Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Note: This blog was written by Will Young, a Research Analyst at Anova.
All win / loss programs collect data. That data can come in many different forms: internal CRM codes, feedback from internal interviews, results from web surveys, or, when done correctly, in-depth interviews with independent third-party consultants. The latter, interviews conducted by third-party consultants, is undeniably the most effective approach for collecting win / loss data. The data is gathered by seasoned interviewers and includes both qualitative and quantitative feedback about a company’s sales effectiveness, product / service offering, pricing, and overall competitiveness in the marketplace.
Still regardless of the source used to collect the information, it is still just data. The true value of a win / loss program comes from unfolding the narrative behind that data. To accomplish this task, there first needs to be in-depth analysis. Strategies like rolling up the information, segmenting the findings or results, and benchmarking against relevant competitors and industry peers all help identify important themes and accentuate valuable findings. While completing the analysis is an important exercise, the overarching story that results from that analysis is what will ultimately drive change and help companies win more business. Creating the story requires experience, expertise, and the ability to identify actionable insights.
A critical step in any win / loss program that enables change and the ability to win new business is executing a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the data. There are many strategies used to complete this work.
Rolling Up / Coding Interviews
Generally, half of the information included in a win / loss program interview transcript is already quantitative in nature. Prospects rate their satisfaction in several key areas (e.g., ranking overall platform, ease of integration, pricing competitiveness, etc.). However, the other half is qualitative, answering broader questions about matters like the prosects’ initial search criteria or weaknesses they identified throughout the sales process. The first step in any win / loss analysis is taking the qualitative feedback presented in the data and grouping like comments together, identifying common themes and classifying each individual comment into a specific category. This process is often called “rolling up data”. The act of “rolling up data” helps emphasize the relative frequencies of certain themes in prospect’s feedback and is fundamental in uncovering the story that will eventually drive change.
Another key strategy used to analyze win / loss data is segmentation: cutting data by specific demographics or categories. Win / loss data can be segmented in many ways (by product, revenue, country, etc.). For example, if a company has two main products they sell to prospective buyers, then the prevalence of specific feedback should be evaluated separately for each individual product line. If the data is analyzed together, the results will likely depict an inaccurate story. The company may be doing something well for one product and poorly for the other, but those differences would get lost within aggregate findings. Segmentation leads to a more holistic view of the data and ultimately helps generate more specific actionable insights.
Benchmarking is yet another strategy used to help inform insights and action items for win / loss users. Benchmarking allows a company to better understand how their business compares to other leaders in the market. In some cases, benchmarking can completely alter the interpretation of results. For example, at first glance, it may appear that a company’s price structure is a major weakness. However, when compared to the benchmark, the frequency that the price structure is mentioned could be significantly lower than the industry average, suggesting the company will win more business by focusing its efforts elsewhere.
The most valuable benchmarking comes from a firm like Anova who has conducted tens of thousands of interviews spanning over 20+ years of research. This is an incredible advantage for our clients as it permits comparisons to other best-in-class organizations. Whether those comparisons are to companies in similar industries, of similar size / maturity, or those with similar deal sizes, having a strong benchmark gives more context and creates more opportunity for improvement.
In win / loss interviews, prospects are not only asked to provide feedback for the company of interest, but also for who they perceive to be the leader in the market. This helps highlight two things: 1) who their main competitors are and 2) how they are scoring in key areas against those competitors. This feedback is used to create comparisons, highlighting exactly what the company is doing better than its competitors and what it is doing worse. Competitive intelligence offers a company additional analytical context and contributes to its overarching story.
Segmentation, benchmarking, and competitive intelligence are all integral components of conducting in-depth analysis. However, the in-depth analysis will not drive change on its own.
Establishing a Story
The analytical strategies discussed in the previous section do not unlock a win / loss program’s full value if a company does not have a deep understanding of the results. To guarantee successful actionable insights and recommendations, the in-depth analysis needs to make sense. Experienced consultants help put the results into perspective, consolidating the feedback into one cohesive story that will ultimately help drive change and win business.
Experience conducting and analyzing win / loss interviews is extremely valuable. Having done this analysis for several different companies and across a wide range of verticals and industries, win / loss consultants can interpret the data outside of just the black and white. Anybody can look at the analysis and understand which areas were identified as strengths and which areas were identified as weaknesses, but not everyone can take that information to the next level the way an experienced consultant can. Win / loss consultants connect the different areas of feedback, helping to uncover a more cohesive and complete story that generates meaningful changes for a company.
For example, Anova works with clients in the travel / hospitality space. In a recent report for one of those organizations, we analyzed feedback from deals closed in 2021 (i.e., once business travel was returning). One of the major findings was not what was appearing in the feedback, but rather what was absent. In interviews pre-COVID, things like the company’s brand / reputation and reporting capabilities were consistently noted as key differentiators. However, prospect perceptions shifted during the pandemic as competitors used what was a trying time for the travel industry to improve their capabilities and negate our clients’ competitive advantages. When reading out the aggregate feedback to our client, it took an experienced eye to not state what was being mentioned as a strength or area for improvement, but instead what was not being mentioned at all.
The most valuable deliverables in a win / loss program are the actionable insights presented at the end of a report. These insights embody all the work conducted throughout a program, synthesizing the findings into real steps companies can take to win more business.
Telling an actionable story requires going beyond the data. In a recent program for a software company at Anova, it was apparent from the initial analysis that the company’s sales team was a key strength. In fact, the initial results showed the team was specifically cited by 80% of respondents as a top strength of the organization. Just taken at face value, for example if this finding was just read off a dashboard, it would seem to indicate that the team had no clear areas for improvement. However, going deeper into those 80% of mentions illustrated a different story. Most of the actual comments were praising the team for responding to inquiries quickly. Responsiveness is a good attribute to have, however, if the only thing prospects note about a sales team is that they respond quickly, that doesn’t indicate a technically skilled team in areas such as presentation skills, differentiation, and solving customer problems. Anova was able to go beyond the high level 80% number to help the company’s Head of Sales realize more training in advanced sales skills was necessary for helping her team grow.
When a company decides to conduct a win / loss analysis program with a third-party consultant like Anova, they are not just signing up to receive one-off feedback from prospects, they are buying a program that will tell its sales team, product marketers, and executive leadership exactly why its winning and losing business, and what they need to do to improve. Win / loss data on its own is valuable, but going beyond that data is what will put your company ahead of the competition.