Creating Effective Win/Loss Programs

It’s easy to conduct Win/Loss and get little benefit. It’s also easy to perform Win/Loss (W/L) in a truly effective way and derive great benefits that lead to improved value propositions, increased win rates, and ultimately stronger financial performance from higher sales and improved margins. This article describes Fletcher/CSI’s (FCSI’s) basic approach to W/L, the areas we focus on, the value of both qualitative and quantitative findings, and the key areas of intelligence that can be gleaned from W/L.

Many organizations claim to do some form of Win/Loss analysis. Unfortunately, most of these organizations would admit that for them, W/L has minimal benefits. For some, it’s an inconsistent, reactive activity that happens when a big deal, or a deal thought to be a slam dunk, is lost. For others, it’s essentially salespeople inputting information into the CRM after the deal closes; at some point, that CRM data is analyzed, and some form of conclusions drawn.

Key Components of an Effective Win/Loss Program:

Effective Win/Loss Components:
-Look beyond sales team performance 
-Engage the buyer decision makers
-Incorporate third party contributors
-Incorporate multiple functional areas in the company 
-Involve senior company management in the process and results
-Analyze data and reevaluate your strategies

At its core, effective W/L analysis enables organizations to:

  1. Understand the true reasons specific deals are won or lost (it’s equally important to include both wins and losses in the sample mix, for reasons we will describe further on)
  2. Understand on a strategic level, across multiple deals, why the organization is winning and losing
  3. Create specific actions based on the findings – identify specific best practices to employ more consistently and identify problem areas, especially approaches that are not resonating with customers. Put simply – do more of what’s working, do less of what’s not

Some believe W/L is about evaluating an individual deal, or the effectiveness of individual salespeople. In many cases this approach is counterproductive as Win/Loss is most valuable when applied across a department. At the start of every W/L program, make sure you have well defined objectives, and a clear sense of the intent of the W/L program. The intent can range from “we are getting clobbered by a competitor, and we need to better understand why” to “our CEO has set specific financial goals for the organization, and W/L is a key contributor to increasing our success in the marketplace.” In some cases, W/L is a strategic, consistent program. As in all projects, knowing the objectives and definition of success at the start is key.

FCSI analyzes deals across the entire buyer value chain.

  • Pre-sales conditioning – company reputation, past history, collateral and marketing efforts, etc.
  • Sales team – initial interactions, quality of the proposal, relevance and quality of the product/solution demo, timeliness of communications, etc.
  • Product/solution “fit” to the requirements of the solution/product offered
  • Economics, including up-front and ongoing costs, terms and conditions, etc.
  • Post-sales follow-ups

Across all of these areas, its crucial to drill down into the details. Surveys and pure quantitative data typically are not enough as a stand-alone methodology. Fletcher/CSI focuses on in-depth interviews conducted by subject matter experts and probes each area to uncover its intricacies. Deals that are more complex or have higher stakes, often require multiple interviews with a variety of stakeholders.

While qualitative results provide deep insights, we also understand many executives need quantitative findings to drive decisions. FCSI’s STAR W/L Portal uses internally developed algorithms to translate qualitative interviews to quantitative metrics. Interviews are coded to produce sentiment scores that take into account both the importance of the attribute and the performance of the key players on the attribute. Once coded, our portal enables clients to compare their performance against over 100 metrics, including competitors, deal value, customer type, date range, location, etc. While, quantitative data can describe the “what”, you need qualitative data and prospect verbatim’s to describe the “why”. By mixing the qualitative data with quantitative, users can quickly identify which factors have the greatest effect on the outcome of a deal.

Win/Loss provides critical information on three dimensions.

  • W/L shines a spotlight on your own organizations and how prospects and customers really feel about you (we have a client who several years ago remarked that their CEO stated the fact that we spoke to more of their customers in a given year than any other single entity).
  • W/L provides insights about your customers and their needs. Are their needs changing, what needs are not being met, and how their business may be changing.
  • W/L is a valuable source of competitive intelligence, ranging from tactical information like new competitor programs or new product versions to more strategic intelligence like new sales approaches and go-to-market strategies

Win/Loss is an incredibly powerful tool that helps companies better understand themselves, their customers, and their competitors. As part of a larger Customer Intelligence program (which includes Voice of Customer and Renewal Intelligence), W/L can deliver true competitive advantage. Many companies in the B2B space employ win/loss in some capacity; the vast majority of those that use win/loss, however, don’t get the full value from the tool. Identifying deal-level issues is common; aggregating that data into summary outputs with strategic implications and recommendations is rare, but in our experience the most effective use of W/L. Fletcher/CSI has refined our approach over the past 25 years to ensure that clients optimize the intelligence and results W/L produces.

Author: Chad Stimson, COO Fletcher/CSI