The Do’s & Don’ts of Win-Loss Analysis for Competitive Intelligence Leaders



Welcome to this session of WinLossWeek. The world's largest online event dedicated to win/loss analysis. This event is hosted by Clozd. We'd like to thank all of our partners for their contribution to making this event a success. The title of this session is The Do's & Don'ts of Win/Loss Analysis. Today, we're lucky to be joined by Josh Parenteau. Josh is currently a market intelligence lead at Google Looker. Prior to joining Looker Josh was the market intelligence director at Tableau, where he led the competitive intelligence function. Josh began his BI and Analytics career at Gartner as an industry analyst and played an integral role in the creation of three magic quadrant reports. Josh, thanks for joining me today.

Josh Parenteau:                                        

Thank you. And thanks everyone for attending. Really great to be here and talk and share a little bit of, sort of my experience, both at Looker as part of Google Cloud and at Tableau starting and running win/loss programs as part of the competitive intelligence functions that I've led at both organizations. What I want to share are sort of the five do's and don'ts of win/loss, just through experience. I think there's some learnings that I've gone through and you could say learned the hard way, that I hope I can fast track your success in win/loss, so let's jump in. I'm going to start with the dues, the things that I think lead to positive outcomes and a successful win/loss initiative. I'm going to start top to bottom, go five to number one.

The number five one is really, and this is for people who maybe haven't invested in win/loss or haven't even really thought about it. I think the best advice I can give is to start small and focused. And in both organizations, I position win/loss as a pilot initiative. And I think the key here is being very specific about your scope, and the focus, and the questions that you have in mind that you want to go after with win/loss. Some examples might be what are the dynamics against a specific competitor? How much does pricing play in to our losses in a particular segment. When we go after a specific use case, do we lose because our product has gaps or it's missing things, or competitors are just doing better in certain areas. And are buying behaviors different in a certain segment.

Do enterprise buyers value things differently? Do they make decisions differently than SMB at mid-market? I think if you start out with a pretty small and focused pilot, you can get some really insightful answers to some of the questions that your organization has. And from day one, prove the value of win/loss and build some of that support, so definitely start small and focused as you're embarking on win/loss. The second one, or number four is promoting findings. What you've found through the win/loss process, so make it a priority to analyze the transcripts, analyze some of the key insights that are surfaced and share that with stakeholders. I think there's sort of two areas and this is from a win perspective, there's a lot of things you can do to promote successful tactics and strategies that have been used in deals that have resulted in wins against a certain competitor or in a certain situation.

On the other side of it, losses can be surfaced to product leaders, to people who are in charge of pricing or packaging, if those are things that are contributing to losses, so really, I think there's tremendous value in both sides of the equation on wins and promoting sort of a repeat behaviors you want to instill in your sales teams through enablement, and also on the loss side again, using this as a way to highlight, Hey, we have an issue with pricing in a certain market, or a certain segment, or against a certain competitor, or if there's a recurring theme where product gaps keep coming up in losses that's certainly something to surface. A big one, and this I've observed in both my experience at Tableau and now at Looker is the importance of focusing on data quality.

You're going through all the effort of determining sort of what question you want to answer with win/loss and these interviews. You really need to spend some time validating the quality of the opportunities from your CRM system. In our case, it was Salesforce in both situations, but it's only going to be as good as the data that your reps are entering, so really the key things, obviously, because your win/loss vendor is going to be contacting people at the organization, you want to make sure the primary contact info is accurate and it's up to date. Particularly if you're going after older opportunities that are six, nine, maybe even 12 months old, a lot of times that changes. And I found through experience an outreach will go after someone in procurement for example, because they were the last person on the deal.

And they really had no say in whether the tool was chosen or not, that's not the right person to go after, so I think really spending some time validating the list, validating the criteria you use to pull out of your CRM and then the results you get back, make sure these things are right, your primary contact info, make sure that the information that you used to identify the deals is accurate as best you can. I mean, this is probably one of the biggest issues with most CRM data is that things can be entered incorrectly or they're out of date, so the competitor that's entered is that accurate? If you're going after losses or wins against a certain vendor, obviously you want to make sure that that's as accurate as it can be.

Deal outcome as funny as it may sound, did you actually win the deal or lose the deal? I've been surprised after having an interview conducted where I thought it was a loss and it came back as a win, so again, make sure that some of the basic things are validated. And just even knowing the loss reason from your reps perspective. Pulling that and kind of getting an understanding of do we think we lost this deal because of pricing, that'll help inform kind of the scope of your efforts. And then this is one where I think this gets into a little bit of a sensitive area where you probably don't want to go after, particularly a loss where there's an open opportunity. You might've lost a deal within an account six months ago, your reps may have re-engaged and there may be an active deal being worked.

