Do you know why you’re losing business? If you don’t ask your customers, you can only guess. Remove the guesswork by conducting Win/Loss interviews with your customers and former prospects. You can find out why they chose to do business with your company or a competitor…and how they arrived at their buying decision. The bottom line is: Win/Loss analysis helps you improve win rates and retain more business. Research indicates that taking action from a formal Win/Loss program can improve win rates by between 15 to 30 percent.
Beyond improving win rates, Win/Loss is a great source of competitive intelligence, customer insight, product development and even strategic ideas. This webinar will provide you a wealth of practical and beneficial ways to improve all of these activities.
- Learn what Win Loss analysis is, and how your company can benefit from a formal Win Loss program
- Learn the 12-Step Win Loss analysis process to develop a world-class Win Loss program
- Learn 9 tips to improve your interviewing skill
- Win Loss issues: recording interviews, compensating interviewees, security, company disclosure
- Learn the Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Win Loss versus In-House or Hybrid programs
Win loss analysis is the process of interviewing customers and non-customers a couple of months after a sale, to listen and learn from them. Ellen Naylor, a win-loss expert, highlighted strategic reasons to do win-loss analysis steps to complete it. Some reasons companies should consider doing win-loss analysis for many reason, including improved customer retention, especially for an incumbent. By continuously doing win-loss interviews, companies will get early warning instead of late warning, which is often what happens when companies feel like they are doing well. Tactically, companies can find out why they are really winning deals, then build on that positive.
Once a company develops goals for the outcome of the win-loss analysis, the researcher needs to work with the sales team and others within the company to determine the accounts. The researcher needs to determine what value proposition they will reach customers with, then create open and closed-ended questions to get to the kind of information that will be valuable in the company’s culture. The researcher also needs to spend time getting to know their sources and hone their interviewing skills to get the most actionable win-loss results.
Once the interviews are completed there are many options for analysis; charts and SWOT are great for many companies, but it is on the researcher to understand the company culture and be sensitive in making recommendations to the correct decision makers. Ultimately, Ellen Naylor says that no matter how digital and low-contact our culture becomes, she says win-loss will continue because human nature means that customers still like to be heard. Additionally, the proof is in the numbers. As collaboration between sales and marketing increases, so do close rates.
How Win Loss Analysis Captures and Keeps New Business: Webinar Transcript
Craig: Welcome everybody to our complementary webinar for the early May, featuring Ellen Naylor on “how win loss analysis helps you capture and keep new business.” What an exciting time to be talking about this topic which is clearly one of the most essential ones in any intelligence practitioner’s tool kit. I can’t think of better person to be doing it today than Ellen Naylor, who, for more than 25 years, has been an expert and one of the leading thinkers in this particular area. She does not just think about it; she actually practices it day in and day out, and has written the book on it.
So we welcome you, whether you are coming in from Asia, whether you are in form Europe today, or from the America as well; I know there’s members hailing from all those areas. For those of you who are new to our Intel Collab webinars, let me quickly just give you an idea of what to expect, and how to interact with us. For those of you who have questions, as many of you know, we spend about 30 minutes or so with our provocateur Ellen who’s going to share her views on win-loss analysis. But the second half of our session is spent answering your questions. If you have them, go ahead and use the question pane that you have available in your control. You can send us those at any time, and in that last half an hour or so we will go ahead and do our best to answer them for you.
Additionally, we have folks that are busy tweeting; for those who want to be active on that you can go use the tweetchat.com URL that you see on your screen right now. For those of you who may have colleagues that want to listen in or maybe you want to listen to it again later, all of our webinars, including this one, will be available at the Slideshare.net site that you see in the third bullet. By the way, there are 80 something other webinars that are also available to for you to listen to there and share with your colleagues. We certainly encourage you to do so. It takes us about week or so to make sure that we get the current one loaded up, but you will see them there and again you can go there anytime you choose. For those of you who want to view the recording and download any of this, you are also more than encouraged to register for a trial membership at the Reconverge.net website as well. So all of these ways give you an opportunity to interact with us and we are just thrilled to have you with us today.
So let me tell you little bit about Ellen, as you can see on your screen now. Ellen’s been around the CI field for a long time, and the reason she has is because she is so successful at it. She started The Business Intelligence Source, which is a CI consultancy, back in 1993. She has a wide range of clients. Everything from small to medium size enterprises right up through Fortune 500 companies. She is also probably one of the most recorded, and frankly, one of the most sharing, most generous people out there on the circuit talking about CI topics, and she has been doing that around the world for a long time.
One thing I’ll just note about Ellen that I find particularly unique about her: When I was first writing a book on CI analysis methods, which was back in early 2000s period with my colleague Babette Bensoussan who is over in Australia, we were looking for expert in win loss analysis. Needless to say, we went to Ellen. Ellen is clearly one of the leading thinkers on this. She is certainly among the top people and she has actually written a new book, which is not quite out yet but on its way. It will be out in the next few weeks, maybe a month or so, but she’ll be sharing with us today a good number of the lessons and experience and views that she will be capturing in that book, so I certainly encourage you to check that out as soon as it available. I know she is just thrilled to be able to share with us today. So, on that note I’m going to go ahead and move us right in to Ellen Naylor. Ellen you are on with us. We are thrilled you to have with us, and we are looking forward to all of your ideas. Ellen take on over.
START OF PRESENTATION
Ellen: Thanks so much Craig. I hope everybody can hear me alright. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening depending on your time zone and those who listen to us later because I understand that Aurora tapes all these so people have the benefit of going to their SlideShare site. They have the huge repository so keep that in mind.
