March 13, 2019
It’s a scenario you probably know well. You’ve finally closed the deal, the immediate future looks great for your business and the entire team is in the mood to celebrate. You’ve hit your targets ahead of time, you’re looking at a decent period with zero uncertainty ahead and your confidence is sky-high.
But here’s the thing – tomorrow is a new day, with new targets to assign and new challenges to face. The question being, what can you do to repeat this all-around success going forwards?
In my experience, this is where many businesses go wrong. They ride the wave of a recent big success, which is fine, but they ride it way too long. Assumptions are made based on immediate successes and insufficient effort is made to encourage history to repeat itself.
The result of which, as you can imagine, tends to be a disappointment.
If you fall on the more proactive side of the spectrum, what should you be doing to make things happen again and again?
The answer – conducting a win/loss analysis could help steer things in the right direction.
Table of Contents:
Carrying out a win/loss analysis (aka post-decision interviews) gives you the opportunity to replicate your biggest successes indefinitely. It’s also just as important for generating key insights as to why you didn’t hit your targets, helping guide your subsequent decisions and actions accordingly.
Win/loss analysis is one of the many options on the table for repeating your successes, but it’s a highly effective and measurable method.
At its core, a win/loss analysis provides the opportunity to assess your business and its performance from the perspective of your customers. It delivers a detailed overview of your points of appeal, areas for improvement and the reasons why you won or lost. Rather than assuming you know what contributed to your recent success or failure, you go directly to your customers and request their feedback.
Interviews can be carried out via various channels, but I’ve noted the most helpful insights are generated by in-person discussions or telephone conversations. Postal or email surveys are an option but don’t provide the opportunity to dig deeper than the base questions you ask. You can even ask a third-party to handle things on your behalf, but then you can’t be sure they’ll probe as deeply or specifically as you would personally.
By ensuring you (or your team) contact customers directly, you access a number of key benefits such as:
You’ll still produce helpful data through traditional questionnaires and surveys, but I strongly recommend at least some in-person interviews where possible.
The primary benefit of a win/loss analysis is the unique customer-first perspective it provides of your successes and failures. A strong and on-going sales strategy is mandatory for the consistent performance of your organization. A win/loss analysis provides the opportunity to gather, analyze and retain the kind of priceless data that can help improve success rates and identify areas of weakness.
In fact, there’s no more effective way of getting to know your business from the perspective of its customers than through win/loss analysis.
Specifically, win/loss analysis delivers such key insights as:
These are just a few of the insights you’ll gain access to by performing an effective win/loss analysis. Ultimately, the data you collect can be used as the basis for your on-going marketing and PR strategy.
The benefits of win/loss analysis are therefore clear, but what’s the best way of getting started?
It’s worth remembering that the data you collect will only be as useful as the collection method allows. Hence, it’s useful to view the win/loss analysis interview process in three specific stages:
In the wake of success or failure, you’ll first need to pen a robust interview strategy with your sales and marketing team, with the input of your customer service heads. Consider the questions you’ll be asking, who will carry out the interviews and how they will be performed. I recommend planning for interviews that last around 30 minutes, though allow extra time in instances where further probing is necessary. Make things as easy and comfortable as possible for the interviewee, which will encourage their participation and help maintain their interest.
Don’t be afraid to go off-script during the interview if you feel additional or modified questions could prove helpful. It’s also important to conduct the interview as objectively as possible, allowing as little emotion as you can to affect your approach. The customer should be reminded of the importance of their honesty, irrespective of how their thoughts and opinions differ from those of the interviewer. Stick with the timetable you assign as strictly as possible, in order to avoid frustrating the interviewee.
The data collected during each interview should be reviewed and analyzed with equal importance. Rather than searching for findings that correlate with your own beliefs, you need to consider every viewpoint and experience carefully. It’s also important to thank each participant after the event for their contribution to the project.
Post-decision interviews shouldn’t be conducted only in the wake of major wins or losses. Instead, they should form an integral part of your core sales, marketing, and customer service strategy. At least, if you prioritize continuous improvement and customer satisfaction.
