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How to Get Feedback on Lost Deals

Many people who contact me about win/loss analysis are really only interested in thei loss analysis, or in understanding why they lose. They think they know why they win business, but are puzzled about why they lose, and they believe that they can learn more from losses than from wins. Unfortunately, it's harder to get lost dealst to respond to requests for feedback, and they are concerned that they may not get the real truth about the loss.

I have three responses to this:

  1. You probably can get them to speak to you. (See suggestions below.)
  2. Buyers will tell you more than you think if you approach them well. See my article HERE (LINK).
  3. Once you've studied these losses, consider studying wins too. I wrote about this for Pragmatic Marketing's magazine: Knowing Why You Lose Won't Always Help You Win.

Below I outline approaches that we've developed over time to maximize the effectiveness of loss interviews.

Setting the right tone

How to Get Feedback on Lost DealsYour lost accounts may be reticent to speak with you because they feel defensive or they want to avoid the discomfort of talking to you because they denied you the business. This is natural, and you need some strategies to overcome this hesitancy. Before you even begin to try to contact your lost accounts, consider these ideas to set the right tone for the call:

  1. Emphasize that you are not in sales, and you are not trying to sell: If you need convincing on this point, see LINK. If you are in sales, consider inventing a title in marketing to conduct this interview.
  2. Do your background research: You should be prepared for the call by learning as much as you can about the interaction before you call. Remember to do the prep work I outlined in the earlier article (LINK) on this topic.
  3. Talk about your desire to learn: Your lost accounts will be much more open if you are clear and open about your intentions. Tell them simply that your company invested a lot into the opportunity and you would like the opportunity to learn from that experience.
  4. Show your competence: Your buyers are used to being asked for scripted feedback from a call center. Emphasize that you are an expert in the market and the product, and this will be a conversation, not a scripted survey.

Tactics to maximize response rates

With this preparation in place, it may still be difficult to get lost accounts to respond. Here are some tactics that we use to maximize our response rates. These apply whether you schedule the interviews personally or have an assistant do the bookings.

  • Use both e-mail and voice mail: I suggest using both e-mail and voice mail, especially on the first contact. If you only use e-mail, you will get a lower response rate because more people will just ignore you. If you use only voice mail, your message will likely be received, but it's harder to respond to a voicemail. If you use both email and voice mail, they will be more likely to respond, and usually will do so via email because it's easy to click "reply".
  • Script your call: The first 10 seconds of the voicemail script (or the phonecall if they actually pick up and answer) is decisive. I offer a script below that works well for us.
  • Offer a benefit, part 1: Tell the target that you are trying to improve the products available to them and people like them; by helping you, they are helping the industry.
  • Offer a benefit, part 2: Offer something to them directly. Some ideas:
  • A $50 gift certificate from Amazon. The drawback to this is that you need budget, and some people are not allowed to accept gifts.
  • A draw for a larger gift. We have offered Bose Headphones or an iPod.
  • A donation on their behalf. Many of our interviewees respond well to this offer because they would like to help others. What's interesting is that they rarely ask how much you'll donate, so you can make a bulk donation at the end based on your budget. If they do ask, provide an amount such as $50, and follow through. (Don't be dishonest ... it's bad karma!)

Here's a sample script. You can use this for both phone and email with minor modifications:

Hello NAME

My name is Alan Armstrong. We have not met, but my client presented their product to your team last year and did not win your business. They have asked me to speak with you to get your feedback and input.

I promise not to try to sell you anything. My goal is simply to get your input to help my client improve their products and services.

If you would agree to a 10-15 minute phone call, I will make a donation on your behalf to one of the charities listed below.

* American Red Cross
* Children's Hunger Fund
* Feeding America
* World Wildlife Fund

If you have another organization that is not listed, I can probably direct the donation to them.

Your views will remain confidential and used only for this product research.


Final point: Persist. Keep calling and emailing. Eventually they'll take the call just to get you off their back. Don't be discouraged; remember that they don't really care about you, but that's ok. You just need them to agree to speak.

Let me know how it goes.

- Alan

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