This is the third installment in a series of blogs discussing how sales teams win more by demonstrating value through taking a consultative approach. The first two blogs established how sales teams win more by demonstrating value. Additionally, taking a consultative approach is vital to demonstrating value. This installment discusses the first of three specific ways sales teams can strive to be more consultative. This blog was written by Yosen Wang, Analyst.
Clearly Understanding Buyer Needs
Consultative sales teams first thoroughly understand the buyers’ specific, unique needs. When Clients won, their perceived ability to understand customer needs was nearly unanimously rated as superior to the top competitor. Understanding buyer needs is the foundation for being consultative as it is the first step to tailoring messaging about how a software solution can solve for those specific needs, thereby creating value and driving wins.
Winning teams approached sales engagements with a customer-centric approach, in which helping to solve the goals of their prospect took precedence over showing off their own solution’s capabilities, some of which may not be important to the prospect’s needs.
Qualitative feedback further supports this idea. For instance, one customer noted in a Client win interview:
The sales process was much more personalized with [client] than with the others. [client] took the time to understand our objectives and come up with what we needed to achieve and what we wanted to achieve. We felt that the other two vendors were trying to change our minds on what we needed in order to fit their product.
Similarly, another prospect cited the ground-up approach a successful sales team took:
We found that [client] has a very different approach to prospective customers. They started from a blank sheet and said, how do we help businesses solve problems in this area? They felt that if they could solve your business problems, the software would sell itself. I feel like others start with a number of seats and then try to figure out how they can get businesses to buy that number of seats.
Customer verbatims illustrate that when prospects’ needs are understood, it not only helps fuel the ability of the sales team to be consultative, but it also enhances the connection the customer feels to the sales team, helping the customer feel comfortable awarding that sales team their business.
In contrast, unsuccessful sales teams often do not take the time to ask the right questions about a prospect’s needs. If they do not ask these important questions, sales teams lose the opportunity to build rapport and connections with the prospect. They also sacrifice valuable information to be used throughout the rest of the sales process. For example, a lost software prospect commented:
[Client]’s approach was to show us everything they offered before finding out what we really needed. I think a better approach would have been to give us a short overview of their offering and then give a more focused presentation and demonstration of the important functions. I was left with the impression that [client]’s solution was all or nothing, and it did not feel like they understood our needs.
Once sales teams have a clear understanding of prospect needs, they are ready to communicate that understanding by customizing sales presentations and demonstrations to address those needs.
Click here to read the full case study.
This is the second installment in a series of blogs discussing how sales teams win more by demonstrating value through taking a consultative approach. The first blog established how sales teams win more by demonstrating value. This blog was written by Yosen Wang, Analyst.
The Importance of a Consultative Approach
In order to convince prospects of the value of their solution, sales teams need to effectively assess customer needs and deliberately articulate how their solution can solve those customer needs. In other words, sales teams need to take a consultative approach.
Two pieces of data illustrate how influential a consultative approach can be in whether a sales team wins or loses:
Consultative approach is also directly linked with value articulation. In situations in which satisfaction with expected value / ROI was rated higher than that of the competition, 89% also rated the sales team’s consultative approach as better than the competition.
How Can Sales Teams be More Consultative?
Taking a consultative approach entails three vital principles: clearly understanding the buyer’s unique needs, carefully demonstrating how their solution’s capabilities meet those needs, and effectively differentiating it from competing solutions.
Click here to read the full case study.
This is the first installment in a series of blogs discussing how sales teams win more by demonstrating value through taking a consultative approach. This blog was written by Yosen Wang, Analyst.
Why do enterprise software sales teams win and lose deals? Traditional thinking would hypothesize that for high-dollar value, complex software platforms, the strength of their solution drives wins while losses are driven by a perception of higher price points and more difficult implementations, especially compared to less robust, cheaper, point solutions. Does the difference between winning and losing truly come down to price and a perception of being easy to work with? If that thinking holds true, how can enterprise software companies win despite being perceived as more expensive and more difficult to implement than their competitors?