So today’s agenda is: we are going to start with the definition of win-loss; benefits – why or why not; changes in selling environment today which is really important to keep in mind; the twelve steps process that I outlined in the book – actually go into a lot of detail in the book; eight interviewing tips; other issues and logistics you want to consider in your win-loss program; outsourcing versus in-house; and the future of win loss, because a lot of people are wondering will it still exist. I think it will and you find out why.
So what is win-loss? Win-loss is basically interviewing your customers and non-customers ideally 2-3 months after the sale is consummated, so they know you’re are not trying to sell to them. You are truly there to listen and learn. What’s in it for them? A lot of times, they are pretty happy to tell you how it went. They are relieved, right? So, you then analyze the results after 20 or more phone calls, in general, completed phone calls. The analysis is actually the easiest part. I think the interviewing is a more challenging part since you never know how responsive people will be, and you never know if they will know the answers to the questions your client or your decision maker wants answered. Not everybody will know the answers. They will know the answer to 3 out of 10 of them or so, you never know.
Why it works basically is, it isolate the sales team from knowledge building. It allows people to know and learn. It probes the actual performance of the selected vendor. So the strategic benefits of win loss analysis – there is ton of them. I have listed eight of them here; I have about seven or eight more on the book but I’m going to just highlight couple of them in interest of time. Improved customer retention is huge a one, 80 percent of the time of the incumbent wins the deal, so if you are the incumbent, retention is big deal and don’t take it for granted through because people can easily change their mind today in comparison to before because of the internet.
The early warning system is the other one. If you continuously are doing win-loss interviews, you will get early warning instead of late warning, which is often what happens with the people when they feel like they are doing well. They think why they know why they win and they think that they know why they lose and they don’t need to do this. The tactical benefits are probably more obvious and that’s what people think is the main benefit of win-loss. We made an acquisition actually at Bell-Atlantic, which I’m not going into. I do in the book. Based on actually win-loss analysis, not through interviews per say, but through the experience of selling for 10 years or so. We came up with why and how we should be acquiring a company and a PBX voice communication arena instead of another one. And it was a very successful acquisition.
So tactical benefits – really what you are looking for is why you are really winning deals and keep doing it, and also build on why you are winning. Figure out ways where you can win even more business based on adding a few little tweaks, maybe better customer testimonials. You find out why you are losing because a lot of times you think you are losing for different reason. So often price, for example; very seldom is it price. Although I have had one incident where it was price, usually it’s not though. You have the opportunity to isolate those results any which way you have as long you have done enough interviews, and it’s good for forecasting if you do enough of them to get an idea of what product sells better versus not. You can improve sales positioning. You might find out in win-loss analysis, we are not position with the discussion makers – our competitors are…oops! Win-loss – so why isn’t it done? Well, a lot of people think they are doing it and they aren’t because they are asking sales their opinion, which is great. You do want to have the sales opinion; it is valuable. But the customer is the part that’s losing there, right? A good number of companies aren’t even aware of win-loss analysis. They don’t know about it. Others are arrogant; they think why they win it and they think why they know they lose and they don’t need anybody to tell them, right? Politics are kind of related to that. Cost – it’s not free. It’s pretty inexpensive though compared to other types of research. Lack of executive sponsorship – It does take some time to explain to management why it’s a good idea, and what’s in it for them, and some of them don’t feel like listening, And frankly it’s not for everyone; some cultures, it just isn’t going to work.
The sales game is changed. This is the really big deal. When I started doing this in 1989, people went to sales to get information about their products and services, and today they don’t. They go to the internet, they go to social media, they go to their friends, they look at customer testimonials on the website and call them. There are companies out there that online just do customer testimonials for many, many companies out there; they could go look up your company’s customer testimonials that you have no control over. So there is a lot of ways to find out about you, and so that’s really changed how sales are done. In fact, I was just reading the other day that, I think it was a number as high as 70% of people in sales today are not so motivated by money as they were previously, because this whole way of sales has changed. It’s more of a cooperative venture with customer rather than antagonistic one, where “I know it all and you don’t Mr. Customer” – that doesn’t work today. So why you need to be aware of this win-loss is, you need to be looking every bit as much at sales on the marketing side of the equation as you do the sales more so then before, because the internet is that whole area you still have to aware of because it influences costumers and perhaps you just barely made the short list and your internet presence isn’t that great.
So this is the twelve steps we are going to go in to, I’m not going to belabour this chart, but just to show you, we have process. What I like about this chart is, it does give you a process but, you know, just keep in mind that win-loss really is kind of squishy business. It’s a relationship business; it’s all about people. I learned with each one of them, it’s a little different from the other one, but if go to these twelve step, I tend to capture what I need to get to get to help the customer make better decisions with how they wanted to deploy their resources for sales, marketing and product development, and that’s really the bottom line, right?
So step 1 – your goals, what you hope to achieve through win-loss? I have more people who can’t answer that question when I talked to them. They say, “well want to improve our win rate.” Okay! So what’s your win rate? They tell me what their win rate is. Do you know what it is by competitor? “Well, no! But we just know it’s going down,” and I am like, well is there a particular competitor we should be targeting for example? Is there particular product area where you are losing share? Or are you looking at marketing opportunity for example, trying to get into new space where you are not today? These are all the legitimate reasons. The more specific you can get your customer – or if you are within the company your marketing and sales people and product development people, decision makers to be – the more likely you will be successful. This is the very important step and a lot of people don’t really do this well. Well they say they have to do this you know. Okay! Enough on that.