It definitely helps to do a little bit of scrubbing to make sure that's not the case. You don't want to go in and say, why didn't you choose Looker or whoever you're representing when they may actively be looking or considering you for a new opportunity. Number two is really think of and position your win/loss initiative as a foundational aspect of, whether it sits in your competitive intelligence program, whether it sits within sales, whatever function it sits in I think positioning it and talking about it as though it's something that's not optional and that you can't live without is going to be in your best interest. It should not be thought of as a project. We're going to go and do 10 interviews, and that's going to be the end of that. Or we have a specific question that we want to ask and have answered.

We're going to go ask that question, then it's done. I think you really want to establish an ongoing cadence and really think about win/loss insight as something that you really can't get otherwise, right. There are going to be, and I'm always amazed as I read the transcripts, I've done probably close to a hundred interviews across Tableau and Looker to date. And the things that are surface that a customer or prospect is willing to talk about that they probably wouldn't have told to a rep or to to me, if I called them on behalf of the vendor is remarkable, so view it as a way to get insights that really will probably be elusive via any other means.

My top one I think is really thinking about asking sort of the big strategic questions, right? If you can think about, and really sell the value of win/loss, as this is how we get answers and insights to the big strategic things that we're working on as a company. Whether that is considering changes to pricing and packaging, which is actually how I positioned it at Tableau, this was around the time where we were having some really, really strategic conversations about pricing in the market. And should we offer a new pricing tier? Should we change the way we go to market from a pricing perspective? Is our price points too high, or is it competitive? Getting the insights directly from customers, strategic customers helped, in that case it helped kind of validate our thinking.

Like we had a theory, we had a hypothesis and we went out and used win/loss to confirm that. In other cases you may not have a hypothesis, so maybe more of a fact-finding endeavor, but either way the closer you can tie it to the big things that your company is doing, the big strategic goals and objectives, the more value it's going to bring, and the easier it's going to be, frankly, to build support as it as a core piece of your cadence, right? It's just going to be one of those things that you can't live without. I think again, getting at the strategic questions. Other examples beyond pricing and packaging has been product roadmap. And back to the, what are the things that customers are asking for, that they are choosing other products for?

Like are there certain capabilities that buyers in our market need and want that we don't deliver? We may take that back and say, well, we know that. We know we're losing those types of deals, and that's not a product feature that we want to build in, but at least informing the product leaders who are responsible for driving the roadmap that, Hey, we're losing deals because of that, is that okay or not? Do we want to course correct? And then new product launches, so this is one where this is more of a kind of let's test the market. Let's do some market research. And again, this can be pretty broad, but just understanding the dynamics of your market through win/loss. A lot of times you'll get this, whether you're asking for it or not. The part of asking big questions is you get answers that you didn't necessarily expect.

The more narrow your questions are. The more narrow your answers are going to be, so you're going to get very specific. And when you ask things that you probably weren't going after, which is really valuable. Those are my five, there's probably more, but I think those are the ones that I would call out and have you focus on as you're considering either starting a win/loss program, or ramping it up, or evolving it in your organization. That was the positives, so the other flip side of this is the don't. What are the things that learnings that I've had over the course of, I guess it's the past three years now, or across Tableau and Looker, where I think I can save you some time and potential pain trying to get your program off the ground.

Number five, so the first one I'll talk about ism it's sort of a double-edged sword. As a do I said, promote findings, promote insights. You want to make sure that you're not the only one who is exposed to what's being surfaced in interviews. When I say that, I mean the aggregated data, so the key insights, the themes, the factors that contributed to a win or a loss, so the positives and negatives of each deal, those things absolutely share. And even some of the quotes that come out of interviews, I think can be pretty insightful. What I'm cautioning against here is just be aware that sometimes depending on the nature of the deal, and depending on the nature of the interview, sometimes some sensitive things can be raised. And the ones I've seen a number of times has been related to sales, sales experience or sales execution, where specific details about a rep you wouldn't want to get into the hands of everybody, so just be cautious.

