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some things to consider, based on GIA’s experience in advising clients.
We also speak with Stéphane Rosenwald, of GIA Group member company, RV
Conseil, on the topic.
“It is estimated that globally, less than 20% of companies have a win and loss debrief program. Most of the time, companies ignore the true reasons behind why they don’t close new business deals. Any investment into win/loss analysis will be rapidly paid back as it always leads to increased success rates and enhanced competitive advantage over competitors with less structured organizations,” said Rosenwald.
With any sales campaign in any economic cycle, there is always something that a company can learn and improve on during both the good and the lean times. Plus, the knowledge gained can be used across various functions. In 2012, the priority for companies will be to address fast moving market environments, narrowing demand in some markets, increased competition and limited resources. “Beyond the economy, there are often many possible reasons for wins or losses. There is almost never one reason alone. And they impact several departments or functions at a time, not only sales,” said Rosenwald.
Possible issues as described by interviewees during win/loss debriefs
If your company is already conducting win/loss analysis regularly in a consistent and metric-based manner that allows useful cross-comparisons, there will still be some things you can do to make your win/loss analysis more effective. Many of the following tactics may sound very obvious but as in all business processes, the real differentiator is in the details.
It may be tempting to simply interview prospects and customers that chose to commission your competitor over your company. There is also much to be learnt from speaking to customers who choose your company, and use such findings to validate or re-evaluate what lost customers tell you.
For example, such comparisons can help you better understand:
It is critical that win/loss interviews be set up within two to three weeks from the time a deal is closed, so that things are still fresh in the customer’s mind. The faster a company sets up win/loss interviews, the sooner the analysis can be disseminated quickly and efficiently. As such, the lessons learnt can be applied to the ongoing sales process sooner rather than later. Where appropriate, sales and marketing “battle cards”, legal terms or pricing strategies may need to be reviewed.
In some cases, it may even influence the prospect’s impression of your company.
“In one case, a customer who had rejected the offer from an energy company that we were representing decided to award the contract to our client as he understood the energy company‘s proposal better as a result of the win/loss interview process. This was possible because it was still early in the selection process,” said Rosenwald.
Ensure that you speak with the right persons within the customer organization, as well as other relevant internal stakeholders. Several people may be involved in the deal decision process and speaking with anyone who is not familiar with all aspects of the decision will result in lost time, and possibly false conclusions.
At times, it may be beneficial to
even monitor and analyze external information from other sources; such
as blogs, forums or press releases from competitors and the company's
prospects. You can also mobilize external resources and networks such as
industry experts, business partners and suppliers to gather feedback.
For win/loss interviews, do prepare a formalized interview guide as well as a customized interview report template and work with experienced market intelligence professionals. They will know how best to ask the questions from a planned set of questions and in which order, so as to tie in with a company’s strategic priorities or past “best in class” reasons as identified in previous win/loss interviews.
Always start interviews with open questions, so that interviewees can express issues or impressions spontaneously. Open-ended questions can lead to issues beyond the scope of the contract. Examples include how the prospect discovered your company, what references they used, their perceptions of your white papers or product displays, the importance of what is being said in social media about your company or the influence of third party product or service rankings.
Don't simply ask why your company won or lost the contract. It’s very helpful to also ask how the competition performed. Find out where the company is heading and identify future business opportunities.
Another area is pricing. Often, there are perceptions of total value versus just the final price, so be sure to drill down on all the real and “perceived” components on what the final contract price comprises.
Table 1: Sample scope
|The customer’s business||Key trends affecting the customer’s business.|
Upcoming threats or opportunities.
Impact of anticipated economic changes.
|The customer's buying process||Who influences or decides the selection criteria.|
How vendors are shortlisted for the bid.
|The shortlist process||Key criteria/factors, and prioritization.|
Pricing and perceptions of value.
Feedback on presentation and sales teams.
Perception of the company, brand etc.
|The decision ||Who won and lost.|
Why specific contracts were lost or won.
Price points, length of contract, services, renewal terms and other contract terms and conditions.
|After the contract is awarded||Contract review process and criteria.|
Call back schedule.
The use of customer intelligence from win/loss analysis is most effective when various stakeholders, not just the sales force, are involved. Everyone benefits when a company takes a holistic approach to addressing business issues. And it is important that all parties involved understand that the results from the win/loss analysis are not meant for fault finding but rather, problem solving and celebrating wins.
So it is useful to conduct periodic workshops to review the findings and engage different departments in problem solving or brainstorming. Such programs can yield practical and useful revenue generating solutions. Where specific weaknesses are identified, specific workshops or training programs may be required.
Win/loss analysis provides valuable insights but these insights need to be turned into actionable steps before they are truly useful. Overall, the debrief process can bring about positive changes and increase a B2B company's win rate.