Step 2 – which accounts? I’m just going to read this – “many think they know why they win but not why they lose. Why you think you win isn’t always the truth.” I have heard people say that so many times. The first two lines not the last one. They think why know why they win. I find out so often people do not know why they win, and you learn just as much, of course, from your wins as you do your losses. When you don’t interview wins, you don’t learned about how your implementation, customer service, and maintenance is going. You miss out on that whole piece. You might learn about how the competitor did, but don’t you want to know how you did. And losses… I’m interested in knowing if and how I could possibly have won the business or what will be needed to change for you to win next time, and the psychology of win versus lose interviews is interesting as well. When you call people who won or you won the business, they like to think they made a good decision so they are at this stage; yes, right! And you want to encourage them to think they made a good decision as you are reaching out to them. Whereas those who lose, you know where you lost the business and you are contender; they might be less comfortable so very important for you to let them know right at the very start of the conversation. “I realized you selected so and so I’m not here to change your mind. I know your decision is firm and I honor it,” and then you go on from there.
I learned a lot from one time just doing losses, But it’s usual but that’s the case, it was a company wanted to be in 100 loss interviews, because they are losing so much business so quickly. After 10, I have the answer – it was pricing. The de-regulation that happened in their industry and the price just was of the ball park, and their pricing was out of the ball park, and it ended up being a project of me interviewing their whole sales team, and their retail pricing folks saying, “Guys, you can’t all make this much margin. You are not going to have any business left.” Anyway, you never know where these projects go. Win-loss really can do some good work for you.
Okay the third step is company culture: yours and theirs. I can spend a whole hour on this. It’s so important that you recognize what your company’s attitude is towards risk and reward. Is this your first attempt on win loss? If not, what happened last time? What’s changed since then? Who is sponsoring the win-loss program? Aside from dollars, how will you be sponsoring or promoting the win loss program? It is very easy for people to say “Oh, yes! We going to do it” But then they don’t tell sales to sales management and you need to talk to them and find out their customer. Or their losses, and then they haven’t told them. So a lot of communications going on there. Likewise, the same with the customer you are going to call. I have found in the IT work space, the customer are very interested in the technology. The clients, but the customer, sometimes aren’t so interested in answering the phone calls because they are really busy, and a good many of them are secretive. They really don’t want you to know why they decided things. So you have to keep that on mind when you are working on these programs, you might have to reach out to more people or figure out a way to compensate them better for their time depending on the customer’s industry.
Creating questions – you want open-ended and close-ended questions; this is just like any other primary research project. You always start out with the open ended ones, and that way they can get off their chest what it is they really want to tell you, and get to the close-ended ones later. That’s what I do. It’s not a survey, and it’s pretty much common sense. We go to the next chart because I give you some ideas here about some of the questions. There are four different areas in general that we asked about in my book and I have several pages of question you can have for your open-ended questions. But here, these are just topics and I loved to show this chart to sales people because they realize “oh relationship help – that’s us; company reputation – that’s got nothing to do with sales. Product attributes – well we can’t do anything about that, that’s product management.
Service issues – well that’s not us.” So they realize that isn’t just about them. They are not the only one being accessed in this process; its Greek psychology.
So connecting of sales and speaking of sales – ideally I like to connect with sales, if possible, directly if it’s a more complex deal, and particularly because I want to know how their customers are going to be motivated to share with me. People like to be treated the way they like to be treated versus the way you like to be treated. Who better than sales to tell you how clients want to be treated, right? So you need to find out, will you be interviewing sales people before reaching out to their customers? And if not, I insist on the specific information from my customers that they must give me because I learned from the school of hard knocks; if I don’t, we’re all spinning our wheels. I want to know the names of the people; I want to know their email address, their title, and their phone number. The sales person’s name, the sale person’s experience with this customer – you know 2-3 years, whatever it is. How much the deal was, who the competition was, win or loss – you know some basic information like that. And ideally one or two lines about how they left the account. It saves everybody a lot of time, and the other reason why is, the customer expects you to know them a little before you call them, even though you will email ahead of the time. Another best practice is to call, text or email sales before interviewing their customer, or the former prospect. It may add time to the process but it’s well worth it because sometime they are in the middle of another deal or you might find out “Oh they haven’t decided yet.” Someone made the mistake, they are in decision.
So connecting with customer and prospect. Scheduling interviews, protocol and value proposition. I think scheduling interviews is pretty no-brainer issue. Often in the United States at least we use email to get through the people in North America for the first time, but is sales going to be make the entrée or somebody on marketing? Or are you going to do it and say, “I’m representing company xyz, and some value proposition or the other. What’s in it for them, and I’ll be planning to reach out to you in next couple of days to schedule a mutually agreeable time and thank you very much.”
Examples of value proposition: I get this question all the time. I hear some general ones. I tend to go for customized ones, but here are some general ones. “We want to improve how we do business with our customers – that’s why we are doing this. Our customers are best source of intelligence. We continually strive to improve our sales, marketing and products through your feedback. Win-loss gives you an opportunity for a frank discussion about how we can improve our relationship with you and your company.” It’s that sort of thing. Think about why they want to spend time with you. And consider what industry you are in.
