Love Your Losses (and No Decisions)

May 9, 2013 at 7:00 AM

VPs of Sales are hungry for any information that gives them an edge.  They demand competitive trends, perceived weaknesses, and explanations on why the big deal fell through.  However, capturing competitive intelligence is difficult. Some companies capture loss information using a dropdown menu embedded within the CRM Opportunity. Others purchase enablement software in the hope that an algorithm will pinpoint the problem. However, we continually find the best information comes straight from the prospect. Download our “Loss Evaluator” and begin conducting Loss Interviews today.  You’ll be surprised at the quality of information you receive.Love Your Losses resized 600

Did I mean a Win-Loss interview?  No.  Win interviews are fruitful for small tweaks or suggestions. However, new customers are reluctant to mention blemishes in their post-purchase honeymoon.  They also tend to accentuate strengths.  One customer we worked with exclusively conducted win interviews.  The result was a self-confirming bias towards all their product’s best features. The equivalent of Volvo reporting safety as the #1 desired feature of all Car Buyers. Losses will tell you much more about your position within the market and against the status quo.

Why? They skirt the polite rapport and force you to confront the truth.  Does your product meet the entire market’s needs or just a segment?  Did your sales rep execute as well as the others?  What is the product’s perceived weakness relative to the competition? Did the rep create a compelling reason to purchase or just pitch features?

Below are Four Loss Interview Musts to ensure you maximize the value of these conversations:

Any Non-Win Should Be Interviewed: This includes No Decisions, Early Stage Drop-Outs, and Losses due to reprioritization.  No Decisions are especially important. Many “No Decisions” are reported as an “unlucky” event that lost funding.  Many times this is a loss to a non-competing vendor who was able to reprioritize budgeted dollars for his project.  No Decisions are an indication that Sales Reps weren’t able to establish a compelling reason to purchase.

How to Do It: Don’t let Reps or Managers decide who gets to be interviewed.  Any opportunity that is not closed as a “Win” is a viable interview candidate.  Some clients have expressed concern with interviewing “No Decisions” since they are still viable prospects.  Don’t.  If anything, we’ve seen the interview advance the relationship.  Customers want to work with companies that are continually trying to improve.

Select an Impartial Interviewer: Don’t let a Sales Rep or Manager conduct it. The quality of sales experience questions become distorted.  Reps will tell you they lost on price and product features.  Managers will obscure or twist words to fit their agenda.

How to Do It: Coach somebody on basic question asking.  This could be a client service rep, sales ops employee, or even the CEO.  Whatever the case, make sure nothing reported will have an impact on their career. Or utilize a 3rd party to remove any possible contamination. Just make sure they are after details, not checking a box.

Ask “Off the Template” Questions: Using a question template is important to make sure you’re covering the entire sales experience.  Here’s our Loss Evaluator questionnaire  However, real details emerge outside of the script.  What do you mean when you say the competing product made you feel more comfortable?  Why?  Good reporters know the follow-up question captures the greatest insight.  Also, avoid a box checking template for simple data aggregation.  A report stating that you lost 35% on Price, 20% on Installation, 15% on Fit, and 30% on Other yields little value.

How To Do It:  Brush up your interviewing technique.  Read articles and blogs on how to ask the right questions.  Avoid common mistakes like “Leading the Witness” and “Volunteering Answers”.  Make sure the interviewer can establish trust and build rapport.  The moment you want is the interviewee to lower their voice and ask “Can I tell you the truth?”

Analyze Your Loss Interviews To Assess Trends:  Many loss interviews are left as stand-alone reports in a folder. Instead, combine the data from interviews over a specific timeframe and search for common trends.  Prioritize the gaps you need to fix.

loss evaluator tool aid

How To Do It: Bucket interview threads into relevant categories.  For example: Sales Reps, Sales Teams, Products, Competitive Losses, No Decisions, Verticals, and Decision Makers. Analyze for commonalities. Put your findings into charts.

The Loss Interview is one of our favorite methods of gaining insight within Sales Organizations.  You’ll achieve clarity on

  • Where The Deal Was Lost
  • Why You Lost It
  • Where The Rep Needs Help
  • How Your Competition is Messaging Against You
  • Whether the Opportunity was Worth Pursuing in the First Place

Now imagine that tired “Loss Category” CRM Pie Chart.  You have multiple graphs around key business categories.  Beneath the pie chart, there are actual prospect quotes.  This appeals to logic AND tells the story.  Download our Loss Evaluator, and start conducting these today. 

Practitioners: What are the most revealing insights you’ve gathered from Loss Interviews?

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Topics: Sales Leader, business insight, Small Company Sales Leader Resources, buyer intelligence, buyer insights

Posted by Drew Zarges

Drew Zarges
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