This report explores how in enterprise software deals, winning in these competitive situations is predicated more on demonstrating value rather than absolute cost or perception of effort involved. In order to fully examine this, Anova analyzed findings from thirteen win / loss programs conducted between 2022 and 2023 focused on complex, high value enterprise software deals. Our goal was to understand what winning sales teams do differently to set their solutions apart and ultimately win more. Company names in this case study have been scrubbed and will be referred to as the Client.
In those thirteen programs one of the most interesting findings was that when our Client won, in just over half of those winning situations their newly acquired customer was actually more satisfied with a competitor’s price point. Despite being at a pricing disadvantage, the Client was still able to win because they proved their solution would drive superior value for the customer. Conversely, when we looked at the inverse loss data, 100% of the time when our Client lost customers rated themselves as more satisfied with both price point and expected value.
Figure 1 illustrates one specific situation representative of this finding. When this Client won, satisfaction with its value exceeded that of its top competitor (75% versus 50%), even though it fell behind its competitor in terms of satisfaction with price levels (50% versus 100%). In contrast, when the Client lost, the winning vendor outperformed it in both value satisfaction and pricing satisfaction.
Figure 1 Satisfaction with Price Levels and Value in Wins and Losses Between Clients and Competitors
Additionally, in our Clients’ winning situations, an average of just 48% of prospects were satisfied with their expected ease of implementation. Said another way, more than half of newly won customers expected to be dissatisfied with their selected vendor’s implementation process yet still felt that value of the implemented solution would outweigh the pain of installation.
It becomes clear that the expectation of high value can outweigh pricing and implementation concerns. So, the question then becomes: how can software sales teams become successful at proving their value to their customers?
Click here to read the full case study.
In a recent blog for The Pragmatic Institute, Anova Senior Research Analyst Will Young authored a blog providing information for organizations about interpreting win / loss data. Below is an excerpt:
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, are an effective approach for collecting win/loss data, because the data is gathered by experienced interviewers and includes both qualitative and quantitative feedback about a company’s sales effectiveness, product/service offering, pricing, and overall competitiveness in the marketplace.
To accomplish this task, there first needs to be an in-depth analysis. Strategies like analyzing 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.
To read the full blog, click here
In a recent blog for The Pragmatic Institute, Anova Senior Research Analyst Will Young authored a blog providing information for organizations about the benefits of a win / loss program. Below is an excerpt:
Knowing which of your distinctive competencies are being recognized by the marketplace allows you to adjust your marketing and sales strategies accordingly.
And understanding your customers’ perspectives and what separates you from your competitors is integral to improving your win rate.
To obtain this knowledge, however, you need an effective customer listening tool.
Win/loss programs are essential tools for capturing and understanding the voice of the customer.
When considering the importance of understanding distinctive competencies, there are two main ways a win/loss program can help:
The best win/loss programs collect a mix of both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Each of these questions elicits valuable data about how unique a company’s positioning and offerings are in the marketplace.
Asking open-ended qualitative questions allows companies to understand their customers’ true opinions. Rather than biasing respondents by asking about a company’s postulated differentiators directly, you’ll gain immense value by leaving the related questions more open-ended. A question included in many of Anova’s win/loss programs is:
“What, if anything, did our client do to differentiate itself from the competition during the sales process?”
By leaving this question open-ended, with no prompting and no biasing, the company can be confident that the responses are the prospects’ true top-of-mind opinions.
To read the full blog, click here
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.
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.
We are excited to announce that Anova recently hired two exceptional research analysts to support our growing business. We also hired an enthusiastic and inquisitive summer intern.
Ryan Ashe recently graduated from Middlebury College with a double major in economics and psychology. While at Middlebury, Ryan was a member of the varsity ice hockey team, the Sustainable Investment Club, and an Economics Research Assistant. Ryan will be running in the 2021 Boston Marathon in support of Boston Children’s Hospital. Ryan will be working on clients with Zach Golden.
Will Young recently graduated from Williams College with a major in economics. While at Williams, Will was the captain of the varsity cross country and track teams and a member of the Lehman Community Engagement club. Will is running in the 2021 Boston Marathon in support of the American Liver Foundation. He will be working on clients with Sarah DeFreitas.
Shuami Odolomerun is a rising junior at Prospect Hill Academy in Cambridge, where he is an avid basketball player. Shuami has been helping Anova with technology, operations, and client research.
