered by any preconceptions or vested interests, and almost always results in more truthful – and therefore useful – answers.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Bob: Great post. Without objectivity, win/loss reviews are a waste of time. Even if the review is performed by an objective third party, companies that solicit “feedback” often stack the deck before the project. Here are some representative comments that we hear:

    1. “Tom’s on his way out, I think your review will confirm that he really didn’t do a good job on this opportunity. But let us know what you think.”
    2. “Uncover whatever you need to learn, but let’s limit our discussion to Sales. Leave Marketing out for now.”
    3. “The people who report to me need to know how they have to improve.”

    Any third party that performs a win/loss review should insist that nothing short of full candor is acceptable. Sometimes that means management hears facts that might be difficult to accept. But the bottom line is that a valuable win/loss review provides an unbiased mirror of what went right and wrong.

  2. We have found that the only analysis worth doing is a Won Sales Analysis.

    If you want to replicate your biggest wins you should analyze what made you win.

    From a Trigger Event Selling perspective the four things you should care about the most in your Won Sales Analysis are:

    1) What Trigger Events (read changes) lead up to this purchase?
    2) When did these Trigger Events happen?
    3) What made you choose us?
    4) What can we do to make it easier to become our customer?

    See http://www.WonSalesAnalyis.con if you want to download the won sales analysis template and instructions on how to use it.

    Call my cell phone (+1.403.874.2998) or Skype me (Craig.Elias) if you have ANY questions about the form.

    Happy Selling!

    Craig

  3. My experience has been that regardless of who asks the question, “Why did we lose,” the answer is not terribly useful.

    Reps will blame the product or pricing.
    Product people will blame the reps.

    And the customer will want to avoid a confrontation. Many times the convenient answer is related to product (“you were missing that framistat feature”) or price (“the other guys gave us a better deal”).

    But the real answer is much more subtle — having to do with trust, the vendor brand position and perceived risk, political factors, etc.

    That said, it’s worth a shot and if a customer will truly open up it’s great. But take the answers with shaker full of salt.

    I agree with Craig that it’s far easier and more productive to ask a new customer why they picked your solution. But it’s also important to ask existing customers why they continue to do business. Because you’re “winning” their continued business with performance.

    Having done many of these interviews of “best customers” myself over the years, they paint a good picture of what the key factors are that drive their continued loyalty. All it takes is phone, a notepad and a 30 minute commitment by your customers. And loyal customers are usually happy to say why they’re loyal, and what should be improved.

  4. No doubt it’s important to know the reasons a customer selected your solution–but it’s also important to know why a prospect didn’t. Not knowing the reasons why risks repeating the mistakes. There are many companies that perform these reviews–some do it “in house,” others outsource.

    We refer to these projects as “After Event Reviews” because “Win/Loss” biases the findings. What would you call sales opportunity that closed in Q4, but at 50% of the forecast revenue, one year after expected? It’s a win, but clearly not everything went according to plan . . .

    While I haven’t experienced the consistent viewpoints Bob describes, he points to the fact that different people have different perspectives on why a sales opportunity, marketing campaign, or other business development activity had a particular outcome. All of those perspectives have a shred of truth; consequently, all are valuable for understanding the outcome.

    The After Event Review asks a somewhat different set of questions than Craig describes, and is extensible to marketing projects as well:

    1. What was the intended outcome?
    2. What happened? (what was the actual outcome?)
    3. What was learned?
    4. What do we do now?
    5. Who else should we tell?
    6. How do we tell them?

    An article I wrote on this topic “The After Event Review: How to Use It for Competitive Advantage” breaks down each of these questions in detail.

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