Think of the people around you in the office. Imagine making a detailed list of what they think of you. How certain are you that the list is accurate? Certain enough to place a large bet on it? If the people around you were speaking candidly, without you listening, are you certain they would hit the details you expect – or do you suspect you might hear more than you bargained for?
There are some whose feedback we might prefer not to hear. Candid feedback from colleagues can sometimes be flattering, and sometimes humbling. Looking for feedback is always a roulette wheel where you bet your comprehension of reality against everybody else’s. Do you really understand how others perceive you? What about your company, or your product? How certain are you that you are setting the right priorities? You may be confident, but do you have alignment among your teams, or between you and your colleagues? Do they share your confidence?
How much are you willing to bet that you know what you claim to know? If asked to put your money where your mouth is, all chips on the table, how willing are you to lay-down the cash and bet on yourself?
Are you sure? Are you sure you’re sure? What about your team? Would they say you’re a safe bet? How about your board? How certain are you that your certainties are other people’s certainties – and how certain are you that that certainty is really correct?
Many companies are hesitant to engage with win/loss analysis because they don’t see it as valuable – they think it’s just going to tell them what they already know. But why are they so certain what they know is correct – and why are they so certain there's no value in outside confirmation? Win/Loss can be a treasure-trove of solid evidence, especially when you’ve been operating only on faith and assumption. Think of a gambler spreading-out their bets because they lack confidence – sure, their loses are small, but so are their wins. They take no risks, hedging everything, getting nowhere. They never test what they think is true, or think is untrue. Companies that don’t examine win/loss are like those gamblers – they lack confidence, and perhaps cover it with arrogance: nobody likes being told what they already know, so why pay a company to explain the obvious – a waste of time and money, right?
Not exactly. It is true that simply being told what you already know is a fruitless endeavor, but what you think you know and what you actually know aren’t always the same thing – and just because you know something doesn’t mean you understand it. There’s value in examining the so-called ‘obvious,’ and that value is validation.
At Eigenworks we talk a lot about ‘heroes’ – our whole Buyer-As-Hero™ framework is based around them. Every buyer is a hero of their own story – and so is every seller. So is every CEO, CS ace, and product manager – they all have their own quests, their own battles to fight, their own enemies and allies. Their goals may be relatively mundane – making a sale rather than slaying a dragon – but you know how much work that can be (and how heroic you feel when you pull something like that off).
So what do heroes have to do with validation? Imagine the lone voice in the wildness: the CEO who knows why a product fails but whose board disagrees; the sales rep who knows why a product wins but whose colleagues fixate on the wrong solution. The voice doesn’t even need to face opposition: think of any team who know in their hearts that something is true, but don’t have the hard data to prove it. All of these are heroes looking for validation, looking for proof that their instincts and expertise will not lead them astray.
Validation is not just limited to emotional fulfillment, it’s a form of risk management. Good win/loss analysis really digs in to find the truth. You may know that good customer support is what’s selling your product, but you may not know why that matters, or stopped to think if there’s a reason so many customers are calling customer support in the first place. When a big change needs to happen – when a company needs to pivot, and has spend money doing it – validation gives you confidence to spend that cash knowing you’re making the right decision. A win study can really highlight what made your product triumph – pivoting the company to capitalize on the best move you can make - or that product’s failing because customers no longer need that feature… that loss study proved that for certain and if you don’t move now, there’s not going to be a later.
Validation helps bridge the gap between hierarchies; it’s the stone in David’s sling when he takes on Goliath. A CSR might hesitate to raise an issue with a VP – but with the insights in a win/loss report backing them up, they have the ammunition they need to make their case. Validation can inspire a group of people who have grown complacent when their suggestions or solutions are ignored. It can spur a team into action by giving them allies they didn’t know they had.
Validation can help with focus, too. Maybe what you thought you knew was only 98% correct – close enough that you never would have noticed the discrepancy, but in the cut-throat world of business, that 2% is far too large a margin of error. Win/loss analysis can fill that void; take partial understanding and make it whole. The validation that win/loss can bring is unique. Think of it as a corrective lens: no matter how good your corporate sight, it can make your vision that much sharper, that much more accurate.
Finally, validation can be a unifier. Win/loss can deliver what everyone was thinking, but nobody had the courage to say. It can ring together people who never knew they shared an understanding. It can help a team work more closely together because they now have proof of how close they already are. There are graveyards of companies who perished because they never took the time to examine what they already knew, either because they thought everyone was already on the same page, or didn’t realize that same fact. There’s a cemetery for companies who grew complacent on their own presumptions – who never challenged what they thought was self-evident, or never knew anything to begin with. Win/loss analysis has the potential to save a company from the grave – it can validate, motivate, and harmonize those that most need it.
So yeah, win/loss analysis may only ever examine what you what you already know – but that can be a gift beyond measure.