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Considerations for Conducting Win / Loss in 2020

This year, people and businesses had to find ways to navigate a crisis of tremendous scope and size. B2B businesses had to make rapid changes to their workplaces and processes to adjust to this new environment. Similar to other initiatives, win / loss programs also require careful oversight to succeed during this unconventional time.

Considering the unprecedented nature of the current crisis, making the right decisions for your win / loss program this year can be a daunting task. This blog is intended to help guide you in considering the impact of current circumstances on your win / loss program, and provide best practices you can utilize to ensure your program provides value for your organization during this time.

Considering the Impact of COVID on Win / Loss Programs

First and foremost, your business should determine if a win / loss program is possible given the current circumstances. As win / loss is closely tied to sales, the volume of deal flow in your company’s pipeline will be a primary factor in making this decision. If significantly fewer deals than normal are making their way through the pipeline, it stands to reason that your company should scale back or even pause the win / loss program as there are fewer opportunities to gather data and act on the program’s findings.

However, you should weigh this consideration against the increased relative importance of each deal. If deal flow has slowed down over the last few months, it is now more important to win the sales engagements that are up for grabs and gathering feedback on the deals that do exist is even more important.

While most industries have felt a negative impact on sales during this time, perhaps your company may be in one of the markets such as eCommerce, telehealth, or cloud services that are experiencing a spike in new business activity. In this case, it would also make sense to scale up your program accordingly.

If you decide that your company stands to benefit from win / loss during this time, you should also consider how your company’s internal resources may affect the program. Many companies have needed to adjust responsibilities for employees, sometimes in conjunction with staff reductions, and the change in workloads could affect your company’s ability to execute a successful win / loss program and drive meaningful changes.

Win / loss programs can take a considerable amount of coordination, particularly if conducted in-house. Does your company or department have the resources to carry out interviews for a win / loss program? Once interviews are completed, does your company have the bandwidth to analyze and act on the program’s findings? Even the best-executed win / loss program will have a severely limited impact if the company cannot act on the findings, and so you want to make sure if you are going to run your program you can devote the appropriate resources to making sure it drives value to your business. Otherwise it is not worth operating.

After looking within your company to determine how the current crisis may affect your win / loss program, you should consider how your company’s clients and former prospects have been impacted. The companies that you are asking for feedback may be experiencing the effects of the current crisis in different ways than you are, depending on their industries and locations. Are your potential contacts primarily in hard-hit industries such as healthcare or transportation, or are they in markets such as SaaS that have less dramatic changes? Will your program seek feedback from contacts in regions currently feeling the full force of the virus, or are your contacts in areas that have largely recovered or fended off the pandemic? If your potential contacts are in regions and industries hit particularly hard by the present crisis, it may be best to scale back or even pause your program until the situation changes. Assuming that your potential contacts are not exclusively in the most impacted regions and markets, running a successful win / loss program with a solid response rate is still achievable.

As companies have adapted to the new realities of everyday work, contacts have become more likely to respond to outreach and participate in win / loss studies. Anova saw a 280% increase in the number of interviews completed from May to June, showcasing that interviews can be completed when research programs are operated in a mindful way.

Adjusting the Goals of your Win / Loss Program

If you decide that moving forward with win / loss is the best path for your company at this time, you should then consider how the current circumstances will affect the goals for your program.

One of the main adjustments that companies needed to make over the last few months was a change towards entirely virtual sales presentations. Although this rapid shift happened to sales teams across industries, only 37% of organizations provided training or best practices regarding virtual selling. Gathering and analyzing win / loss data from these recent months can help determine how well your sales teams have handled this change and if your organization should invest in new training. Additionally, win / loss analysis can help uncover competitive insights such as understanding if competitors are using any tactics or tools to make successful online presentations. Designing your interview guides and surveys to answer these types of questions can help ensure your organization makes informed decisions to stay competitive moving forward.

Another consideration is how buyer priorities have changed since the start of the year. Because organizations now face greater uncertainty about their financial futures, companies now must scrutinize every dollar spent. In the world of sales, this means it has become much more important to demonstrate value and ROI to prospects in a concrete way. This also means that your sales teams are potentially selling into different types of contacts, such as CFOs and finance personnel at your prospect organizations. Has your sales team adequately demonstrated the ROI of your offering to these new types of contacts? Does your organization need to adjust its sales messaging to account for these changes? These types of questions should be kept in mind as your company conducts interviews and analyzes results from 2020 sales engagements.

Best Practices for Win / Loss During this Time

If and when your organization decides to move forward with win / loss, you should take the proper steps to ensure your program becomes a success. One of the most important priorities for your program should be to emphasize empathy with your outreach to contacts this year. According to Anova research about how businesses are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, 84% of companies adjusted their communications to lead with more empathy than before. This can be particularly important in reaching out to win / loss contacts because you are asking these contacts to lend you their time and energy during a period when both are likely stretched thin. With that in mind, try to be accommodating when reaching out to contacts. Offer shorter phone conversations if they have little time or ask if they would like your organization to reach out again in a few months. These types of accommodations are relatively easy adjustments and can demonstrate that your organization values the contact’s time and feedback.

In addition to adjusting outreach, consider adjusting your surveys and questionnaires to address the current crisis. How are your company’s prospects and clients dealing with the uncertainty of this year? Do these organizations and contacts require more assistance from your company during this time? Asking these types of questions while leading with empathy can show that your organization recognizes the reality of the situation and does not seem tone deaf.

However, if may not be necessary to change your interview guide if feedback is gathered by experienced interviewers over the phone. Conversations over the phone can allow the interviewer to properly contextualize questions, address concerns, and probe for additional information on the fly, meaning that concrete changes to your interview questions may not be necessary. On the other hand, online surveys do not have this same level of flexibility, and therefore could require significant changes to properly address the current climate.

Carrying out a win / loss program during a time of high uncertainty is an intimidating task, especially without a game plan for how to address the needs of the present. However, by taking into account the effects of the crisis on your organization and your potential contacts, you can make the best decisions regarding your win / loss program and put your organization’s program in the best position to succeed.