Step 7 – interviewing the customers and the prospects. Again, know me before you call me. Sometimes I looked them up on LinkedIn and just seeing the face of what the person looks like helps make me kind of get an idea of what they are like. The interviewer ideally needs to build trust almost instantly, be a good listener, be prepared yet spontaneous, and intuitive because there is always little pair of balls that you got to be ready for. I think about the decision tree analysis for those of you are in statistics over here and think about all the different ways the customer might answer that question. If they say yes to this one, what are next three questions I want to ask. They say yes to this and no to that one, I am going to move on to the next question. They probably know about this. I kind of think about that way, and that way I’m really ready for the unexpected because it happens often enough. The other thing to think about is, are you going to record the interviews or not? I will go into that later because there are some issues around that.
Eight steps to improving your interviewing skills; I figure it out and stick them in here. I think the most important think I do is, I get grounded before I pick up the telephone or really do anything – give a talk, have those difficult conservations or have a conservation where I just care about the outcome, which is most of them. I get grounded before I do that. There are a lot of ways of doing it. I think Amy Cuddy’s large body position, you know, where you have your hands on your hips, and you are standing with your arms in your elbows out stretched for a couple of minutes, it’s a great one. Do whatever it is, is going to get you into the frame of mind where you are grounded. Some people say prayers, others meditate; there is breathing exercises you can do for goodness’ sakes. Once I started getting grounded (this was few years ago), I noticed that I could do interviews any day of the week. Before that I would have days where I was too high strung and thought, “Nah I can’t do that today, I am having a bad day.” I don’t have that anymore.
The other, the next I think of is pretty obvious, you know recognize how you come across over the telephone because that’s how these are usually done, or in person if you do them in person because different cultures, there’s some where you’ve got to them in person. Be aware of that if you don’t know what it is, ask some of your friends and be aware there right away. So for example I’m pretty chatty, some people want to get right to the point. They particularly don’t like chat. Be professional, be polite; that will differentiate you from many people out there. Be appreciative, the thank you. Don’t take yourself too seriously. I loved that one. Before I call people, I kind of put a smile on my face; it comes over the phone. Also I think I want to leave this person in a better place then I found them when they said hello, by the end of the interview I want them to feel better about themselves than they do right now and that’s on back of my mind. Anything else towards the end that I might have forgotten, always to good thing to add in especially when you kind of sense that, there is a little silence on the other end of the phone, and then thank you. You do it and just end of the call, you send them an email, and you send them a note. You need to figure out the culture there, okay?
I also go to elicitation in the book. Elicitation skills and how do you use them in win-loss analysis. I don’t have that here because we have don’t too much more time. We have 10-15 more minutes and then it’s time for you to start asking a lot of questions I hope.
So Step 8 is telling result from all the interviews that could be summaries of each interview. Most of my customers prefer that but everybody is different; other people want them recorded. So they want the transcripts, and I think with big data that might be something that becomes more popular because they can pop it into big data, look at the words, and see what comes out of them all. Basically you want to organize the qualitative and quantitative comments and findings. Comments obviously for the qualitative, and here are some examples of findings, very simple ones. There are features that customer craves that nobody offers – gee, we are to be getting going on that. Customers don’t value or use some product features that are expensive to support. Why we are doing it? Potential strategic partners, so be thinking now at this stage that how can you tell the story from your win loss analysis results? Because that’s the bottom line here, right? So let’s move into the next one.
Analyzing the findings: visually for sure: the story, because numbers are kind of boring to read. Show them charts. Everybody likes charts and I don’t have a lot of examples of charts because I think we all know what charts looks like, right? Tell them the story though. I find that my customers actually appreciate the story, and don’t get too carried away with analysis paralysis because really win-loss is an analytical tool itself. If SWOT is in your company’s DNA, a lot of the time it’s not a bad one to say, “Okay! Here is what I found out, it’s what you are doing well, and it is what you are not doing well. Here’s what I see the opportunities and here are the threats.” It’s a very easy thing to share, and a lot of people understand it. Even though we’re all bored to death with SWOT as competitive intelligence professionals, we have to keep in mind that our companies often get SWOT.
So here’s an example of a qualitative analysis that I did for a customer, and I am just starting about S&W since interest of time. I can’t do too much more, right? So at the end of these interviews, there are 21 of them. We came up with great customer service, great sales professionalism. Sales positioning is about right; most of time they’re with decision makers and our key influencers. Team integration is excellent. The product works as promised; very easy to use compared to a lot of the competitors. Some other examples: price was both the strength and weakness, depending on where they were looking. Some of these customers where coming from a less complex system, so they expected this one to cost same price as the less complex system,, which was wrong or others that come from the more complex system from one of the market leaders and loved the price of these guys.
Weaknesses – bad customer references. Guess what? That is so easy to fix, so easy to fix, and to make it an annual process which you go through. Sales too pushy: I get that from time to time. Sometimes they are too pushy and in fact they are asking “how I’m doing compared to competitor?” Oh my God! If that isn’t unprofessional. Didn’t understand the customer business industry: They need to learn the customer’s industry – that is the very easy thing to fix. Certain feature were not okay, price in certain cases not okay. Another quote: kid not confident, specific account reps just need a little more training. This was a really bad one and this one is harder to fix: technology supports upsells before they fix the problem because we have egos going on there. The deal is not integrated with the other technology that’s out there; that’s a longer term fix. Low company confidence – just because this company wasn’t one of the market leaders, but it was improving. Another one was hilarious, as the company had no white papers. One of the customers I talked to said, “I have to go to competitor site to understand and appreciate the solution the company was selling, and I went to your company and bought the solution. But I have to read the white paper from a competitor site, oops!” Another very easy thing to fix.
