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What’s the deal with Win/Loss Analysis?

Last week’s poll about Win/Loss Analysis has pointed out some grim facts about us as product managers. To summarize:

  • According to thePragmatic Marketing survey, only about 20% of product managers perform Win/Loss Analysis.
  • Comments and informal conversations suggest that 20% is too high. What does it mean to answer in the affirmative, i.e., “I do win/loss analysis”? How much analysis? How many customer interviews? How many loss interviews? Using what method or technique?

To explore further, we conducted a poll to ask why. The results were posted last week. The largest single response was “other” (29%), and many of those responses said essentially, “Sales won’t let me”.

If most of the 29% of people said they are blocked by sales, and 14% of responses said “Sales does it”, we have a major problem: For about 43% of you, Sales owns Win/Loss analysis or prevents Win/Loss from being done.

But let’s dig deeper. A further 10% said “it’s not considered important in my company”, and 24% said “Got way too many other things to do.” Add those numbers to our earlier 43%, and that means that for 77% of our respondents, Win/Loss is not really your job.

win-loss avoidance reasons

(note: I've changed the "reasons" from the original question to point out what's really going on. I also re-ordered the list. I changed "other" to "Sales prevents PM from doing Win/Loss" because nearly all of those responses could be summarized that way. I'm illustrating reality, not aiming for statistical perfection.)

What’s going on here?
The table above lists the symptoms of the problem, but my diagnosis is this:

  • Product Managers are not doing much Product Management.
  • Companies like Product Managers, but do not fund or require Product Management.

This is a sorry state of affairs, folks.

You're not doing Product Management

We are calling for a Product Management Manifesto to respond to this situation. But in the mean time, I'd like to point out a few common traps that might indicate a problem. With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy:

  • if your prospect calls are also sales calls, you’re not doing product management
  • if win/loss analysis means tabulating sales notes in the CRM, you’re not doing product management
  • if there is an SE in the room, and you’re doing the demo, you’re not doing product management
  • if your lawn furniture used to be your living room furniture, you might be a red neck (couldn’t resist)
  • if you think primary research means speaking directly with the sales team, you’re not doing product management
  • if you read analyst reports to understand market direction, you’re not doing product management
  • if you think competitive analysis means summarizing your competitors’ websites, you’re not doing product management
  • if “enhancement requests” are your primary source of product requirements, you’re not doing product management

And finally,

  • if your CEO trusts your sales people for what’s really happening in the market, you’re not doing product management.

In all seriousness, it’s time to change! I don’t know how you can effectively steer the ship if you’re not doing regular Win/Loss Analysis.

Next up: how NOT to do Win/Loss Analysis


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