This does vary. I mean, I've been particularly sensitive to this, where I think I would maybe deviate from this is if win/loss reveals patterns about a certain rep or a certain issue that keeps recurring, that might be something I would address. But there's a lot of context, I think that goes into these interviews. And just a one-off mentioned doesn't necessarily mean a rep should be singled out, or an SE, or something should be signaled out. I would just caveat, just be cautious and treat this as confidential information, at least at the detail level. This is one of the things that I kind of fell into, or I think I had to push back on quite a bit when I started to try to push win/loss in both organizations where sales would say, well, we know why we win. We know why we lose.

I would say generally, that's partially true. A lot of times you'll see a lot of effort being spent entering data in Salesforce or whatever CRM, talking about losses with really no supporting evidence around wins other than we won and here's who we competed against. Again, that only tells half the story. And even at that, the loss side can be, it can be a partial kind of a narrative where you don't really know all the things that went into [inaudible]. A rep may just close out the deal and say we lost because of pricing. Until you do a detailed interview, you won't know that there might've been a product issue. There might've been something related to sales execution. There might've been something related to connectivity to a database, some technical aspects.

Again, it's typically a partial truth. Other cases, I've seen reps talk a lot about why they won and very little about why they lost, so you kind of get both sides of it. I think the only way you really, really get a full understanding of all the good things that happened, whether you won the deal or lost and all the negative things that happened, again, regardless of whether you won or lost really only comes through talking with the prospect, or former prospect, or customer. You're not going to get it from analyzing your internal CRM data, at least in my experience. Don't make the scope too broad. Like I think if you had just said, I'm just going to look at losses and wins from the past quarter, and I'm going to pick the ones that were the highest in value, the highest ACV. You're going to get some answers, you might not necessarily find them all that valuable.

I think if you sort of think about like where, and this is back to sort of the tying it to the strategy or just understanding some of the big questions that are floating around in your organization, or things that are controversial, or things where you just know that there is not a consensus that's been built and you can position win/loss as a way to get a voice of the customer brought into that conversation. There's always these typically you see it where there's a deeply ingrained truth around an organization, and someone's trying to change that. And it can be really hard, you sort of have the kind of headbutting. Finding those things and saying, well, look, let's go find 10 deals where we can actually get some answers from the customer, is a really good way to bring data to that problem.

Aligning to really specific segments, like really doing a deep dive around an enterprise, for example, if that's a priority for your organization, or maybe trying to figure out how to sell better to your SMB and mid-market customers. Or in today's world, you're trying to understand the impact that something like COVID has had in a certain segment. And do you need to sort of change the way you're dealing with customers in that market? There's a lot of questions that could be asked. Geography, I think is another sort of way to sort of segment and think about who you're asking questions of because dynamics can certainly change when you're looking at AMEA versus US versus LATAM, so I think there's some insights that can be gleaned there. Depending on what industry you're in looking at specific verticals can be really insightful. Where if you are like Tableau and for the most part Looker, selling a horizontal solution.

Understanding buying behaviors of verticals, vertical industries can actually inform how you go to market and align better to buyers in those industries. I mentioned this earlier, but it can be really valuable to isolate a specific competitor, so in the BI and Analytics market for both Tableau and Looker, Microsoft is really the leader in the market, so we've asked lots of questions around, are we losing deals on price? Are we losing deals because they're everywhere from a enterprise perspective? Trying to get some answers that will help us again, position our product message and ultimately price in a lot of cases. Product lines, so for Looker we are emphasizing embedded, so embedding analytics in solutions, that's a product line that we're trying to amplify and accelerate.

It's not a new market for us, but I think some of the dynamics are quite different than our traditional customer or the traditional buyer within BI, so I've used win/loss to go after deals either where we've won and sold embedded successfully trying to promote that success or going after losses where I want to understand where typically it's a product thing where a buyer's looking for a particular functionality that we weren't delivering, or weren't delivering as well as competitor X who won the deal. And then use cases, specific use cases that a customer might be evaluating you for, and maybe you're not well positioned, or maybe they don't fully understand your solution and you need to do a better job from a product marketing perspective to showcase kind of what you can do and how you do it.

The second to top one, I would say is don't be afraid to sort of course correct and make adjustments. The way I've thought about win/loss has been kind of on a quarterly cadence, so thinking globally about the whole year, chunking things into quarterly themes or quarterly focus areas. My first quarter might be looking at a particular competitor, a second might be more of a product line. What I typically do is spend time analyzing the results that we're getting early on, so just not waiting till the end of 15 interviews to say, Oh, we really didn't learn anything, but after one or two or three interviews, kind of seeing what sort of insights are surfacing, what that will allow you to do is, if you're not getting anything from that particular theme, you could change it, right?