So this is the simple example, but it give you an idea of that’s a lot what people are looking for. Things that they are good at, things that they can fix and exactly how to fix them – well, a lot of times they have to figure that out, right? So here’s the deal with making recommendations – there was a list where we were doing win loss analysis, whether there were consultants or whether we are in the company marketing sales product development, wherever we are, we are not the ones who are accountable for making those changes. There’s different people in the company who have to be accountable for making those changes, so you need to be sensitive as to what you recommend. Making the assessment between the cost of implementing the recommended change, and how much business you might gain as result or lose if you don’t. So I’m always very sensitive about making recommendations and suggesting who might be a good person or a good area to recommend that might be the go-getter to make it happen, right?
Dissemination – another big issue is who gets the copy of the report in the end? What do you share with everyone? Do you share different things with certain people? Like for example, the interview of summaries. I sure wouldn’t want anybody from sales seeing the interview summaries. A lot of confidential things are shared; you don’t want that probably shared it all. Findings: what we do well, what we don’t do so well; I rather have that more broadly shared but perhaps not so deeply. Other people really disagree with that but this is pretty sensitive information that you really don’t want everybody knowing. You want certain people knowing, and make sure that people need to know, know. Even if that means placing a phone call or a text or something to get their attention to certain points. The whole security issue, you know people come and go especially in sales; what you do about that? And of course there are NDAs – non disclosure agreements, where a lot people have to sign them when they take on the job, when they leave they have to not take everything with them. People develop databases for all this kind of thing to organize all this data. Who are you going to allow to access that database, and what can they access, and what sort of security you have around them?
The last step is probably the most important one, without question. Until you make change, there is no improving in win rates, are there, until you make the changes? So beware of people who say “Hey, I do win loss-analysis, I guarantee you that you will improve your close rates by 10%.” No! You have to make the changes. You, Mr. Customer, have to make the changes. That’s when the ROI or the close rates or the retention all improve, until then it’s just a bunch of analysis. Great analysis, great information, but you got to take action. As I have shared here from research that I dug up to write a book, win-loss programs can improve win rates to 15-30%. I didn’t know those numbers before I wrote the books but I do know that every customer I ever worked with has improved sales after a win-loss program, even just doing it once not doing it quarterly or you know on a regular basis.
Win/loss other issues: So win-loss is the relationship business as I said early on. It is people, people, people all the way. You are dealing with your company internally to develop the right questions and issues you want to have answered in the win-loss process to start out with, so that’s people. Then you are developing the questions in the order you want to have them answered in and the value proposition, all that stuff that’s people again. Then you are connecting with your sales people or sales support people, however that works at your company. The database, God forbid. Most of databases are not accurate so beware of that if they say “Oh, yeah! You can come into our Salesforce.com database” As an aside, a lot of times they are organized by account not by account reps. So you are like, “Okay, this looks like there are ten different account reps here.” No, you need to go with the specifics for that particular sale. Then as you are moving along after you deal with that issue, you are of course dealing with the customer or the former prospect. At very end you are putting the results together and you are sensitively sharing them with those who need to know within your company.
Company disclosure is another big one. Do you disclose who you are when you are doing these interviews or not? You will get to decide. I prefer to disclose who the company is because I think it’s kind of playing games if you don’t. The argument against it is, well you won’t hear the customer’s neutral approach or their neutral response, if you say who it is. People aren’t stupid; they usually figure out who it is pretty quick. It is usually the market leader or the next one down. Who has the money to do this? People are not stupid especially in the B2B world, which is what most of these interviews are. Recording interviews, some people like to have an interview recorded others don’t; know the difference. Some people will just talk and talk and talk; they couldn’t care less when you record the interviews and others are very inhibited if you record the interviews. They will just bite their tongue, very uncomfortable with it. I don’t mind either way, I have been taking notes for years; it’s not a big deal to me. It’s a big deal to the person you are interviewing and to your customer. I know one of the people in my book was saying, “Oh, but in our industry we have to record the interviews because we are a Big Four firm, and we are interviewing such senior level people that we don’t dare not to record them because heaven forbid if we were to misquote somebody.” You know, so you have to consider all that.
Compensating interviewees – the going rate in the United States at least is between $50-$100, it can be Amazon gift card, and it can be given to charity. You don’t necessary need to compensate them all. I usually don’t bother because with a good enough value proposition, you don’t need to bother compensating them. They will still say yes. In some industries you have to, in the medical field for example, if you want to talk to doctors. Just play around with it and see what the industry practices, and ask the people in your company when they do research projects, do they pay the people they talk to or not? Then you will figure it out. That should be your cue; if they pay them then you probably should too. Industry specialization versus interviewing skills – a lot of people ask about that. To be honest with you, people when they are hiring you, they are always concerned that you know their industry. It’s actually more important than you know how to get people talk, to listen. Ideally both are great but I tell people, “I’m industry agonistic” because you can learn enough about people’s industry pretty quickly. I probably worked in most industries by now anyway because I’m old. It’s really important that you know how to get people to share with you. You do need to understand the industry well enough so that you probe deeply. So if you don’t know the industry well, you need to spend time upfront. Customers are very good about this when they hire me. They will dump all the stuff they have and I will just take it in, listen to sales demos – you know how the product works, look at customer proposals – ones they won and ones they lost to see if there’s a difference, trying to access that all the Gartner groups if its technology, all that kind of stuff. You know by the time you’re reading all of it, you got the pretty good grasp but then of course you talked to human beings in the company and ask them many more questions.
