Intro: Driving Win-Loss Adoption
An effective win-loss program can be transformative for your organization, providing insights that lead to improved sales training, development of more customer-centric products, and a deeper understanding of your company’s competitive landscape. However, these big results will only be realized if your win-loss program is a team effort. Across dozens of win-loss programs, we have seen that when a win-loss program is championed by one person who doesn’t get their entire organization on board, the program is helpful but falls short of its potential. On the other hand, win-loss programs are most likely to drive impact when the program sponsor evangelizes program results and brings multiple stakeholders from several departments on board.
Here are some best practices we have collected to help you drive adoption for your organization’s win-loss program:
Win-Loss Adoption Driver #1: Secure stakeholder buy-in from the beginning.
Achieving stakeholder buy-in from the start of your win-loss program is absolutely essential to its success. Imagine, for a moment, that you lead sales operations at your company. You’ve been quietly managing your win-loss program under the radar, planning to take the feedback received and use it to coach your sales representatives after the program is complete. As interview results start coming in, most of the feedback centers around product deficiencies, with little commentary on the sales process. You neglected to inform the product team about the win-loss program prior to the start of the program and now you are left in an uncomfortable situation. If you share results of your win-loss program with the product team now, you will immediately be met with skeptical or even hostile reactions and the product team will be unlikely to implement anything you suggest. If you don’t share the results, all that valuable feedback you collected will be wasted. Furthermore, you received little information that would directly help the sales team, which was why you wanted to do a win-loss program in the first place.
Clozd co-founder Spencer Dent recently commented:
You’re setting your win-loss program up for failure if you show up with a bunch of critical feedback that people didn’t know was coming. It will put them on their heels. It will immediately cause them to question it, and it will feel like a political move instead of a strategic program.
All that intra-office politicking can be avoided by simply sending a few targeted emails to the people that need to know about the program. Be strategic, not political.
In addition to avoiding workplace drama, soliciting early buy-in can significantly improve the quality of your win-loss program. Stakeholders who provide input on relevant parts of the program will be able to help align the program to long-term company goals, collaborate with win-loss interviewers, and provide input on interview design. They will be more invested in the results of the program and more supportive to the sponsor of the win-loss program.
Win-Loss Adoption Driver #2: Share interview results in real-time.
When I was a child, one of my friends always had homemade chocolate chip cookies at his house. I can still remember the feeling of coming inside after playing all afternoon and smelling the aroma of cookies in the air. There’s nothing quite like a hot, fresh chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
However, when those cookies have been sitting out for several weeks, or if I try to eat more than two or three cookies at a time, the prospect is much less enticing. In some ways, win-loss interviews are like chocolate chip cookies: when they’re fresh and taken in digestible portions, they’re great, but when they’re old and you try to have too much at once, it can make you sick.
If the results of your win-loss interviews come in the form of a huge data-dump at the end of your win-loss program, it’s almost like trying to ask someone to eat three dozen, two-week old chocolate-chip cookies at once. No thanks! No one will read the results of all of your interviews at once, and the likelihood that any of the feedback will be implemented is low. When interview results are sent out to the people that need them immediately after the interviews take place, stakeholders can digest the information and take action in a timely manner. Results are internalized and there will be an appetite for more—just like a hot, fresh chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven.
Win-Loss Adoption Driver #3: Develop a methodology for tracking themes.
An effective win-loss system allows you to track themes across multiple interviews, thus enabling you to distill large amounts of customer feedback into actionable insights. These themes should reflect the key reasons buyers choose—or do not choose—to buy your product. Common themes include the ROI of your product or service, the performance of sales personnel, the overall features and functionality of your product, and how easy the product is to use. Once themes are tracked, the primary drivers of why you win and lose start to become clear. This will better enable you to share findings with decision makers at your company in a way that is concise and actionable.
Win-Loss Adoption Driver #4: Prep your company culture to embrace feedback.
Can you accept hard feedback? Can you handle hearing that your baby is ugly? If you want to reap the full benefits of win-loss analysis, the ability to receive candid, critical feedback is a necessary prerequisite. Win-loss programs are like working with a demanding trainer at the gym. They’ll tell you what you’re doing well and what you’re doing wrong. If you’re not willing to take criticism in stride and make a change, you won’t see any progress.
Prepare a culture of truth-seeking at your company. Have a goal of understanding what your customers are telling you without becoming defensive or making excuses. That’s the beauty of having a third party conduct your win-loss interviews. It makes swallowing hard feedback easier.
Win-Loss Adoption Driver #5: Use a third party to ensure consistent program delivery.
Successful win-loss programs are embedded into the operational infrastructure of an organization. One major reason these programs can fail is that they tend to be more labor-intensive than originally anticipated. Without a systematic, technology-enabled approach to scheduling the interviews, collecting the feedback and reporting on the results, the program can take much longer than expected and eat up significant employee time and energy. A third-party provider ensures a consistent cadence of feedback into the organization.
Clozd founder Spencer Dent shared:
Most companies do not have the capacity to manage a high-quality win-loss program because of the time it takes to schedule, conduct, transcribe, summarize, and derive action-items from win-loss interviews. That’s why companies engage a third party that offers this as a core capability.
Feedback flowing into your organization from a third party is more likely to be viewed as unbiased. Interviewees will give more candid feedback, and your organization will ingest the feedback more readily than if that feedback were coming from an internal source.
Win-Loss Adoption Driver #6: Debrief with stakeholders and review findings.
Regular debriefs with stakeholders on interview findings catalyze the adoption of your win-loss program inside your organization. If possible, start with executives to provide a view of overarching themes and key takeaways of the program. After going over the big picture, move to training individual business functions on the results of the win-loss program that are most applicable to them. We’ve found that when each department takes ownership of the win-loss program and uses the feedback to train their teams, the feedback is much more likely to be implemented than simply sending out company-wide communication.
The benefits of win-loss analysis are greatly augmented when program results gain wide adoption throughout your organization. These six adoption drivers are the result of our learnings from executing dozens of win-loss programs. We’re confident that if you learn from our experience, your win-loss program will be well-positioned for success.