Anova believes in giving back to the community in a way that ties to our overall company values and stresses the importance of feedback. For the past few years, Anova has been partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of Boston’s Ready to Work program and at the YMCA of Greater Boston’s Training, Inc. program. We help job seekers with mock interviews, simulated job experiences, presentation practice, mentoring, and training.
In previous posts we looked at how win / loss is a tool for getting 360° feedback in terms of commentary on all parts of an organization. Win / loss can also lead to a different kind of holistic feedback: research that touches all parts of a client lifecycle.
Below are examples of how companies can increase the value of their research by adding an additional feedback type, or a third leg of the stool, to their win / loss program:
Win / loss works best in high-dollar value sales situations. When a company brings on a high revenue client, that new customer represents an even higher potential Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). The projected revenue of a new customer is not a straight-line calculation either. Each new client represents cross-sell, up-sell, and referral opportunities as well. Given the potential revenue that each new client represents, it is critically important to make sure each relationship starts off on the right foot.
Unfortunately, Anova’s research has indicated that about one-third (36%) of new clients cite post-sales issues as a pain point in win interviews. However, within the win interview the respondent is covering so many other different topics (e.g. sales performance, impressions of the solution, competitive rankings) that the post-sales feedback may not be as detailed as companies need to truly understand the client’s onboarding experience.
That is why many Anova clients institute a post implementation program that runs in congruence with the win / loss program. The PI program captures feedback specifically on the implementation process, giving companies richer detail about client pain points and allowing them to take well-informed corrective steps to improve their onboarding processes.
By ensuring that new clients have a seamless onboarding experience, companies set themselves up for unlocking substantial future revenue.
Similar to ensuring the implementation process goes well, it is critical for companies to deeply understand the health of their existing client base. Though many companies rely on web surveys to keep tabs on their client satisfaction, for complex client situations it is imperative to go beyond NPS ratings and into actionable, detailed feedback in order to ensure clients’ needs are being met.
An example of this is illuminated by one of Anova’s clients which is in the corporate travel space. Many of the situations submitted for the company’s win / loss program are rebid opportunities. During aggregate reports, Anova often segments the results by rebid vs. new business situations. In past years, Anova pinpointed that in those unsuccessful rebids, clients were lamenting that the company did not address ongoing service concerns in the renewal discussions. The company knew it had to improve the level of knowledge their account teams had about the ongoing relationships before the renewal discussions so the team could work to address the issues either in practice or with a plan moving forward.
By implementing a client satisfaction program to collect feedback about the relationship before the client’s decision, and then react to the feedback accordingly, the client was able to achieve their highest retention rate in recent years.
Another common use case for incorporating a third type of research into win / loss programs is through churn interviews. Similar to loss debriefs, an interview with a departed client puts the spotlight on why customers did not choose to continue a relationship with a company. Additionally, the interviews provide unparalleled competitive intelligence by capturing feedback as to why a rival firm was selected instead.
By doing churn interviews along with win / loss, companies can better understand how consistent their client experience is from the perceived (feedback from new business prospects before they begin working with the company) to the actual (feedback after a relationship existed and ended). If, for example, missing functionality on a platform is a key reason why a company is both losing new business and experiencing churn, that clearly highlights a competitive gap in their solution. If a key feature of the platform is being cited as a strength in win interviews but subsequently shows up as a churn driver, that indicates a lack of consistent experience around that tool, either because of unrealistic expectation setting from the sales team or insufficient follow-through on the CX side.
The last, but certainly not least, piece to the client lifecycle is intermediaries. Whether it is in the form of a search consultant, advisor, channel partner, or VARS, third parties are common in sophisticated B2B marketplaces.
Because of the influence these intermediaries have, gathering their feedback can unlock potential holes in the win / loss feedback loop. For example, in the defined contribution space interviewing plan sponsors provides some feedback, but it is an advisor who often controls the playing field and evaluation criteria. Interviewing advisors can provide more meaningful details to supplement a data set. Additionally, these advisors have a broader, more advanced understanding of the marketplace from their work with different providers and on other searches. By adding advisor perception interviews to the win / loss program, one Anova client was able to gain a more holistic understanding of how their firm was being perceived and was able to increase its win rate over 15%.