So, security is the last issue I will cover. You really need to be careful with getting this in the wrong hands. The other way you want to be confidential to is, you need to assure the customer prospects when you are conducting the interviews that the results are confidential, that they are not going all over the place, they are just going to certain people within the company and that their name will be anonymous if you are doing verbatims. That’s really important for most customers but again know the culture how it is in your business, both the company and the industry.
The other thing is how we used to truly store your findings and digital access. I kind of covered that already but I can’t say it enough, you really don’t want this done. You don’t want people stealing your data. So last sort of chart here is just outsourcing versus in-house or hybrid approach. Nobody knows your business like you do so that’s the advantage you have of doing the interviews yourself. There is no consultant out there that knows your business like you do even if they are in it for number of years. It changes all the time. That’s the advantage you have. The advantage for outsourcing is people tend to talk more. They don’t like to tell you the bad moves. They are uncomfortable with that even though they know you are going to hear the bad news. That is just a fact of life – they will prefer the third party a lot of times for the interviews. Some companies also say, “Hey! I think it’s useful to hire a consultant to help us develop the questions and conduct the interviews but we will do our own analysis.” That’s pretty common. Others will say, “Hey, we will all do the win interviews; you Mr. Consultant, we want you do all the loss interviews. We don’t want to deal with them.” I think that’s a bad idea also because of that chart I earlier shared, why you think you win isn’t always true. If you do the entire win interviews that just will underscore that why you think you win. It’s really tempting to fall into that trap. I will just put it that way. You can learn so much from your win customers – that is stuff they would be uncomfortable sharing with you directly.
So anyway that’s the comments there and I’m just going to conclude here with some final thoughts on the future win-loss. A lot of people say they think it will go away because we’re going digital and people are just going to stop talking to each other. And content media is such an important source of buyer intelligence today but it actually still isn’t the key source; it’s still the human being behind all that, making their decision and they are emotionally motivated when you have people involved. The fear is on the other hand, will that extend to a reluctance to engage win-loss interviews? If they don’t want to talk to sales people anymore, they are not going to want to talk to us. I think it will continue to happen because human nature still likes the listening. They still need to be heard and this gets them an opportunity to do that. Also, as collaboration between sales and marketing increases, so do close rates. There are studies behind that so people still need to be heard and listened to and win-loss is really the collaboration between sales and marketing when you come right down to it. And I will end with my book interest sort of thing here. I unfortunately do not have a date for when it will be printed. I am talking to the printer this week. I think I have decided who I want and I just need to go ahead and do it and figure out, how long do they take and all that kind of good stuff depends on their queue. So that’s where we are at the book. So it’s soon, probably the next four to six weeks I’m guessing. I will hand it back to you Craig for Q&A, hope there is a bunch of them and thanks.
Craig: Well terrific Ellen, My goodness gracious, I tell you. I can’t wait to get that book even more so I certainly hope that it sees the light of print sooner rather than later needless to say. Listen we had, wow, lots of questions that have come in already as you are speaking. For those of you who still have questions, we still have time to get those answered, don’t hesitate to bring them in. Let me just make a quick side note as well for those of you who are regulars in our series, or maybe those of you aren’t regular and may become that, our next IntelCollab webinar is going to be in two weeks in the same place and time. This one is going to be on, how strategy in the electricity and utility industries benefits from intelligence best practices, and helps you to defeat disruptive rivals. I really like this one because it’s about things like solar power and batteries, the Internet of Things, and how it impacts electric companies and grids and everything else. I can’t imagine an industry that’s being affected by more by disruption than electricity. That’s going to be done by our provocateur Kathryn Valdez; it’s on May 25th, 2016 at noon on the same channel.
Alright on that note Ellen let’s get right to the questions. Like I said, I’ve got a lot of them, and I will start with the first one from Carl. He asked Ellen, “What are your best practices from breaking through any internal resistance that might arise to a win-loss program?”
Ellen: Well you know, I think my best practices…Let me just go back to this chart that I shared. That’s why I brought it along; I had a feeling this question will come up, and I wish I could do this faster but there we go. I showed them this chart because win-loss isn’t just about sales and that’s usually who is resisting it and one quarter of the issues are about the sales, and they can make a big difference. The other thing though is to let the people know that 15-30%, if you take it on you will see a 15-30% improvement in your win rates over time. If you really adopt it and go into it wholeheartedly, that’s kind of hard to argue with. But I would need to know more particulars about what the resistance is because it actually isn’t for everyone. Some companies are not going to do win-loss analysis. It’s politics, it’s arrogance as I was saying earlier. The best practice I have really is to show them – tell them that result of 15-30% – but also show them this chart just to say, “these are the things you are going to learn about and this isn’t just about the sales, it’s about our company is viewed overall.” Our service which can kill you as often the reason you will lose deals overtime and product attributes.
Craig: Great! Shelia asks, “Win-loss prospects often forget info on their engagements, and actually might not take very long at all, could be days or weeks. What is the best timing to actually do a win-loss interviewing after the actual win-loss event took place?”
