How Sales VPs Prepare to Beat the Competition in Q1

December 9, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Your team lost 3 deals this quarter to a competitor. This was not the customer choosing no decision. These are the losses where budget was not the issue. Money got spent and it isn’t in your account.  For most of the Sales VPs we talk to, quarterly success comes down to a few big deals. Does yours? This post is written for the VP of Sales who cannot afford to lose competitive deals in Q1. Download the VP of Sales Competitive Loss Review.

vp sales competitive reviewBecause they are big deals, the customer wants to shop you. Your arch rival is at the table. You despise them. Let’s talk about what you can do in the next 3 weeks to reverse the trend in Q1.


Sales VPs suffer from a lack of speed. You say that you hate losing. Yet, you are not moving fast enough to capture all of the competitive learnings you could after a loss. You know people learn more from failure than victory. What gives? Lack of time? We will solve for this.

Many of you watch college football. After Alabama lost to Texas A&M last month, Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked how he reacted. His response:  “Pain instructs”. He expanded on this comment by explaining that his players must quickly learn from the loss.  Saban wanted immediate change for next week’s game.  He didn’t wait until the end of the season to capture learnings. Sunday morning his coaching staff was dissecting why. They planned the upcoming weeks practice around the defensive breakdowns that needed to be fixed.

Our research showed that just under 25% of sales forces conduct loss reviews. This is the process of interviewing people from deals you competed for and lost. The purpose is to understand why you lost. For those that don’t do that, start. For those that are, I applaud you. And I would submit you are not getting as much from them as you could.

New Normal

You need to conduct a loss interview to a competitor with a different view than a loss to no decision.  The new normal is focused on Personas, Buying Process and Content. Now you may be saying “our team can’t close out an opportunity without giving the reason why we lost”. This is not effective. Sales reps typically pencil whip this in your CRM.  8 of 10 times, they say pricing to absolve themselves of any responsibility. Sales Managers point to pricing and product.  You aren’t close enough to every interaction so you don’t know. The best practice is making improvement from every loss. To do this, you must use a Competitive Loss Review  that instructs.

VP of Sales Competitive Loss Review


Using the VP of Sales Competitive Loss Review—

The Competitive Loss Review has 3 buyer focused dimensions each with 5 key questions. For example:

  1. Personas—how did the customer rank your sales team vs. the competitor’s in understanding the market problem of each persona on the Buying Decision Team?
  2. Buying Process—how did the customer rank your sales team vs. the competitor’s in facilitating the buying process? Too many organizations do a loss review through the lens of a sales process. This is inward-out thinking. Outward–in thinking says that sales job is help facilitate a customer through their buyers journey.
  3. Content—how did your team deliver the right content, at the right time to each Persona? How much of the buying decision happened without a rep being present?Why was the competitor more capable?

 Execution Plan (Dec 10-Jan 4th)

  1. Identify your 3 biggest competitive losses in Q4 
  2. Reach out to the key contact from the lost sales campaigns. People that have engaged in a sales campaign are always willing to give you feedback.
  3. Conduct the review using the Competitive Loss Review Tool
  4. Review the results with a peer and your boss. Look for the single section (Persona, Buying Process, Content) where you rated the lowest
  5. Identify the Q1 deals you are actively engaged in against that competitor and target the weakness that held you back.

Pain is instructional is when it drives behavior change.  The plan I outlined focuses on speed without sacrificing effectiveness. It is 10 hours total. I know this because our firm has conducted 33 of them this quarter. Your competitors can be beaten; what level of effort are you willing to give to outsell your archrival?  Share your comments below or drop me a note with questions. How do you beat the bad guys head to head?

sbi on linkedin

If you enjoyed this post, never miss one again by subscribing your Email Here and/or subscribing to the RSS Here.

Topics: sales strategy, Sales Leader, Win Loss Analysis, Director of Sales Resources

Posted by Matt Sharrers

Matt Sharrers

Subscribe to the SBI Blog

Tune in to hear the SBI Podcast
Catch Every Episode of SBI TV
SBI Magazine