Overcoming the Top-5 Challenges of Large-Scale Win-Loss Analysis


Braydon Anderson:                                      

Welcome to this session of WinLossWeek, the world's largest online event dedicated to win/loss analysis. My name is [Braden] Anderson and this event is hosted by Clozd.

We'd really like to thank the Competitive Marketing Summit, who's been a key partner to make this event such a success. So thanks to them. The title of this session is Five Win/Loss Challenges to Overcome. We're joined by Ben Scheerer as a member of Red Hat's portfolio marketing department, Ben leads several work streams in the product and competitive marketing across Red Hat's portfolio of open source software solutions.

Before joining Red Hat, he's actually had a lot of experience in his 20 plus years at VMware, Quest Software and in a number of different roles at CA Technologies. And he's also the co-founder of the Competitive Marketing Summit, which is a community of high tech product and competitive marketing professionals. So Ben, thanks for being here today. We're really looking forward to what you'll share with us.

Ben Scheerer:                                          

Great. Thank you so much, Braydon. Happy to be here and thank you for inviting me to speak today. Hello everyone. Today, I would like to quickly go through our agenda. We will hit on the five obstacles in detail and sum it up at the end. So this is really a presentation around my practical experience. So I'm not saying this is a right or wrong way of doing things, just sharing some maybe a practical experience for the several win/loss programs that I've done in my career over several companies, and also some best practices that I've gleaned over the course of several years.

Let me go ahead and introduce myself and we'll go into a little bit of what we look at or what we should consider for a win/loss program, and as well as dive deep into what I call the five obstacles that I've encountered, and give you some insights. Maybe some of these obstacles, we haven't fully figured out. So these are things that are ongoing and unique to your organizations, but just things to keep your eye out for and to plan for. Then we'll go ahead and wrap it up.

So a quick introduction, and Braden did cover some of this at the beginning. I have worked in high tech for quite a few years, focused more on the software and the infrastructure side of the business or the market. I'm also a co-founder of the Competitive Marketing Summit. So the little word cloud in the right kind of shows a little bit about my experience and what I've been doing over the past several years.

I want to really start this out by showing a quote, The Art of War. Everyone knows this book is kind of a strategy book and some good wisdom. But really when you look at competitive, having all the information, having your kind of ducks in a row, being able to go and fight the battle before it even becomes a battle is important. And this is something we instill both in my own kind of philosophy around competition and competitive marketing, as well as something I enable our own salespeople and to engage competition early and often.

So let's dive right into the obstacles. The first one I encounter is around sponsorship. What does that mean? Well, when you engage in a effective win/loss program, it's important to align your sponsors. You can't just go out and do this alone. You have to have sponsorship from management. You have to have sponsorship from sales leaderships, from executives on down.

The first way I do this is obviously you build your business case. This can be you can get some help with this from your vendor or your sponsor or your champion that you might be engaging with to develop a win/loss program. But it's very important to lay down what the business benefit is, but also what's in it for your influencers, what's in it for your, your champions.

So for sales, it might be, hey, we can give you specific sales data back from these interviews that will help you refine your processes, sell more software, be able to align for your next growth initiatives, that type of things.

Also, when you start to kind of sell your program, you want to recruit your champions. This may or may not be your internal influencers. At the top it may not be your sales leadership, but it might be folks at work or have influence into the leaders. These are the people that help you engage and help you position your program effectively across the organization.

Why is this important? Obviously, if you have leadership, you can pressure participation down the ranks. You can get folks in the organization to really pay attention, I guess is the point. Also, you don't want to work in a vacuum. This is your opportunity to, once you engage with your influencers or champions, you keep them in the loop. And that's the important thing. Show that you're making progress, even share some anecdotal evidence or findings that you may have gleaned along the way. And this helps them keep engaged, keeps them kind of interested and also as part of the loop. So again, communication, and you'll hear me say this throughout this presentation. Communication is paramount and this is like in any initiative in an organization. Keeping people engaged and well communicated is important to the success.

Obstacle number two, what I call approach logic. So really understand as you go into a win/loss program, what kind of approach you want to take. What's the logic behind that and how do they align to the goals of the product?

So I call this an obstacle because first and foremost, you want to ensure that your approach aligns with the expectations of your influencers and your champions, as I mentioned earlier. If you're not in alignment, then things don't work and results aren't important to that influencer or a champion.