Ellen: I like to do ideally the next quarter, so 2-3 months after the decision has been made because you make a very good point Shelia that people forget. They move on to another job. I’ve had it all happen. Sometimes for a customer, the deal was a year ago and I am like “they are not going to remember from a year ago, they simply aren’t.” On the other hand I have some really good interviews every now and again when the decision maker actually has left the company and somebody else has inherited the solution. I haven’t found out about the decision making criterion but I’m sure found out about how the product works in a way that I wouldn’t find out from someone who is decision maker necessary. 2-3 months ideally, although I’m possibly going to be working with a legal client in what they call family law, which is basically divorces, and I think I would make an exception there when you are talking to the person. I would talk to them after the divorce has been concluded, which isn’t 2-3 months, unfortunately, they take a while to conclude. That way you will find out a lot more about how it all really went, so you get much better information I think.
Craig: Real good! Justin asks, “Given the sensitive nature of win loss analysis, is it generally the better idea to outsource to an independent third party rather than trying to do it in-house? And if not, are there any rules of thumb about when to do it in house versus outsourcing it?”
Ellen: Well the sensitivity of it is definitely an issue you do want to consider. If I were doing it in-house due the sensitivity and just period even if it’s not sensitive, I would not have sales ever do it. I might have them open the door; I might have them be present in very complex deals. One of the people I interviewed did have that with her customer, with her company rather, which was huge, huge company through, and huge, huge deals. In general someone in marketing or product development, if they have good interviewing skills. Now I think that’s the issue I come up with most often is, a lot of times people that are working in companies aren’t as good as interviewing and having conservations with people and getting them to share information as someone who is a third party and who does it all the time for a living. That’s the reason why you will consider the third parties. They interview people for a living and so they’re pretty good at it, and good at getting people to share. Also it does remove that sensitivity that you are mentioning; you are going to get the information either way but some of them won’t be saying, “What are you learning?” to the internal person as they’re doing it. It will be outsourced so that could be an advantage from that perspective. I hadn’t actually thought about that.
Craig: Here is an interesting one that came in from Giancarlo who asked, “Ellen, do you actually identify the sources that you utilize the final report that you give to your clients?
Ellen: The sources, like you mean the actual individual I assume. The answer is no, I don’t because it’s a little dicey to do it that way, you know the confidentiality thing that you mentioned. Customer have said, non-customer have said for verbatims like that. You know some people are so paranoid also when they are giving a verbatim, they’ll say, “They will know it’s me; who else will say this?” Like don’t be so sure about that. I heard another person say it while I’m interviewing them actually. So the other thing you do is, you end up aggregating a lot of the responses and saying you know 80% have said this and 60% of them said this and 20% of them were women and 8% of them were men, you know all those sorts of things. There is a lot of ways to get good information without actually holding it on the individual who said it. The only exception I make to that very quietly and very discretely is, when I’m repeatedly hearing that someone did fabulous job, I will actually say “this is account rep is so good that they could sell dirt” and when the opposite is the case, I will not put it in writing. I will be in touch to somebody over the telephone. I do not want this in email or any form of written information. When I learned an account representative is not really doing a good job, and I will find out who the person is if I can, the sales manager and find about more about them. Maybe they aren’t into the job or something like that. But that’s the only time. As far as the people I’m interviewing go, I don’t source who they are because that would, I feel be breach of confidence. They need to know that they can share what’s on their mind, and they will not be identified.
Craig: Always a great reminder, I’m glad you did that. Our colleague Maria here asks, “Which department do you find is the most frequently the internal champion of doing win-loss? Especially in those companies that do not have an internal CI group; is it sales, is it strategy? Product development? Maybe some other group? What’s been your experience?”
Ellen: Most of time when it’s not competitive intelligence person, I had people in business development most recently and probably marketing. Those two areas are the most often contact me. Every now and then again though you know sales director will but more often it’s like the marketing director the VP that brings me in. I would say most, it’s them. Product development is very interested in the result but they usually don’t pay for it, that’s what I have noticed. It is usually marketing and sales that has the budget and sometimes marketing will get sales to pay for it too, that’s kind of interesting. You know marketing is supposed to be quote / unquote directing the company, right? Even though they don’t always, they are supposedly doing that with a more long term approach, and they are also trying to integrate what they do and help sales people make more deals, right?
Craig: Absolutely right! Derek asks, “Ellen, in what percentage of time would you estimate organizations are actually seeking blinded versus non-blinded win-loss? What are the advantages to those two methods?”
Ellen: Most the time for win-loss, I noticed it’s not blinded but I do know there are consulting firms that you know you look on the internet that’s all they do. When people come to me and want to do blinded one, I usually asked them why they want to do the blinded one and they tell me, “Well we don’t want the customer to know who we are, that we are questioning their performance or whatever.” They are paranoid on their there end and I am like, “you know actually this is another touch with your customer. This is the positive interaction, it’s not a secret one, you know? You have the opportunity here to position.” I can’t tell you, probably for every set of interviews I do for my customer, I almost always find another lead and I call the sales person up or to sales manager and say, “Hey! I talked to so and so, sounds like you might want to get out there and talk to them.” So you don’t get to do that if they don’t. I feel like the trust needs to be earned if you don’t disclose who the customer is. So you need to have something to offer them back, like a summary of what it is you found out from everybody. Stuff like that; they are looking for something if you don’t tell them who it is.
The other thing I find, this true so often in interviewing, is that they are trying to figure out, “who is it that hired you to do this?” People are curious; frankly I don’t want to waste my time and their time with that kind of brainwork. I want them to get on the point, and be on the same page as me as soon as possible because we have only 20-30 minutes to do these. I have a lot of examples where I have talked my customer into that, all the way from win-loss to other types of interviewing where being blind was working to your advantage. So I would say it’s a very low percentage but I don’t know what it is since I just know my experience, Derek. If you are interested, I know there is guy on LinkedIn who only does blind interviews, and he does win-loss. So he would probably be better than me to talk to, but I can’t remember who it is on top of my head.
