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Join the Conversation on Win/Loss

Back in October, a couple of us from the Eigenworks office attended the inaugural Competitive Marketing Summit in Denver, Colorado.  

Panel1This two-day event billed itself as “the #1 competitive intelligence conference dedicated to the high tech industry.” It drew several hundred product marketers, competitive intelligence professionals, sales professionals, and others interested in learning how to infuse competitive intelligence into their day-to-day marketing activities.

We paid close attention at the Win/Loss Panel Discussion with Aberdeen’s Rick Case, Ellen Naylor from The Business Intelligence Source, and Clara Smyth at NetSuite. We took a lot of notes about the questions attendees were asking the panelists, and the answers the panelists gave. We wanted to know what kind of headspace people who are curious about Win/Loss are in: what are they feeling, what are their concerns, and where are they hoping Win/Loss can take them? Here’s some of the Q&A distilled for you, with our thoughts added too. 

Should you do win/loss analysis in house, or outsource it to a third party?

The panel members went back and forth on this, noting that “nobody knows your company like you do.” One advantage of an in-house program is that you can leverage your innate understanding of your company as well as your internal relationships. For example, your sales team might be more willing to talk to you than to an outside consultant.

But there are advantages to outsourcing too. Your customers may share insights more freely with a neutral third party, especially for lost deals. An outside consultant will bring a methodology that has been tried, tested, and refined. And by outsourcing, you free up internal resources.

Our take: We encourage people to do as much in-house competitive intelligence as possible. You’ll learn a lot about your market and your competitors. Your teams will benefit from learning how to conduct win/loss interviews. But if you’re trying to solve a really perplexing problem and you find yourself spinning your wheels, it’s time to tap the resources of an experienced consultant.

Eigenworks is working on developing training modules for our Buyer-as-Hero interviewing techniques to help companies upskill their own staff to do win/loss analysis -- stay tuned for details.

Should you do blind or non-blind research?

Panel2The panel came down on the side of “non-blind” studies -- that is, being transparent with interviewees about who is sponsoring the research. They advised framing the research as the company’s effort to continuously improve. Another advantage of doing non-blind studies is that you can get the sales team involved in recruiting participants, which moves the whole process along faster. 

Our take: Eigenworks always does non-blind studies. We’ve done A/B testing and found it simply works better when we’re clear and transparent about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and on whose behalf we’re doing it. We tell study participants that our client is committed to learning from their experience. 

More and more products are being sold with “Land and Expand” SaaS strategies. How does this change the practice of win/loss analysis when 70% or more of revenue might come after the initial sale?

Our take: This question didn’t generate a great deal of panel discussion, but at Eigenworks, we’ve thought about it extensively. The whole SaaS movement is changing how companies approach the idea of success -- the size of the initial sale is no longer the most significant metric. Long-term value is now more important. 

Churn analysis (a variation of win/loss) is the right tool to meet the challenges of the new subscription-based world. Interviewing customers who churn or renew will provide great insight into your customer journey. You’ll learn where things have gone right or wrong, so you can double down on what’s working and fix the places where you’re vulnerable to churn. Take a look at this short video in which Eigenworks CEO Alan Armstrong explains what Land and Expand means to the subscription economy and to win/loss initiatives.

How many interviews should you do in a win/loss study?

Panel members offered a range of opinions, from a minimum of eight interviews up to 20. Ellen noted that a combination of wins and losses is helpful. People “always want to do losses, but you can learn so much more from the wins,” she said. For example, you learn how the buyer evaluated your offering and specifically why they chose you.

She further noted that the real value of win/loss analysis lies in doing it regularly over time. That’s how you accumulate solid analytics to support change. 

Our take: Twenty interviews is the gold standard of qualitative research. At that point, you reach data “saturation” -- the point where a theme becomes consistent enough that it is statistically reliable.

How can you build internal support to set up a win/loss program?

Clare built an in-house win/loss program from scratch. Her tactic was to point out, “What is the opportunity cost of not doing win/loss? What is the cost of not listening to the market? You never really know what is going on when you lose customers to your competitors if you don’t ask them.” 

