Thursday, September 30, 2021
Note: This blog was written by Ryan Ashe, a Research Analyst at Anova.
In the same way that watching game film on an ongoing basis enables sports coaches to lead their teams to success, win/loss enables sales leaders to practice, analyze, and strategize on a regular cadence. At Anova, we find that companies that conduct win/loss on a regular basis, as opposed to merely implementing a one-off program, get the most value from the feedback. Taking advantage of a regularly scheduled win/loss program enables businesses to more effectively track changes in market perceptions over time and monitor a consistent flow of competitive intelligence. Additionally, implementing an effective win/loss program on a regular basis has the power to positively affect an organization’s culture by providing feedback that promotes stronger leadership, incentivized employees, and overall business growth. Some companies are hesitant to implement an ongoing win/loss program; but, organizations can reduce this hesitancy and reap the benefits of an ongoing program by framing negative feedback as an opportunity to grow and celebrating positive feedback.
The Benefits of an Ongoing Win/Loss Program
An ongoing win/loss program provides critical feedback that is readily available through interview transcripts and aggregate analytics. Having an ongoing feedback loop like this enables companies to track changes in both individual and organizational performance over time. Additionally, when done on an ongoing basis, the win/loss interviews provide a constant source of valuable competitive intelligence. Lastly, the regular availability of win/loss interview transcripts presents a unique opportunity to understand prospect perceptions and for a company to adjust to any misalignments between the marketplace and the company’s pitch. If a win/loss program is implemented for only a brief period, the window of opportunity for understanding prospect perceptions becomes reduced. An ongoing win/loss program allows business leaders to have a constant pulse on how their organization is being perceived in the marketplace, which enables leaders to make strategic adjustments in real-time. Ultimately, this results in a company being able to act on the feedback more easily and win more business.
Barriers to Implementing an Ongoing Win/Loss Program
It is human nature to avoid feedback. Even those with growth mindsets who initially want feedback can bristle when actually receiving the criticism. Sometimes organizations who want to “talk the talk” ultimately don’t want to “walk the walk” after receiving feedback. Other times, at the end of an engagement, we hear leaders say that they would like more time before conducting win/loss again so that they can improve the vulnerabilities that the initial win/loss program identified. This approach to win/loss is analogous to watching game film in the preseason, identifying areas for improvement, and then solely focusing on those areas of improvement from the preseason for the entire regular season. This is not the approach that winning organizations take. Taking a hiatus from receiving feedback allows the competition to catch up. Winning organizations do everything they can to prevent this, including constantly seeking feedback, even at the top of their game.
Overcoming These Challenges
With over 25 years of experience helping clients implement win/loss programs, Anova has gained a deep understanding of how to overcome any aversion to feedback that may exist within an organization. The key to developing a culture that embraces feedback is in how the feedback is framed. Even within organizations with highly functioning sales teams, it is inevitable that over the course of a win/loss program, negative feedback will arise. In these instances, it is crucial that leaders use the interview transcripts as coaching tools. Much like watching game film after a disappointing loss, interview transcripts that contain negative feedback present an opportunity to grow. Leaders should seize these opportunities by setting up meetings with the team that worked on the deal and walking them through what went wrong and how these mishaps can be corrected the next time around. The emphasis should be on the fact that this negative feedback will help the team win more deals in the future, and the transcript should not be used to shame individual team members. Salespeople are competitive by nature; they hate to lose and do not necessarily need constant reminders of their shortcomings. Leaders should capitalize on this competitive nature by framing these meetings as opportunities to become more competitive. This will reduce the anxiety that often comes with the anticipation of negative feedback. Win/loss interview transcripts also present a unique opportunity to understand the perceptions of the prospect. We often encounter situations where the buyer’s perceptions of a deal do not align with the perceptions of the sales team that worked on the deal. Seeing feedback from the buyer that the sales team feels does not align with reality could make the sales team defensive. In these situations, it is crucial for leaders to make it clear that in situations where differences do exist, it is less important as to who is “right” and more important to understand why those differences exist in the first place. Understanding the differences in perception is essential in order to refine the team’s pitch, so it better resonates with prospects in the future.
Ultimately, as improvements are made over time, and the team wins more deals because of time spent dissecting negative feedback, the culture of the organization will begin to shift. Salespeople will begin to crave win/loss interview transcripts on an ongoing basis and recognize them for what they are: a competitive tool that is key to winning more business.
At Anova, we have also found that acknowledging positive feedback is equally as important as unpacking negative feedback. Win interview transcripts are often rich with praise for what an organization’s sales team did well in order to beat the competition. In these instances, it is essential that leaders celebrate this praise by calling out strong individual performances or areas where the team has made the improvements that were shown to be necessary through loss interview transcripts. This celebration of strong performance helps to build a culture that embraces feedback by creating a sense of positivity around the win/loss program. The bottom line is that if leaders are emphasizing the value of dissecting negative feedback and asking their team to buy in and embrace the feedback, it is also their responsibility to make known the positive impact that analyzing the win/loss feedback is having on the organization. Win interview transcripts often present the perfect opportunity for leaders to make this happen.
Anova believes strongly in the importance of an ongoing win/loss program because it enables organizations to more effectively track changes in how they are being perceived in the marketplace over time. The constant flow of both positive and negative feedback creates a fluid source of competitive intelligence that helps the organization gain an edge in the marketplace. In order for a program to be successful, however, organizations must be open to embracing feedback, both positive and negative. While feedback can be unnerving for some who feel that it will expose problems and promote finger-pointing, successful companies learn how to use this feedback to their benefit to create a winning culture. Eventually, employees look forward to the continuous win/loss feedback because they see it as a means of improving their performance, and business leaders view the program as a tool to grow the business and become more profitable.