Craig: Okay! Thanks for the question Derek. Okay alright just to ask an interesting question, he kind of gulps as he asked it but Ellen do you have any horror or war stories about interviews that went badly wrong? And if so, can you give us some tips or trick to avoid those kinds of experiences or to able to deal with it if we find ourselves in the exact same position.
Ellen: I have never had a bad interview in win-loss. I have in plenty of other type of interviews because they are warm interviews; you know they are just not tough. If you do competitive intelligence, you are doing interviews where it is quiet, it is blind and cold, right? You are calling somebody, they have no idea who you are, they have no idea that you are going to be calling them right at that moment, and you are looking for information using elicitation skills. That’s when the horror stories can happen, right? But on win-loss interviews, as interviews goes, I think they are relatively easy because you have the warm introduction. At the very least you can send them an email ahead of time and say “Hi I’m Ellen Naylor, I have been hired by company XYZ or I’m from the company XYZ if you are doing it yourself, and give them your value proposition, and we are looking to you know improve our relationship with you and I see recently, you decided to whatever it was and I’d like to talk with you.” Schedule something in the next couple of days, over the next couple of weeks. Just schedule a mutually agreeable time to have the interview. I think the disappointment you have with win-loss is not everybody says yes. They are busy; they have their reasons for not getting back to you, right? Even when you pay them. The other issue is they forget, even though you remind them the day before then they forget and so you call them up and they are not there, you know that part is the disappointment. I think where I’ve had my bigger disappointment actually is on the company side, where they haven’t told sales, and sales management, what win-loss is and I will be calling them to organize a program and I will be calling them as we conduct these interviews or emailing them and they haven’t clearly explained to them, even though I have given the plenty of information to do so. They haven’t explained to them what win-loss is and what’s in it for them, why they need to corporate; that’s being where I had more trouble. Now I have a process in place where if they haven’t done it, I don’t work with them you know they can go find someone else who want to waste their time. That’s where I have the frustration talking to the customers and prospects. If you do cold-calling for a living, this is warm calls; it’s pretty nice. Worst thing that’s going to happen is hang up on you or they won’t show up but I find if they are willing to take the call, they’re usually quite forthcoming.
Craig: Right on. Hey listen! We are nearing the top of the hour so we probably only have time for one more question. For those of you who are hanging on or had questions that you had asked and we hoped to get to, my apologies that we couldn’t get all of them in the time that we have allotted. I just make note for those of you who still want to ask Ellen these questions, she is available to answer them; you can use the email address that’s on your screen now. It’s Ellen@theBIsource.com and I am sure she will be more than happy to hear from you.
But let me ask you this last question Ellen before we do run out of time, and end our hour together. It builds on the comments you were just making the last question. It says, “Your comments about preparing a decision tree like approach before doing your interviews is very interesting, could you talk about how you prepare those decision tress? You actually share those decision trees with you client or the sales people in order to validate it?” So how about those decision trees, Ellen, give us a little bit about inside about how they help you do these better?
Ellen: Okay! I don’t share them with the client because they don’t really care frankly. They just want results. I do prepare them for myself and you know here’s an example: Let’s say its technology. Technology is the issue right, and I think okay Ellen you need to learn this technology because often that’s the case. It’s new technology for me or I worked in but it has been five years ago, or manufacturing – any of these areas where you just don’t quite know everything there is to know. So I will sit there and think to myself, “What are all the possible answers they’ll come up with when I mention the word technology?” So it could be implementation, it could be training, it could be search features in technology – so I list out and that part I will ask the client about. I will say “what are the major features within your technology? Why customers you think do or don’t like your product? What are your strengths and weakness technically?” I need to know all those so when those questions come up, I can probe more deeply. So that’s kind of have the decision tree would work in the area of features.
That’s basically how I do it. I think about all the answers the customer could possible give me in the topical area. It could be features or it could simply be decision-making criteria, something as simple as that. So decision-making criteria for example, it could be based on price, it could be based on features, it could be based on the account rep, it could be based on professionalism, it could be based on company’s longevity. I hope that helps you. You think about all the answers that the company could come up with, that the person you are talking to can come up with, and keep creating a fan. So let’s say it’s pricing. Within pricing what’s the deal there? Was our price too high? Was the implementation cost? Was it the maintenance cost? Was it the service cost?
Craig: I think on this note we are actually at top of the hour and I know people probably have to depart for other things. Let me just take this moment and thank you so very much. I think in the last hour, we heard an absolutely rich trove of win-loss analysis experiences and insights and I just can’t imagine anybody that knows more about how to do this as well as you do, which is why I think your new book is not only so necessary for our field but frankly it’s going to be a great benefit to those of us out there that need to be engaged in that process.
So Ellen again on behalf of my colleagues, Aurora and I, thank you so much for doing this for us today. Again for all of you who want to repeat or revisit this you can do that at the intelcollab.com site or you can email Ellen directly if you choose, and we thank you so very much for joining us with this today. We look forward to seeing you in two weeks for the next IntelCollab webinar and how energy in utility must adopt intelligence based practices against the disruptive technologies. Thanks again everyone for joining us today and they will look forward to seeing you in two weeks, and thank you Ellen.
Ellen: Okay thank you. Bye bye!
Craig: Have a great day or evening everybody; bye bye now!