Bridging the Gap Between Marketing and Sales – Part 4: Winning with Win/Loss Studies

Tanya CandiaTips of the Trade

Bridging the Gap Between Marketing and Sales – Part 4: Winning with Win/Loss Studies

This fourth post in our series on bridging the gap between marketing and sales addresses the win/loss study, which promises much but often falls short.

We all recognize it’s important to understand why we win deals, and why we lose them. This knowledge can inform product decisions, boost sales productivity and ultimately improve profitability. Yet for many companies, a win/loss assessment is a perfunctory exercise, limited to the information in the CRM system and based on the sales rep’s opinion. This subjective information, while vitally important, needs to be validated; it may mask the true reason for the win or loss.

Arguably the best, most accurate way of validating win-loss information is to interview the actual buyers.

  • How did they conduct their search?
  • What really drove their decision? Why did they choose vendor X?
  • How does your product, brand image, sales approach, customer support, etc. stack up against the competition?
  • What were the specific features and capabilities that made a material difference?

This is not a simple or quick exercise: it’s not easy to find buyers who are willing to talk about their decision. Sales people don’t want to bother the customer when they have won a deal, and buyers who have chosen a competitor’s product are leery of someone trying to change their mind.  In either case, the buyer may be unlikely to disclose certain key information.

When a third party runs the program, the likelihood of gaining truly valuable information increases dramatically. Both the buyer and your own employees perceive that the third party is unbiased, and buyers are more likely to be honest since they don’t fear upsetting the vendor.

Two key ingredients of a customer win/loss program are sales engagement and flexibility. First, no program can succeed without the active involvement of the sales reps, so (armed with senior management support) it’s important to ensure the sales reps make introductions to the buyers to be interviewed. Without introductions, you are a random voice on the phone or an unsolicited email, and your chances of actually speaking to a buyer are low. Second, be flexible: put together a prioritized list of questions, both objective and subjective. Be prepared to probe if the customer gives a vague or unexpected answer. By digging for details, you can gain valuable information about the true reasons behind the loss or the win.

About the Author

Tanya Candia is the author of several engineering and marketing books, including the five-book series “Starting Your Startup” published by IEEE. She has held senior executive positions in technology companies, and works with organizations around to world to develop and implement winning strategies.

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