So by approach I mean two different things. How are you going to approach your win/loss program? In simplest terms, are you going to do this internal? Are you going to go out and reach out to sales or the field facing personnel who has had the deal directly, and interview them and keep track of all that data? Or on the other side of the spectrum, are you going to go and engage with the vendor and have the vendor reach out to the customer directly and get the information directly from the customer, and tabulate that and do the analysis?

So I did a little chart here. So on one side of the spectrum, if you do it internally and do the outreach and do the interviews, in a time perspective, that can be done very quickly. You can do all this internally. You don't have to ask necessarily for permission at all levels, and it might be much easier to engage with a salesperson on their time, rather than having to reach out to a customer directly. However, you get much less objectivity. Sales person's going to tell you what they want to tell you, their view. And if it's a loss, they could say we lost to the competition, and essentially give reasons that don't reveal maybe the true causes of the loss that, of course, a customer might be able to provide you in a candid interview.

So again, you lose kind of that objectivity on the right end of the spectrum. But that takes more time. So if you're in an agile type environment, high tech is a good representation of that, especially software. Or turning out new versions of software releases constantly, having this information very readily available to help influence future direction of the product roadmap is paramount.

Now there isn't a need necessarily to focus in on just one of these. You can use a mix of them. You can do some internally. You can do some externally. This also dictates how much time you have, as well it's budget. So like I said, weigh your goals, design the program that best fits your needs and meet your expectations that you set out on the forefront.

Third obstacle, gathering candidates. This is probably the largest obstacle I've ever encountered. I've done a very good job, I think, thinking through these programs, implementing them, getting my champions aligned, but it can be very difficult. And this has to do maybe a lot with what product or solutions you're after in your company, how large your company is. If you have one product, that probably makes it a lot easier. But if you have many products or a suite of products, or you want to focus on a single technology, that adds a lot of complexity. This is where it's very important to define your goals upfront. What products are you going after? What's your kind of target audience, or even your target sample set?

And then second is to really build your robust candidate pipeline. Get a sense with your vendor or even with your past experience or someone who's done win/loss at your company before, what it takes to get to an interview state with a customer. Is it 10%? Is it 20%? So every 10 candidates that you put in your candidate pipeline, you get one interview. Or can it be all the way up to 50, 60%? And I've seen that spectrum in my past experience from 60% down to 1%. It all depends again kind of the product or technology focus that we're looking at for particular projects.

Understand what's involved and understand what's involved specific to your organization. Understand the easiest way to get candidates for win and loss, in my mind, is probably your salesforce.com. Your CRM or your Salesforce-type database tracks win and losses. If you don't have access to that, it's a good case to get access just to keep track. Even if you don't have a formal win/loss program, it's good to know what accounts are wins, what accounts are losses. Maybe even informally talk to salespeople to get a little background on that to influence any of your marketing or competitive marketing efforts.

Sometimes sales data is not as complete as you'd like it to see. You can't find competitive information on there. And a lot of time this is true. I've seen this show up in a few companies I've worked for, where you've had to use other methods to gather candidates, which includes any type of internal type promos, outreach, and communications through all your company communications vehicles. And even during enablement, we would suggest that we'd have one slide in every enablement series we'd use. Please help us help you nominate your candidates for win/loss.

You could offer rewards. If your company has some type of rewarding system internally you could take advantage of, or even a set of AirPods or whatever, to just entice salespeople or customer field facing people to actually nominate candidates for a win/loss program. Just be consistent and constant. That pipeline should fill, and again, just be very creative too.

And then finally use your influencers to pressure top-down. So your influencers, if they're sales leadership, they can say, hey, you guys have to nominate five candidates for win/loss every quarter. I mean, that'd be the ultimate, make it part of your sales people's NBOs, or even some type of customer service role. Maybe it's not even a commission salesperson. It could be a customer service rep or something of that sort that you could actually put into their performance metrics.

Number four, privacy and ethics. So I'm not going to spend a ton of time on this one, but this is something you should be aware of. This is an obstacle that I had to overcome. So privacy laws are in effect, depending on how your organization handles that. If it's obviously a European organization, GDPR takes effect. Even companies here in the US are adopting GDPR guidelines in anticipation that they do business, obviously in Europe, or even adopting the same kind of policies and procedures in the US. So just be cognizant of any privacy laws that you may have in your company that prohibits you or a representative of your company to reach out to customers. And that's really what you want to be keen on.

Working with a vendor, a vendor should have some type of guideline or policy in place. So make sure you ask for that and make sure your legal department or ethics department is aware what you're doing and how your vendor takes this into account.

