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Keeping the ‘Win’ in ‘Win/Loss Analysis’

It’s the end of the quarter, and your company has had a disappointing run. The rollout of your new SaaS product failed to meet sales targets - subscriptions aren’t what they should be, and many potential buyers didn’t end-up buying like you thought they would. Things aren’t dire - the company’s still healthy - but you under-delivered, and you want to know why. So what do you do? You go back to your sales records and find every lost deal. You track-down the sale’s most important stakeholders and you start making phone calls. You ask your losses ‘why’ - why did they consider buying, why didn’t they ultimately buy, and what do they think you could have done better? It’s a great list of insightful questions, and with this level of dedication, you’re sure to get the answers you need. Right?

Maybe, but probably not.. 

Wins matter in Win/Loss Analysis


Why Wins Matter

It is a mistake that we see far too often: Win/Loss Analysis that’s just loss analysis. There’s logic behind it, to be sure - “I want to know why we’re losing, so I’m going to study losses” - but it only ever gets you an incomplete view. Today we’re going to talk about why you need to keep the ‘win’ in ‘win/loss.’

Like the yin-yang of Chinese philosophy, Win/Loss Analysis represents a balanced system. The balance doesn’t have to be 50-50 - you don’t necessarily need to study one win for every loss - but losses need to be countered with wins. Without this balance, you might miss something vital.

For example, your company studies ten losses, and let’s say six of those losses said that Feature F was what got them interested in your product the first place. You take that info, write-up a report, and the next quarter Sales puts a lot more focus on Feature F. As a result you end up with more potentials, but the win rate doesn’t substantially increase. Why is that? Well, if you’d studied five wins in addition to those ten losses, four of those wins would have told you that while Feature F got them interested, it was learning about Feature G that got them to buy. Ignoring what you made you successful is leaving money on the table - it’s always worth looking into what went right just as much as what went wrong. Win analysis, however, is more than just a measure of success - studying wins can reveal problems that losses can’t. Not every win is a ‘sure thing’ - some wins happen by the skin of their teeth. If you don’t study your wins, you don’t know if you’re winning because you’ve got the best product and the best sales team, or whether you’re just getting lucky. Only studying losses is a sign of complacency - a belief that what is working is working just fine, but you don’t know that for certain. Let’s say your company had fifteen wins and five losses first quarter. Your company does loss analysis, but the five losses don’t suggest any systemic issues, so you make no changes to your sales tactics. Come the end of second quarter, you have five wins and fifteen losses. Why?

If your company had done win analysis, they might have learned that most of your wins were ‘by necessity.’

  • Maybe your competitor’s product wasn’t ready to ship - your Q1 buyers had no choice but to buy your product, but Q2 buyers had the luxury of choice.
  • Maybe your Q1 buyers bought your product grudgingly - giving you ‘one last chance’ to fix problems your company failed to look into, so when Q2 rolled around, the news spread that your product was still defective and it poisoned the sales well (in Saas/churn situations, this is where subscribers jump ship.)
  • Maybe you cut deals in Q1 that you didn’t in Q2 - and your Q2 buyers weren’t impressed by your offerings in the second quarter.

Regardless, your company failed to analyze what worked in Q1, and so made no effort to replicate that success in Q2. By not studying wins, your company was blind to potential problems, and so suffered accordingly.

Win Analysis can boost employee morale

One last and often overlooked aspect of win analysis is its ability to boost morale. While loss analysis can be a form of closure with its examination of ‘failure,’ win analysis can be a celebration of success. Win analysis can show a sales team a detailed view of everything they’re doing right - and how their actions helped the company to prosper. Win analysis can be a form of vindication, a way to show a cynical board or a skeptical boss that it really is your sales techniques or theories that is driving sales. No matter what you’re doing right, win analysis can be documented bragging rights - using narrative that’s backed by strong data, you and your company can have a detailed report summarizing your accomplishments, and that can be a huge boost to morale. When you focus only on losses, you miss an opportunity to accentuate the positive, and to put a little focus on good news and good achievements.

The next time you go to do a little win/loss, make sure there’s balance in your equation. Review your current or upcoming slate of win/loss interviews: do you have a good mix of wins and losses, or is your list heavily slanted in favour of the latter? Are you putting all your time and attention into what went wrong? Maybe it’s time to reconsider your approach. Maybe it’s time you start making sure that you keep the ‘win’ in win/loss analysis.
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