Why Win-Loss Analysis Belongs in Your Diagnostic Arsenal

Sports teams use game films to review their performance, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and identify ways to improve. Business-to-business vendors rarely have the same opportunities because their sales processes take place in a decentralized environment where such scrutiny is rarely possible. Ask a CEO or VP of Sales why they really won or lost each of their last 50 customers, and he or she probably cannot give an informed explanation. One problem is that because sales result from a combination of factors — a compelling product, offer, and engagement with the customer — it is often difficult to identify which elements really drove (or killed) the sale.

Perhaps the most vexing challenge to understanding why customers bought or did not buy is that customers often do not tell the full truth. Especially when they have decided not to buy, customers look for an easy way to shut down the conversation and not to offer any ammunition for a vendor to try to re-open the sales process. For management, the true situation becomes even more obscured by a form of distortion that occurs when sales forces self-report an outcome, sometimes explaining the outcome in ways that simplify the causes (“It was a budget problem”) or seek to deflect blame (“Our product was too expensive”).

Win-loss analyses can cut through this fog by providing an objective, in-depth understanding of the reasons that current or potential customers have selected specific products or services. While sometimes assumed to focus primarily on elements of the sales process, an effective win-loss analysis should be a broad-based assessment that considers all internal as well as external factors affecting a sale: product capabilities and underlying technology; pricing and other commercial terms; sales processes; technical and end-user support; competitive alternatives; and customer decision-making processes.

Learn more and read case studies in our Guide to Successful Win-Loss Analysis.

About Lee Greenhouse

Longtime strategy consultant focused on the business of information content, applications, and services.
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