Ellen added: “If you want to engage sales, ask them which questions they would like to have answered in order to improve their pipeline. Just bring them right on in.” 

She pointed out that you can make a fact-based case for the value of win/loss analysis. “Companies who do win/loss over time, and make the changes -- very important, make the changes -- can expect 15-30% improvement over time in their win rates. The other thing is, sales only gets it right 40% of the time. You need to go to your customers.”

Our take: Check out our Buyer-as-Hero™ toolkit for support for your in-house team. If you want to get an email alert for availability of our new Buyer-as-Hero™ training, contact us: info@eigenworks.com

How can you get pricing information when you do a win/loss interview? 

Panel3Rick said price is overrated in buyer decision-making. While some markets are extremely price-competitive, “for a lot of companies, price is fourth or fifth [in their list of factors that influence the purchase decision], even though sales people will always think it’s number one.”

Clare said that in the SaaS world, pricing quotes change fast depending on discounts, end-of-quarter deadlines, and so on. “What is more insightful is asking about pricing structure. What are the levers, where the customer is more sensitive to price, where could the vendor give?”

Our take: In our experience, price is hardly ever the deciding factor in a win or a loss. More important is the buyer’s vision for change, which lies at the heart of the buyer journey. That’s why we developed our Buyer-as-Hero™ interview methodology to uncover the buyer’s true motivations and goals.

What are best practices for selecting interviewees? Do you throw darts at Salesforce, or do you deliberately seek out certain customers?

Panel members had several pieces of advice on this question. First, go after opportunities where you see the greatest return for your win/loss investment. Second, consider the goal of your program: What are you trying to get out of it? Are you entering a new marketplace? Studying a particular competitor? That will help determine who to talk to. Third, when conducting an in-house program, talk to your sales reps and ask them what they’re most interested in learning. They may love a “fly-on-the-wall” view on customer conversations.

Our take: Other ideas for who to interview: Look at your sales funnel and see where deals are getting stuck, as this can be a fruitful area of analysis. Or, look at your customer journey as a whole, from purchase to onboarding to renewal to advocacy, and pinpoint the exact places where investigation is needed.

Some people think win/loss is a great idea. Others say, it won’t tell me anything I don’t already know. How do you address that?

Rick invited people to imagine their company as a group of people in the middle of a lake in canoes, with everyone madly paddling in the direction they think the customer wants them to go. In any company, everyone has opinions, he said, but win/loss will help get everyone paddling in the same direction because it provides reliable data on what your customers really want. “You may not get a lot of surprises from win/loss,” he said. “It’s a directional thing.”

Our take: Win/loss is useful because it cuts through the noise of competing opinions. We often talk to clients about how listening to their buyers will help them align teams for confident decision-making. Even if win/loss analysis confirms what you suspected, that’s still valuable -- because now you can act on evidence, not a hunch. 

What’s a good way to get the sales department onside, and support your efforts to interview their account contacts?

The panel pointed out that salespeople are often protective of their contacts. It takes time to build trust and showcase the value of win/loss analysis.

Ellen said she shows the sales team the questions that will be asked in the interview, and they are often surprised to discover that only 25% of questions pertain to the sales process, with the rest focusing on market, strategy, and so on.

Ask your sales team, “What are the toughest competitor or product questions you would like to have answered?” she said. Then, include some of those in the interview.

Our take: The goal is to equip your sales team with customer intelligence in a way that adds value and demonstrates that win/loss helps the entire company. Our Buyer-as-Hero™ interview methodology focuses on the buyer, not on the sales process, and it’s useful for teams to understand this approach and see the benefits they can reap from buyer insights.

Where do I go from here? 

If you attended the CM Summit, or just are curious about Win/Loss analysis and want to know more, we at Eigenworks are here for you. For further understanding of what kind of insights your win/loss should producing, you should check-out our writings on pressure-testing buyer decisions, how to get a proper view of win/loss, and the importance of staying Agile.

Finally, a shoutout to Ben Scheerer and Alok Vasudeva for organizing the Competitive Marketing Summit - check out their interview here:

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