The Win/Loss Interview – Getting the Right Data

Previously, we spoke about the basics of how to plan a win/loss analysis program. In this second part of our three-part series on win/loss analysis programs, we explore how to get the right data to help increase your rate of sales closure by planning and executing an effective win/loss interview. Let’s get started.

In the previous part of this series, we covered in detail how to plan for an effective win/loss analysis. In this part two of the win/loss analysis series, we discuss perhaps one of the most crucial steps of the whole exercise – how to gather the right data – followed by how to conduct the interview.

Selecting Your Data Sources

First things first: You have to gather the data that you will use as a basis to draw conclusions and initiate action. Your win/loss analysis goals should determine the data you are trying to find. For example, what do you want to know, and why? Are you interested in industry-specific, persona-specific, or competitor-specific data? Which variables will you use to benchmark performance?

The data you need can be of two types – quantitative, which you get from your CRM, or qualitative, which you obtain through sales and buyer feedback. Let’s take a deeper look at both kinds.

CRM Data

Your CRM forms the most basic source of your win/loss data. It helps you assign hard numbers to your sales wins and losses. Your win/loss ratio is the ratio of the number of opportunities you have won to the number you have lost. At a minimum, your goal is to keep this number above 1, but the higher it goes, the healthier your ratio.

As discussed in the previous article, win rates, which are calculated as a ratio of the number of opportunities you win to your total number of opportunities, help you understand how well you’re doing and where you need to improve – and invest – more. It can be calculated from a number of perspectives, such as by product, segment, product line, region, or even reason.

To summarize, If your organization practices basic CRM hygiene – such as logging each sales opportunity, inputting key fields/reasons, updating statuses (won/lost), etc. – this data can help you gain a basic understanding of what is happening in your sales pipeline, besides function as a useful starting point for priceless insights such as:

  • What is our average deal size?
  • What types of deals are we most likely to win?
  • What types of deals are we most likely to lose?
  • How many deals do we win, and how many do we lose each period?
  • What is our average sales cycle length?
  • How are all these metrics changing over time? 

Sales Feedback

This is the feedback captured by your sales team when they win or lose a deal. A few best practices to follow when seeking answers during this time include:

  • Confirm the primary contact (to gather buyer feedback)
  • Keep the feedback form brief and simple 
  • Mandate filling it for every closed opportunity (whether won or lost)
  • Automate the feedback process in your CRM
  • Confirm the primary competitor
  • Allow selection of multiple decision drivers
  • Allow reps to rate positive as well as negative drivers for each opportunity

Buyer Feedback

The buyer is the richest source of win/loss data. While B2C purchase decisions are relatively straightforward, most B2B purchase decisions are complex. Numerous decision drivers come into play in the eventual decision outcome. Though a few decision drivers may be obvious (like pricing issues and product gaps), others are harder to identify (such as risk mitigation).

Seeking buyer feedback is the best and only way to gain a deep understanding of these drivers. The most commonly used methods to solicit this feedback are surveys and interviews.

Choosing the Right Sample Size

Once you have determined the right data sources, it’s time to decide on your sample size. Ideally, invite four times the number of people you originally planned to interview. For example, for a small business, if you aim to interview five people, invite at least 20. On the other hand, for a larger business, invite 100 people if you want 25 to turn up.

Next, try to cover a fair split of won and lost opportunities. This helps capture proportionate data for both sides. Note that the participants should be the decision-makers in each case to ensure accurate data collection.

As a best practice, tell the participants what you need to discuss ahead of the interview, and explain that your only goal is to improve through their feedback. Be respectful of the time that your participants are sparing for you – consider extending an incentive (such as a gift card) to show you appreciation as well as to encourage participation. When reaching out to participants, make sure that it has been no longer than four weeks since the sale was closed – or went south so that the details of their experience are easy to recall. 

Conducting the Interview – Asking the Right Questions

Finalizing the questions can be a daunting process when there are so many things to discover. To help you get started, here’s a list of the top five questions you should include in your win-loss review. (Make sure that your interviews should take no longer than 15–20 minutes, or you’ll risk prospects and customers getting annoyed!)

Q1. How would you rate our product/service?

Related follow-ups: What did you particularly like or dislike about it? What were the biggest considerations that drove your decision?

When a deal falls through, salespeople are often the first to get blamed. But what if the problem lies with what’s on offer? Diving into product or service features with customers can surface issues out of the sales team’s control. This feedback should be relayed to the product development team to inform necessary upgrades.

When you know the high-level reasons why you’re winning or losing a deal, you’ll know how better to showcase your unique selling points (USPs) better next time and target the trigger points that accelerate a conversion.

Q2. Why did/ did you not choose to buy now?

Related follow-ups: What could we have done differently to make your decision easier? What would you like us to do differently next time?

It pays to remember that you’re not only competing against rival businesses, you’re also looking to avoid stalemate by way of a “no-decision.” Finding out why a prospect did or did not buy can highlight triggers that accelerate or derail a purchase decision you may not even be aware of. Any identified trigger events should be incorporated into future sales processes that proactively address and diffuse issues or create the perfect storm to accelerate purchase.

Q3. How well did we personalize our offering to your needs?

Related follow-ups: Do you have any unmet needs you expected us to fulfill? What are the alternatives that you considered during your purchase decision?

Losing deals due to a lack of personalization is an indication that you may be facing challenges in clearly defining buyer personas or that you have an inadequate understanding of the buyer journey. If your team can quickly identify what type of prospect they’re dealing with and where they stand in their buying journey, they can adapt conversations appropriately to respond to specific buyer needs.

Q4. What were the main differences between us and the alternatives you considered?

Related follow-ups: What was the clincher when making your purchase decision? How highly did price factor in the process, and what’s the breaking point to consider swaying toward an alternative?

This is a more discreet way to ask, “Why did/didn’t you decide to go with us in light of your alternatives?” It gives your prospect the opening to share – for better or worse – how you differentiate yourself from the competitors in your space.

If you’re missing a feature that your competition has – and you’re regularly losing business because of it – get in touch with your product team.

Q5. Was our product/service referred to you by anyone?

Related follow-ups: How did they describe their experience with it? Would you recommend it to anyone?

Just like the first thing you do when choosing a restaurant is asking for recommendations and look up Yelp reviews, the same goes for business purchases. No one can resist the dirt turned up by a good reference. Getting a handle on what references say about you can help you understand your company’s brand image and perception.

If references don’t seem to have good things to say about you, relay the feedback to your product and after-sales teams so that they can dedicate more resources to improving customer satisfaction.

Know How to Read the Signs

During the interview, remember that it is key to ask open-ended questions, which typically cannot be answered in one-word responses – and therefore yield priceless insights. Once you get your hands on all that data, don’t sit on it. Share it with all the relevant people, and start building a stronger product, brand, and bottom line.

Read Part 1: Getting Started With a Win/Loss Analysis

Read Part 3: The Results

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