Win/Loss programs come in a wide variety of structures and offers, and we’ve seen most of them. What we’ve found is that there are certain steps any company can take to maximize their return on investment in Win/Loss. Individually, each step adds to the insight and focus of the Win/Loss program. Collectively, these steps are found in the most successful programs we encounter.
- The program is mandatory. A program that allows the salesperson to veto or select the deals that are included is not very likely to discover any surprises. Salespeople are rational and will weed out those deals where there were issues in their performance or where the reasons the deal failed were based on factors that were within their control. A mandatory program removes this bias and produces a more representative sample of deals.
- A neutral third party conducts the data collection. When a salesperson conducts the prospect interview, there is a clear incentive on both parties to keep the relationship alive. Thus, the salesperson will not challenge the prospect on their answers, while the prospect will seek to avoid threatening the salesperson in the responses. This kind of bias can be avoided when a neutral third party conducts the interviews and is able to probe around the sensitive issues with both the salesperson and the prospect.
- The questions are consistent. Asking the same questions allows for a better comparison over time and can produce a direct measure of improvement as changes are made to the product, sales, messaging, and so on. Consistently using the same set of questions ensures that the ratings are based on the same standards, which further improves the value of the results.
- The deal flow is regular. Win/Loss programs that have a regular and steady deal flow can track changes over time and can also record the impact of seasonality, budget cycles, and time on success rates. Regular deal flow can be either in a batch process, where a number of deals are all evaluated in one batch, or a continuous flow, where deals are processed as they close. Both will produce a predictable flow of deal insight that allows for tracking changes over time.
- Deal selection is predictable. Win/Loss programs that use a predictable and consistent process to select deals for evaluation are more likely to cover a full range of deal types and thus deliver a better sense of how the market perceives the company, its products, and its sales efforts. Using the same criteria for all deals makes trending easier, and if volumes are sufficient, the trends can be detailed by various market segments.
- Senior management is engaged. Win/Loss programs that engage senior management have more impact on the company. Senior management engagement in Win/Loss helps to promote the process and provides a consistent impetus for new deals to be added. Senior management engagement also helps keep the pressure on to implement recommendations that arise from the process.
- Reporting is timely. Information from a Win/Loss deal evaluation has a limited shelf life. Typically, prospects have limited memory on the deal specifics after six months and are unable to provide unique insights. Likewise, after six months the market has changed and conditions are different. As time goes on, the insights from specific deals become less useful, and while the aggregate deal insights may remain useful for a bit longer, they also have declining value as time passes.
- Deal reports are aggregated. The real power of Win/Loss comes when multiple deals are aggregated to identify common factors in wins and losses. Win/Loss programs that aggregate results are able to develop a more strategic focus on the changes that will have the greatest impact.
- The sales team is fully engaged in the process. Successful Win/Loss programs engage the sales team as active, collaborative participants. These programs are focused on the entirety of the sales process and include the sales team input into the deal evaluation. Programs that then provide salespeople with aggregated results enable them to make a direct connection between participation in the Win/Loss process and the results.
- Recommendations are included. A key part of a successful Win/Loss program is to create change in the sales process and outcomes. Programs that identify common causes for losses and produce recommendations to fix those causes need to be actively engaged in the implementation of the fixes. When that happens, the Win/Loss program can show a direct impact on improved sales outcomes.
A successful Win/Loss program requires that many pieces work together effectively to deliver unique insights into deal outcomes and bring about change to improve sales success. Truly successful programs are able to integrate all the components into a holistic and complete system that engages and provides leadership with clear recommendations and supports the implementation of those recommendations.