Written by Jouko Virtanen
Conducting regular win/loss debriefs is critical in a climate where competition is growing by the quarter.
Such customer intelligence helps you gain a more realistic and accurate view of your company’s market positioning so you can identify key success factors and your value proposition. What’s more, the analysis can yield important information for your entire organization.
How to improve on sales force presentations and product demonstrations, follow up
Marketing and promotions
How to improve on target market segmentation, value proposition, sales tools and marketing collateral, identifying the right customer profiles, trends or markets to address
How to fill in some gaps in competitive intelligence, monitoring the market
How to improve on product or service features, functions, benefits, enhancements, R&D
How to price the product or service
How to address customer perceptions and reputation of the company brand or product brands
Legal and compliance
How to finetune terms and conditions, awareness of impact of regulations in different countries
A company that conducts win/loss analysis regularly demonstrates that it is investing the time and effort to serve their customers better, particularly when they use professional consultants to do so. This helps with sales and marketing efforts that are targeted at the same customers in future.
But what should any CEO or CMO ensure is being doing during the process? Here are five important reminders.
1) Conduct interviews for both wins and losses
It may be tempting to simply interview prospects and customers that chose to commission your competitor over your company. There is also much to be learnt from speaking to customers who choose your company. Use such findings to validate or re-evaluate what lost customers tell you.
2) Move quickly
It is critical that win/loss interviews be set up within two to three weeks from the time a deal is closed, so that things are still fresh in the customer’s mind. The faster a company sets up win/loss interviews, the sooner the analysis can be disseminated quickly and efficiently. As such, the lessons learnt can be applied to the ongoing sales and marketing processes sooner rather than later. Where appropriate, sales and marketing “battle cards”, legal terms or pricing strategies may need to be reviewed.
3) Use the best sources
Ensure that the interviewer speaks with the right persons within the customer organization, as well as other relevant internal stakeholders. Several people may be involved in the deal decision process and speaking with anyone who is not familiar with all aspects of the decision will result in lost time, and possibly false conclusions.
At times, it may be beneficial to even monitor and analyze external information from other sources; such as blogs, forums or press releases from competitors and the company's prospects. You can also mobilize external resources and networks such as industry experts, business partners and suppliers to gather feedback.
4) Ask the “other questions”
Always start interviews with open questions, so that interviewees can express issues or impressions spontaneously. Open-ended questions can lead to issues beyond the scope of the contract. Examples include how the prospect discovered your company, what references they used, their perceptions of your product displays, the importance of what is being said in social media about your company or the influence of third party product or service rankings etc.
Don't simply ask why your company won or lost the contract. It’s very helpful to also ask how the competition performed. Find out where the company is heading and identify future business opportunities.
5) Make it practical and actionable
Win/loss analysis provides valuable insights but these insights need to be turned into actionable steps before they are truly useful.
Customize your deliverables and follow-up procedures to cater to different targeted teams. Each function should receive information and feedback on their own field of activity and the next steps that are most likely to drive some concrete improvements. And be sure to share best practices across departments, offices, outlets, distribution networks and even markets.
Finally, remember to set and monitor internal key performance indicators (KPIs) and assess your progress periodically. This is a great way to ensure optimal efficiency of the process and can be used to demonstrate the positive impact of the win/loss analysis, such as increased win rates, more positive responses from clients, more product or service offers, improved reputation etc..
It should also motivate a company's staff to participate in the process and even possibly, clients to contribute through the communication of relevant targeted KPIs that are of interest for them.
About the Author: Jouko Virtanen is President for North America at Global Intelligence Alliance, a strategic market intelligence and advisory group with offices in Chicago, New York and Miami. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.