The Competitive Enablement Platform
Win-loss month is not an officially holiday — but we’re working on it.
To spread the good word, we devoted an entire month of programming and guests on the Competitive Enablement Show to win-loss analysis.
It’s impossible to condense all the knowledge, best practices and tips from these interviews, but we did it anyway!
Here are the six biggest takeaways from the five experts we interviewed for win-loss month.
☝️ Short on time? Check out all six takeaways from Win-Loss Month in under 60 seconds ☝️
Win-loss analysis uncovers valuable insights across a ton of different areas of the business. But as the saying goes, if you chase two rabbits at once, you might lose them both.
In other words, you won’t get the most value out of your win-loss program without first understanding what part of the business you’re looking to improve.
DoubleCheck Research Director Robyn Welfare says that goals are often ill-defined or missing completely. And this almost always guarantees a poor income. Instead, she says you should “get clear on what your stakeholders want to know, and use that as your guide to build your research materials to steer your program.”
Sales processes, competitive win-rate, positioning and messaging — win-loss analysis can produce insights on all three. But without a clear focus, you’re setting your program up for failure.
Figure out what you and your team want out of a win-loss analysis program first, and then start working.
Doing it the other way around will not turn out well for you.
Well, I’d hope so. They are the experts after all.
The truth is the work involved in win-loss analysis (interviewing, qualitative research and analysis) is highly specialized and time-consuming. It’s also incredibly powerful work that every organization will benefit from.
It’s of the reasons why Community Brands Sr. Director of Product Marketing Tirrah Switzer switched from an in-house win-loss program to an external one, led by a third-party vendor.
“Doing a win-loss program internally was one of the most painful experiences of my life. We didn’t we didn’t have the bandwidth and we didn’t have the skills. I decided to use some experts externally and it works fabulous for us.”
Beyond the skillset, using a third-party vendor gives you a better chance of collecting better, more objective data. And the better the data, the more powerful your insights and recommendations.
“Win-loss insights are very difficult for you to obtain on your own. There will always be implicit biases either from your own salespeople or from customers not really wanting to talk to you in very honest ways,” said Alex Salop, Head of Product Marketing at the Arbinger Institute.
If win-loss is a priority for your organization, it’s always worth it to call in the experts. They have the skills, the outside look, and the motivation give win-loss analysis the time and effort it deserves.
Three primary sources of win-loss data are interviews, surveys and CRM — each with their own strengths and limitations.
When it comes to the quantitative data taken from surveys and your CRM, the biggest potential strength is the sample size. If you have thousands of data points to analyze, the insights you draw will convince even the most skeptical executive.
But that’s a huge if.
The drawback of a quant-based win-loss program is the lack of data-hygiene in those thousands of data-points — if you have access to thousands at all.
For Sprout Social’s Director of Market Strategy Peter Mertens, a quantitative win-loss analysis program made sense. Not only because it was easier for him to scale as a team of one, since his company generated thousands of trial instances every month, he had access to enough data to make win-loss powerful.
But if you, like many companies, do not have access to thousands of reliable data points, you’ll want to look at a more qualitative win-loss program relying on win-loss interviews.
All good win-loss analysis and presentations take both into account. Which you lean more on will depend on the data you have readily available to you.
From setting the goals of your program to presenting your recommendations and every point in between, you need to know your audience.
At the outset of your program, knowing who your audience and stakeholders helps narrow the focus of your hypotheses and area of research.
If your executive team are your stakeholders, and they’re looking for a competitive win-loss analysis on your top two competitors, and you show up to the executive presentation only with insights on how to improve internal sales processes, don’t be surprised when it doesn’t go over well.
It’s not that internal process recommendations aren’t valuable. In fact, Alex Salop used win-loss insights in a previous role to vastly improve his team’s sales qualification process. But if stakeholders are expecting your win-loss program to look into one topic, and ends up looking into another, you are jeopardizing the longterm potential of your win-loss program.
For all the powerful things win-loss analysis is meant for, there are a few for which it is not. Analyzing individual performance, for example, is not an appropriate use case for win-loss.
This is an expectation to set with your leadership team as well as your colleagues. The more reliable your data is, the more effective your win-loss program will be. And when it comes to interview data, without honest answers, your data becomes less reliable.
Setting the expectation starts at the top, ideally while you’re setting your goals and desired outcome. As Alex Salop puts it:
“I tell the leadership team that some of the win-loss findings are going to speak to individual experiences that people had. But you have to remember that this is not trying to analyze anybody’s job performance. This is all about how can we can be more effective as an organization.”
Once you’ve got that buy-in at the top, connect with your department heads to make sure they and their people leaders make it clear to their teams.
The onus is also on you to make sure this reality is communicated early and often, putting everyone at ease and maximizing the value of your win-loss program.
Win-loss analysis has been a key driver of the career success of every expert we talked to for win-loss month.
The insights from a win-loss program give you the ammunition to make the kinds of data-backed recommendations that get you noticed by the executive team.
Those who inherited programs took charge and made them better. But Peter Mertens didn’t inherit a program, nor was he tasked with starting one. Instead Peter seized the opportunity and proactively took on the initiative.
And thanks in part to win-loss analysis, Peter went from competitive intelligence specialist to Director of Market strategy in a little over four years.
A win-loss program doesn’t guarantee a seat at the boardroom. But the potential it has for making changes that benefit the entire organization and impressing your executive team is why so many compete pros and product marketers turn to win-loss analysis for insights.
So don’t wait until someone tells you to do it. Start a win-loss program proactively.
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