More and more companies are graduating from asking “why should we do win / loss?” to “how do we make our win / loss program best in class?”. Rounding out the feedback loop with additional perspectives from the customer’s lifecycle is a highly impactful way of taking research programs to the next level.
Companies often reach out to Anova for guidance on starting a formal win / loss program at their organization. One of the most important things to remember for a company starting win / loss for the first time is to not rush the kickoff of a program.
An airline pilot follows a thorough checklist of necessary steps and makes sure all the instruments on their dashboard are working before taking off. Similarly, it is imperative to not skip steps during the launch of a win / loss program. Once the program is “in the air”, it can be difficult to turn around and go back to do those early actions that lead to program success.
One of the biggest steps in launching a successful win / loss program is getting buy-in throughout the organization. Though the program often is run by product marketing or sales enablement, win / loss is a tool that can be used throughout an organization: both horizontally across departments and vertically by different levels of the business. To unlock the most value from win / loss, organizations should ensure all of these different areas have access to the feedback.
Sales: While almost all departments can benefit from win / loss feedback, sales has the most opportunity to act on the feedback. It takes a considerable amount of time for marketing to begin to change the perceptions of their brand or for product to develop enhancements to the solution, but a salesperson can receive feedback they need to be more clear in their presentations and begin acting on it immediately. Additionally, salespeople are the ultimate stewards for an organization. A prospect’s perception of how a solution compares to the competition or whether something is expensive or not is often a biproduct of how the salesperson differentiated and articulated the solution’s value. Said another way, even product and pricing feedback is often feedback about the sales performance.
Marketing: Win / loss enables marketers to gather feedback on their company’s brand awareness, reputation, and effectiveness of marketing collateral. Additionally, like sales, there is crossover to other areas that marketers should pay attention to as well. At Anova we hear all the time in interviews that our client is missing a particular tool from its platform, but in reality that functionality actually does exist. While on paper missing functionality sounds like a product issue, it is really an opportunity for the product marketing team to create messaging and content around that tool to increase awareness.
Product: Of course, sometimes product gaps do exist. The feedback from win / loss interviews is central to product managers because the information will highlight the solution’s strengths and weaknesses. This data can be used to fine-tune a company’s roadmap or product enhancement plans.
Pricing: A company’s price is much more complex than just a number on a proposal. There are list prices and discounting practices, structures and models that explain different components and add-on fees, comparisons between competitive price points, and of course the overall ROI an organization expects to achieve. As such, pricing feedback generally falls into three categories: price point, pricing transparency, and overall value. Win / loss can help identify potential issues in any of these areas, as well as help an organization gain a greater understanding of how competitors are pricing their solutions.
Competitive Intelligence: Win / loss is not just an introspective exercise. It is a critical competitive intelligence tool that allows CI professionals to benchmark themselves against their rivals and gain a competitive edge.
Value Up and Down the Org Chart
Senior Management: Leadership can utilize the feedback from win / loss to facilitate clearer decision making and de-risk investments. The Voice of the Prospect data from a win / loss program is captured via an independent, third-party source by interviewers who are highly skilled and experienced. This allows senior leaders to trust the data is without bias and can feel confident in using it to fuel their decision-making, particularly regarding prioritizing areas of investment.
Team Leaders: Managers need to have a pulse on how their teams are performing, and they can’t be in the room with their employees for every meeting or to help with every decision. The feedback in an individual transcript, particularly for sales managers, can be used as a training and coaching tool to help reflect on what happened in an individual situation and how to either replicate or improve that salesperson’s performance on the next deal.
Individual Contributor: Much like having a personal trainer for achieving fitness goals, win / loss can be a career trainer for sales reps who are reviewing the feedback from an interview and using it to hone their skills and sharpen their saw. Others throughout an organization, from product marketers to customer support reps, also benefit from getting a more thorough understanding of how the marketplace is perceiving their company.
In addition to asking about how to effectively start a win / loss program, companies often ask Anova “how do we get the most value out of a program?”. That answer starts with making sure there is broad, cross-departmental exposure to the feedback. The programs that deliver the most value are ones that facilitate strong internal alignment on how a company can compete more effectively. To achieve that internal alignment, all parties must be represented. Anything less just limits the potential learning a program can provide.