When and Why to Start a Win/Loss Program

I’m Ryan Sorley, Founder of DoubleCheck Research. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with venture capital firm OpenView, and one of their portfolio companies SmashFlyto discuss how they use Win/Loss Analysis to improve their decision making.

Competitive Intelligence

It’s fair to say most organizations have an anecdotal, or very cursory, understanding of what their competitors do for the most part. Public information through press releases, social media, or general marketing efforts is readily available. However, determining how to position your business against competitors can be pretty difficult, and very generic.

#WinLoss research starts with the hope that there’s something that you can walk away with, even if it’s painful to hear. When Josh Zywein, Vice President of Marketing started at SmashFly he knew they really needed to gain a deeper understanding of the business, and started by asking the question, “Do we track wins and losses right now? How do we track #CompetitiveIntelligence?”

The answer was “yes” from sales, but the reality was that most of that was done through self reporting by the sales reps, which can be very light on detail. A deal may be marked as a closed loss to a competitor, but there wasn’t much context surrounding why the deal was lost.

Some reps may dig a little deeper. Some reps may have good relationships with prospects, and aren’t afraid to ask why the deal was lost, or even what the business driver was for the selection.  “The reality was that even when that happened, we found that prospects would tell the rep what they wanted to hear, or would withhold detail that they might share with someone that’s a little bit more objective.”

Recognizing The Problem

Ricky Pelletier, Partner at OpenView, added, “Win/loss research can be eye opening. Seeing that juxtaposition is interesting, because you might start investing down one path of differentiation, when in reality the customer is buying you for a completely different reason. Understanding your value prop through the lens of the customer is incredibly valuable. Hearing it through the lens of a salesperson, or through marketing, is good, but it’s nowhere near as insightful as hearing it through the customer.”

From win/loss analysis you can expect competitive intelligence, understanding who you go up against, why you win, why you lose, and what resonates with a prospect in a particular deal against a particular competitor. When done correctly, and with purpose, a win/loss program can help align your sales and marketing strategies with your prospective buyers.

Zywein adds, “A company that is just crushing it from a sales perspective may not be worried about doing win/loss analysis. It’s not that they shouldn’t do it, but they probably have fewer problems than companies that are willing to make this investment. First is recognizing that there’s a problem somewhere, or something isn’t working quite as well as you expected it to.”

Perception may be part of the problem. A lot of companies have the belief that they understand their customers really well, especially when the leadership team has been involved in the selling process. As they move from being the ones selling to having more of a broad-based sales team and getting less direct intelligence, there is sometimes a disconnect between what they know, and what they think they know. They’re just not sure how much new information they’re going to learn from win/loss research, because they perceive that they have a really close relationship with the customer.

Access To Insights To Make The Right Decisions

Most of the win/loss data and programs that OpenView has run have been done by their internal team. They don’t push their portfolio companies towards win/loss research because it’s good for them as the investor. Their goal is to show their portfolio company the data so that they can make the right decision to benefit the company, which is ultimately good for everyone involved.

OpenView is a minority investor, and as Ricky Pelletier said, “There are reasons why we have a lot of faith and excitement about a company. Whenever we do loss reviews, and identify painful information, the mindset is not to attack the company, or talk about all the things they’re doing wrong. We’re still really bullish about the prospects, and there’s a reason why we made a bet on that company.” When any areas of improvement are found, it is tempered with the fact that OpenView has made a commitment and is excited about the investment.

With close relationships between OpenView and their portfolio companies, there couldn’t be better alignment behind getting the right answer.

When OpenView Offers Win/Loss Analysis

OpenView operates something like an outsource agency, or a consultancy, for win/loss analysis. It’s offered when value is recognized by both OpenView and the portfolio company.

Kyle Poyar, Senior Director of Market Strategy at OpenView shares, “Generally, there’s a certain trigger behind the research. For instance, if a new competitor just raised a lot of funding, they’re coming out, taking some market share, winning some deals that you thought would be natural for you to win or if you’re launching a new product line. There are certain triggers where we say it really makes sense for you to start collecting some of this information from your buyers.

Closing Thoughts

Give win/loss priority. Delegate resources to ensure success. Act on the input. Recognize that success doesn’t happen overnight. Your customers and your prospects are some of the most valuable data sources that you have. You want to be very careful with how you use that, and how you treat those relationships.

To learn more, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/when-why-start-winloss-program-ryan-sorley/

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