It is easy for a small company to select participants for win/loss analysis. Small companies, by definition, tend not to have a particularly deep backlog of clients, at least in the B2B world. If you’ve only ever had twenty clients then selecting your twenty-to-thirty interviewees is as easy as pie. Larger corporations, however - companies who have worked with thousands of clients - naturally need to be more selective. If you are running win/loss for a large company - or hoping to - you’ve been confronted with this conundrum. You have to pick and choose your targets, but the question is: who should I pick and why? Don’t panic: it’s not an unsolvable puzzle. Let us put your mind at ease.
Your Focus: Narrow or Wide?
The first thing you need to decide on is whether you're win/loss analysis is going to study a cross-section of your business or merely a select group. In other words: how narrow is your focus for this analysis? What is it precisely that you are studying? The company as a whole - a cross section of the triumphs and failures of your sales and marketing teams? Users of a single product - an overview of how a product has done in the market? Users of a single product who meet XYZ criteria - mid-sized service companies with high customer turnover and low engagement? The diversity of your client base will shape your decision making and give focus to your research. Further, again, the size of your company will affect plenty. Perhaps you don’t have the numbers for such a specific profile, but a vertical slice of product users fits your needs exactly. What matters isn’t where you focus so long as you have one - simply by knowing where you’re going to start, you narrow-down the field wonderfully.
Of Near-Things And Surprise Success
When selecting your clients you should try to get a good mix of easy wins and those wins that went down to the wire, which is to say those wins that you really fought for, the wins that you refused to accept as a done deal until the ink was dry on the contract, if not later. If at all possible, try to mix long-term customers with newcomers. You’re trying to give your analysts as big a data sample as possible: being able to compare past and present sales practices, and studying their effects over time, give a greater sense of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, and current direction. That mix of wins, for example, should give you a sense of the common threads of winning and what’s unique to individual sales - if your CS support package is cited ten times and your versatile API only once, that gives you a better sense of what’s working. The same principle applies to losses - go for both ‘this never really got off the ground’ and ‘we were this close.’ See what nearly got those near-wins on board - again, if it’s that CS support package you’ll have a great sense of what the future of marketing should look like. However, if no common threads emerge, that’ll show you that your product’s unique qualities have broad appeal - and that’ll shape sales and marketing too.
Outing the Outliers
Finally, don’t think you have to make the selection solely on your own - given that for every ten interview requests you make only six or seven contacts will agree to be interviewed, so you want a decent-sized pool of potential candidates to ensure you get the numbers you are after. We recommend asking Sales’ input specifically in regards to outlier cases. It’s up to you to decide if you want to include extreme outliers in your sample: it depends on if you’re trying to study average behavior or focusing elsewhere. The choice is yours, but either-way, Sales will have a good memory for those buyers who stood out in unusual ways - they may be worth the effort of adding to the study, even if their own uniqueness means that the analysis may reveal insights that are not broadly applicable.
With this better grasp of the whys and hows, you should be able to come to your next win/loss analysis with a stronger understanding of who you should be studying and why. Giving yourself and the analysis team a focus will help down on unhelpful tangents and digressions, and will the selection process go much smoother. We hope this sets your mind as ease, and makes your next pass at win/loss that much easier.