You could certainly just change gears completely if it seems like a dead end. You could go back to the pool of deals and look for new opportunities. Maybe what you thought you were pulling was yielding just bad deals that really weren't suited for that particular scope. The other thing you can do is modify or adjust the interview guide or questions that you're asking your win/loss vendor to discuss with a prospect or customer, because you might be asking the wrong questions, right? You could certainly be asking the right person, just the wrong things that really aren't going to unearth the insights that you're looking for, so just treat this as a living, breathing thing. That again, you're not set in stone from the minute you kick off until it's all over and then you get to reset. It's definitely something you can and should adjust as you're going forward.

And my top one is, it's called Win/Loss Analysis for a reason where I think there's a tendency to think about this as we need to understand why we are losing and absolutely true, you do. And like I said before, I don't think you're going to get a complete answer by looking in your CRM, or even talking to reps because a lot of times they don't know the full picture. But there is I think, an equal, if not more, that can be learned from wins, and think about this in terms of battle cards that you might be creating, or just things that you're feeding to your reps that will help them win more deals, that'll help improve their competitive performance.

Just from an enablement perspective, there's a lot you can do with looking at wins and particularly like wins that... You know, I always try to find deals where if I were looking at it at the beginning of the deal, I would look at it on paper and say, we probably aren't going to win this deal because of X, Y, and Z. And if we did win it, I want to know how, right? I want to know what tactics we used, or what dynamics were at play, or maybe there was something that the rep appealed to during the deal that I never would have thought of. That's a really, really good thing to promote across your team. There's a lot, again, that you can learn on both sides, but again, don't focus exclusively on losses. I try to strike a 50/50 balance.

It can be tricky depending on what your focus is. And this is a general statement. One of your themes might be for this quarter I want to know deeply why we're losing in a particular use case. That's part of the question, obviously you're looking at losses. Again, balance it out holistically, but certainly your scope can weigh one more heavily over the other. Just sort of again, in summary, I think the do's again, just ask those big questions. Think about this as a foundational strategic initiative, really a must have. Focus on data quality. One thing I didn't mention on data quality, I've actually used findings from win/loss to elevate issues around data quality in our CRMs, so to say, Hey, we went out and did 10 interviews where we thought we lost to a particular competitor, lo and behold, we talked to them and we actually won two of those deals. And we lost to other competitors that we didn't think we lost to, so it can be a good way of surfacing data quality issues that you can then feed back to your CRM.

It's actually something I've done at both Tableau and Looker, so it's a really good way to elevate those issues. Promote the findings across the company with key stakeholders. One thing I didn't mention here either is I think diversifying or taking a broad look at who your stakeholders are. It's not just sales, right? It's not just your sales leaders, although they are a key player here, certainly your product leaders, certainly marketing, certainly people who are focused on pricing, so product marketing typically, but make it a diverse sort of scope. Typically, I'll establish kind of a quarterly cadence where I am looking at 10, 12, maybe 15 interviews and bringing those groups together and presenting findings. Really just making sure that they are aware, number one, that we're doing this because a lot of times a win/loss initiative can be buried and people aren't aware that you're even doing it.

And then just promoting some of the things that I think we should look at, so if I discover that Hey... Or if I'm presenting to our CPO, it sounds like there might be an issue in this particular capability. Have we thought about this? Were we aware of this? Have we heard it? Just to elevate that as something that we should further investigate, and again, starting small and focused for folks who have not invested in win/loss before. And then on the don'ts, like I just said, don't focus on losses, make it a balanced approach. Adjust your cadence, course correct if need be. Don't go too broad. And don't assume that reps already have all the answers, because a lot of times they don't have the full picture and it's... the worst thing.

Honestly, I'd rather have no competitive intel and no metrics than making decisions on wrong data or incomplete data, so certainly don't let that stop you then have sales push back and say, we don't need this because we already have all the intel. And again, just a caveat around oversharing the details, particularly of sensitive things. And these are the ones that I would sort of flag as you're reading these and... There's probably one or two people that are going to have access to everything. Just make sure that you've got an eye out for some of those sensitive things. Again, typically what I've seen is calling out a specific behavior or something that a rep did, that could be controversial, that you wouldn't want to get out into the wild, so with that I think that's all I had. Hopefully that's helpful and gets you guys on the right track for success. I'll turn it back over.


Thanks, Josh. Really appreciate the time you offered today, as well as some of your thought leadership regarding Win/Loss Analysis. To everyone else thank you for attending WinLossWeek. Have a great day.