There are, however, some ground rules that should be followed to make the most of every win/loss analysis carried out. Looking ahead to the remaining months of 2019, the following represent the most important best-practice guidelines to gain maximum value from your post-decision interviews:
Your findings will be skewed if you speak to a disproportionate number of satisfied or dissatisfied customers. You can only expect to achieve clear and balanced insights if you ensure both sides are represented equally. It’s also worth remembering that every interview represents an invaluable opportunity to get a disenchanted customer back on board with whatever it is you do.
As a general rule of thumb, try to ensure your interviews are carried out no more than two months (or eight weeks) following the event or action. The more time that passes, the more inaccuracies and inconsistencies may find their way into the participants’ accounts. It can also be useful to gauge the emotional responses of your customers to your brand, which will be at their rawest and strongest immediately after the event.
Consider the information you’re most interested in collecting and work backward to establish the questions you’ll need to ask. To what extent did you satisfy the customer? Which of your competitors were also in contention? Why did they choose you? What would it take to keep them coming back? Why didn’t you win their business? What would they change about the experience? What advice could they offer you? What were their perceptions of your representatives? What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
If impartiality is to be achieved, the interview must take place in a non-sales environment with zero pressure and with no hint of a sales pitch. Effective post-decision interviews can help get disenchanting customers back on board, but this should never be your priority. Salesmanship and marketing talk has no place in the mix – the same also applying to your own personal feelings and emotions.
If you simply cannot guarantee 100% objectivity and impartiality with your own representatives, you may need to consider hiring a third party. This may be the only way of achieving a true non-sales environment for the interviews, ensuring the results aren’t skewed by your own biased views, opinions, and objectives. Outsourcing can bring its own unique challenges into the mix but does at least guarantee neutrality and objectivity on the part of the interviewer.
Contextual free-form answers should be encouraged to determine how each customer feels about your business and your offer. However, it can also be very difficult (or even impossible) to compile and analyze this kind of data. It’s therefore useful to create fixed metrics for customers’ responses – such as asking them to gauge their satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10. Or perhaps determine the extent to which an issue is a priority for them – not at all, low, medium, high, very high etc. This will assist with the aggregation and analysis of the data you collect.
Conducting win/loss analysis once every year or so won’t tell you a great deal about your business. By the time your next interviews are carried out, you’ve already lost the opportunity to act on the prior project’s findings. Instead, it’s a good idea to conduct post-decision interviews on a quarterly basis at least. Compare and contrast each project’s findings with the last, taking every opportunity to act on your findings the moment they’re gathered.
As far as your customers are concerned, the thoughts and opinions they share are 100% factual. Hence, they’re the only thoughts and opinions you should be listening to. Irrespective of how the information you gather mar contradict your deepest-set thoughts and beliefs, this is the information you need to trust. However objective you think you are, nobody can provide more honest and objective insights than your customers themselves. Trust their opinions, consider their suggestions and act upon their feedback.
Above all else, you need to get out of the habit of viewing post-decision interviews as an optional extra. Win/loss analysis should be considered mandatory – a key strategy that forms the core of your on-going sales, marketing, and customer satisfaction strategy.
From a digital marketer’s perspective, I personally believe there is a no richer or more valuable source of data than that obtained through strategic win/loss analysis. Whether you succeed or fail, your customers can provide all the information you’ll need to move on with even greater strength and confidence.
Your digital marketing goal may be to enhance your brand’s image, boost your reputation, generate leads, enhance conversion rates, appeal to a new/wider market or any number of combined objectives. Across the board, you can only hope to succeed if you know exactly what’s working and what isn’t from the perspective of your customers. Which digital channels do they prefer? What would they change about the UX or customer journey? What’s their preferred customer support channel? Is your current digital marketing mix working?
Otherwise, you could be basing your decisions on incomplete and potentially flawed information, along with your own non-objective insights. A digital marketing strategy based on factual evidence and honest customer opinions will always perform better than a campaign built around assumptions.
Most businesses have the means and the resources necessary to conduct detailed win/loss analysis. More importantly, going directly to your customers for advice and insights simply makes sense.
Nevertheless, evidence suggests comparatively few show any real priority to post-decision interviews. Which is unfortunate, given their potential to produce invaluable data for near-limitless business-wide benefits.
Irrespective of the time and effort the project may entail, the results can and will justify your investment. It’s simply a case of adopting a carefully structured approach, in accordance with the practices and general guidelines outlined above.