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Win/Loss Analysis: Get Clear Before You Get Going

In our last article we discussed how to narrow down a large pool of customers into an appropriate number for win/loss - how, if you’re a company with thousands of customers, the best techniques you should employ for getting the [[twenty to thirty interviewees]] you most need for good analysis. However, simply having a pool of candidates to interview is a waste of time and resources if you don’t have clear research goals - there’s no point conducting win/loss analysis just for the heck of it. Holding clear goals in your mind will give your analysis focus and drive - it’ll help the analyst hone their data and the interviewer shape their questions. We mentioned having these goals in mind when talking about improving your focus on your interviewees, but we’d like to go a little further today. Before you place a single call, you should know exactly why you’re calling, and what you hope to get out of the conversation.


The Fundamentals

At Eigenworks we talk a lot about the buyer’s need for Fundamental Change: every buyer, when they choose to make a purchase from a vendor, does so because they have some need fundamental to their well-being as a company that can only be addressed with a new tool, whether that’s a new content management platform or the more abstract assistance of a consulting firm. When you make the decision to conduct win/loss interviews, you’re also demonstrating a Fundamental Change that needs to be met - or, perhaps, it might be better to say that you have a Fundamental Concern that needs to be addressed. Perhaps it is churn: too many clients not renewing. Perhaps you’re curious about the performance of your sales team, or lack thereof: is what sales is doing paying off? Or perhaps your need is that most foundational: do you need to know why customers buy your product in the first place? It sounds flippant, but believe me, it’s a matter of some importance. It would shock you how often companies don’t understand why customers buy, although we see it every day in the marketplace when user backlash over a feature change leaves a company looking foolish for wrecking its own product. Often times, companies double down on these changes, insisting they’ve got the data to prove that a change is more efficient or valuable - but since they never talked to any of their buyers, since they lack a real understanding of what their buyers actually like about the product, they just dig themselves a deeper hole. Before they started mucking about, they really should have done some win analysis to understand their product’s relation to their buyers.

Your first step is to know just what it is you need to know. Win/loss analysis can help.

Segment your Wins and Losses

Just as you did - or are going to do - with your interviewees, it helps to segment your wins and losses themselves into broad categories. Don’t think about the cases from an interviewee standpoint but from your own end - how did the sale struggle or succeed? What were the ups and downs? In this way, you can start collating pools of similar scenarios, which will help clarify what kind of research goals you could reasonably study. If, for example, you find example after example of sales that became losses right before the contract was signed, then that’s a potential research goal: why are your sales failing just short of the finish line, and why are those sales you are winning different from all those losses? What are their common denominators, and what can you do to fix the problem? Maybe you’ll notice that your churn rates spike in the summer months, or at the end of the second quarter - that’s a field of focus too. In all these ways, a segmented, itemized list will give you a great overview of questions you may want to ask.

Talk to Your Teams

Win/Loss/Churn analysis can produce a treasure trove of data, and there’s no need to hoard it all to yourself. When creating your research goals, reach out to different stakeholders across different departments and see if they can offer any guidance for the research goals. Maybe Sales would also like a review of its teams' performance. Maybe Marketing is curious if their new initiative is gaining traction, or the CEO would like to see if the extra funding they approved for Customer Support has paid off, and so on. Win/Loss can be an involved process, so getting everyone involved means having the largest return on investment. If you can find a way to stack research goals, more the better - killing multiple birds with a single stone is rewarding for everyone, not to mention cost-effective.

Don’t Waste Your Time

The next time you’re laying out win/loss, you have an opportunity to make the most of it. Creating research goals that are not only attainable but valuable will pay off again and again. Well-focused win/loss will gift you with insights for years to come - information that will be useful today, tomorrow, and half a decade from now when someone suggests making a change without consulting buyers first, or has a great new idea to try something you already definitively proved wouldn’t be well received. If you do win/loss periodically, you’ll also form a series of data points - a way to track trends among your buyers, and their changing needs. Ideas that didn’t work five years ago might seem more palatable three years later. Regardless, if you can clarify your research goals, you will never feel like you’ve wasted an opportunity to learn from your customers through Win/Loss analysis.
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