Also, take a look at your public sector rules. This could be an internal process or internal program that you may have, especially when you do business with state, local, and federal government. So things like if you do a win/loss program, a lot of times you want to somehow reward the customer for participating in this program. And an easy way to do that is give them a gift card. And the customer, though, from a public sector, most likely is not allowed to accept gifts. So alternative ways to do that is giving to a charity of their choice, for example, something that they get a benefit for participating in a win/loss interview. Just be aware of what the rules are, if you can do that. That might even be internally, like I mentioned earlier, like if someone nominates a customer for a win/loss program and you're offering an internal reward of AirPods or cash equivalent, something like that, make sure that aligns with your own company policies.

And the last obstacle we'll cover it is business impact. So this goes really back to communications, setting goals, understanding what you want to get out of the program, and translating that or communicating that back to the business. So you really want to show the value. This is why we do win/loss. It's a value to the business. You want to align with what your business goals are, but also want to make it impactful.

So this all starts with your interviewing techniques, and I call it strategic interviewing techniques. A good win/loss vendor will help you build your questions. And this is what I look for a vendor, and this is what I look for something when you develop a win/loss program. And this is really important because this is probably at the core of doing a successful program. And these techniques should be your straightforward questions, but they shouldn't be leading questions. For example, you want to get the customer talking and you want to get them to reveal things that you're not specifically looking for. So you want to kind of focus on the unexpected. You want to find those golden nuggets within their conversation. Expect the unexpected, and those are probably the biggest kind of value you get out of a win/loss interview.

And a good example of that is when we did some win/loss interviews in a previous company. We started to interview both the sales rep and then the customer. And we kind of found this disconnect in between where the customer actually was looking at two competitive solutions. And while the company I worked for at the time had a great solution and actually partnered with another power player in the industry, which on paper looks great because you have two industry leaders coming with the solution. However, there's a very good competitor, smaller, maybe a little more agile, that came in. And while we are kind of figuring out the rules and who should do what and how we should engage in a demo and a proof of concept, the competitor kind of came in, did the proof of concept, had pricing and had hit all the bullet points of the proof of concept. And had that on the customer's desk before we could even mobilize.

So that showed something and we weren't looking for sales process specifically, and we weren't looking how that might have been broken at the high level. But that was something we picked up early and communicated quickly before we even got the output of what a customer interview would even look like.

So again, that goes into what's working? What isn't? It's helpful to let the business know in real time what's working, what isn't in the organization, maybe why we win, why we lose. That should be an obvious outcome of any win/loss analysis.

Again, filter out the obvious. So we've done a lot of win/loss where, especially in high tech where, like I said, it's very fast moving. We may have addressed an issue in a revision of software that came up in an win/loss interview that happened within the last few months. But again, we had already addressed it in the product. Don't present or make a recommendation based on information that it was moot. They've already addressed that problem. They may have already issued a fix or a future update to fill to cover that competitive gap. That just makes you look out of touch, doesn't look like you're aligned with the product team. Ensure that you review the findings with your product teams before you communicate that in a broader sense.

So you really want to communicate and provide recommendations and strategy based on what you haven't been able to find previously. So that's kind of what that means. Show the value, show what we don't know, and ensure that even working with your champions and sponsors that this isn't already obvious.

Now you can show things like, hey, great move in implementing this feature. Prior to implementing this feature, we saw so many customer inquiries about it and perhaps even lost money based on it. Whereas, the output could have been much different if we hadn't. And here's some other gaps that we found, too, that could have a similar type relation.

And lastly, obviously, provide those recommendations. The business loves to see this. You may or may not have any influence if product management or development or whatever your development processes in your organization, you may not have any influence as to whether they'll actually take that information, make use of it, but you put it out there. This is something that makes sense and is well thought out, and most likely they will embrace it.

All right. So that takes me to my five obstacles and gives you a little insight into the world of kind of the practical sense of developing and executing on a win/loss program, primarily in high-tech. Again, my name is Ben Scheerer. Please feel free to connect with me on Twitter or even LinkedIn, as both of those are available on this slide. And be happy to connect with you either way. That takes me to the end of my presentation. I will hand it back to you, Braden. Thank you.

Braydon Anderson:                                      

Awesome. Thank you so much, Ben. What I think I got most out of your presentation is there's so many insights that you can get, whether you are doing a win/loss program yourself, or whether you're going to use a third party to help you run this type of program. There's great insight to really be effective, no matter which path you end up deciding to do. Thanks so much for giving those insights. We appreciate you being here and we appreciate all of you attending WinLossWeek and we hope you have a great day. Thank you.

Ben Scheerer:                                          

Thank you.