Customize your deliverables and follow-up
procedures to cater to different targeted teams. Each function should
receive information and feedback on their own field of activity and the
next steps that are most likely to drive some concrete improvements. And
be sure to share best practices across
departments, offices, outlets, distribution networks and even markets.
win/loss analysis process needs to be constantly reviewed so that it
represents the most up-to-date company situation, in terms of strategic
priorities, product or service offers, sales practices and clients
changes etc. This may lead you to decide that you need to include new
topics in your win/loss questionnaires or to monitor new sources of
Remember to set and monitor internal key
performance indicators (KPIs) and assess your
progress periodically. This is a great way to ensure optimal efficiency
of the process and can be used to demonstrate the positive impact of the
win/loss analysis, such as increased win rates, more positive responses
from clients, more product or service offers, improved reputation etc..
It should also motivate a company's staff to participate in the process
and even possibly, clients to contribute through the communication of
relevant targeted KPIs that are of interest for them.
It is very helpful to develop a company-wide platform to share the customer intelligence once the win/loss analysis is complete. All the relevant departments within the entire company should be receiving information in a format that meets their needs and preferences. Some companies use web-based portals and graphical metrics that can be accessed anywhere by busy sales teams who are constantly on the move.
Many web based platforms are very flexible and scalable nowadays. It is important whichever platform or software you choose, that it allows you to collect information from many sources, either internal or external, within the company walls, at trade shows or customer visits, online or print etc. Such input should be aggregated, filtered, analyzed and made searchable.
Deliverables should be customized for different audiences through easy to manage tools and distribution channels. Intelligence Plaza® from GIA is one solution that allows you to engage your entire company network and automate your customer intelligence cycle with robust collaboration and alert features.
Where companies find that internal reviews lack objectivity or that prospects and customers resist requests for interviews once contracts have been signed, working with an external consultant is often the best solution.
Many times, we find that customers and prospects are more open and speak more candidly with external consultants face-to-face, sharing invaluable information that they would typically not make available to your company when there is a concern for making an industry peer look bad. This is especially true when the customer has ongoing business with your company and knows your staff relatively well. This allows consultants, who are viewed as unbiased and neutral, to dig deeper into the real reasons.
External consultants can also provide advice based on their previous win/loss project experience across different industries and sales processes. They may even be able to add value in other ways too, such as additional questions to ask based on their insights into industry trends, interview recruitment techniques, the appropriate use of interviewee incentives where applicable, competitor attack and defend guides etc..
Another useful aspect is that external consultants deliver aggregated data. Responses are anonymous and there are fewer opportunities for personal conflicts. Consultants can also ask direct comparative questions about competitors, which the company itself may not be able to.
When working with external consultants, it’s important to take a view to building a long-term partnership so you can continue to provide feedback and updates on your company, which will only improve the ongoing rounds of win/loss analysis. Invest the time to brief your external consultants on your business goals and expectations thoroughly, so that they have the necessary knowledge of your company offer, industry, product and competitors to get the best out of information collecting.
And finally, remember to set some key performance indicators and conduct regular reviews with your external consultants. As much as your company benefits from customer feedback, so will your external consultants.
When done well, companies that invest in win/loss analysis have a more realistic and accurate view of their own products, sales and after-sales capabilities compared to the competition and hence can meet their client expectations and key success factors better.
Secondly, the information gathered and the issues identified from win/loss analysis are connected with many company functions and stakeholders, and in some cases, external subcontractors as well. As such, the entire organization will be better equipped to concentrate on creating real value based on clients’ needs and expectations. This often translates into better offer optimization, improved guidelines for R&D, more targeted advertising and promotional activities, more competitive side services packages and higher sales efficiency - from better sales processes and tools to sales training. The sales network will know how to spot and respond to how their sales pitch is progressing or make the best use of their time on developing new prospects rather than chasing “cold” leads, for instance.
Table 2: Organization-wide impact of win/loss analysis
|Branding management||How to address customer perceptions and reputation of the company brand or product brands|
|Marketing and promotions||How
to improve on target market segmentation, value proposition, sales
tools and marketing collateral, identifying the right customer profiles,
trends or markets to address|
|Competitive intelligence ||How to fill in some gaps in competitive intelligence, monitoring the market|
|Product management||How to improve on product or service features, functions, benefits, enhancements, R&D|
|Pricing||How to price the product or service|
|Legal and compliance||How to fine tune terms and conditions, awareness of impact of regulations in different countries|
|Sales||How to improve on sales force presentations and |
product demonstrations, follow up
Finally, a company that conducts win/loss analysis regularly
demonstrates that it is investing the time and effort to serve their
customers better, particularly when they use professional external
highly qualified consultants to do so. This helps with sales efforts
that are targeted at the same customers in future.
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