Why High-Performing Sales Teams Embrace Win-Loss Analysis

Transcript

Richard Sgro:                                        

All right. Well, good afternoon, good morning and good evening, everyone. Really excited to be chatting with one of the best and the brightest here on win-loss week. And my name is Richard Sgro. I am the general manager at Modern Sales Pros, and today I'll be sharing this amazing stage with my main man, Austin Bankhead. Austin, I'm really excited to be chatting with you here today. Why don't you just share a little bit about yourself with our audience out there in TV land?

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Sure. Richard, thanks for joining me today. Just a little bit about me. I've had about 20 years of experience in business to business sales and marketing after starting my career at McKinsey and Pricewaterhouse in consulting. So I found my way over to the revenue side of the house and it's been great ever since. I worked in a range of sort of sales related support functions in marketing and analytics, in setting up measurement systems and planning, and then spent some time in Adobe helping with industry marketing and strategy, doing pre-sales, consulting with some of the Adobe's major customers.

And that was really, at Adobe, where I started to see... to work more closely with global sales teams in more significantly sized business to business transactions and it helped me to understand sort of the environment which sales teams operate and which marketing time teams operate and the intersection between those two functions and disciplines and product, et cetera. When I was at Adobe, I got a note one day in the mail from a guy named Jared Smith who turned out to be one of the founders of Qualtrics. And long story short, they pulled me out of Adobe and I spent six years at Qualtrics starting out in the marketing function and then moving over, being tapped to build a new sales operations organization for the company in middle of 2013. And that fateful tap really changed my life and career and gave me the introduction to sales operations.

And so since that time I've been working in that function. I worked in Qualtrics until 2018, and then for a year and a half worked at another unicorn company in the FinTech space called Snap Finance building their sales, revenue, operations organizations from scratch as well. And then I currently work for a company that I founded called Unicorn Revenue Operations, which advises companies on how to reach unicorn status. And one of those ways is having a great revenue operations function. So that's a little bit about my background and I've been privileged to work with some great people and great companies in my career, especially in the tech space. And so hopefully some of my experience today I could share and it'd be relevant for some of the viewers and listeners.

Richard Sgro:                                        

I think that this is going to be awesome. So with that amazing introduction, Austin, let's jump into it.

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Okay.

Richard Sgro:                                        

So, how did you guys start thinking about win-loss. Right. There's a lot of sessions about this week, but really why should an organization start to build out and think about building a win-loss program?

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Well, there are a lot of reasons. When we were at Qualtrics, when I started there, I had pieces of sales operations or revenue operations but really was not familiar with the entire discipline. And Qualtrics didn't really have a sales operations function to speak of that have the pieces or parts of it who had run by the sales leaders and they had done fairly good job for the resources they had. But we were in a stage where we had just received some outside funding from Sequoia and Excel. The pressure was on to grow at double digit rates in the quarter of... every quarter. And so as a new sales operations leader, I was trying to figure out what in the world I was supposed to do and so did web research. Typed out "sales operations leaders" and something that would continue to come up was that it was a good idea to do win-loss interviews or win-loss studies.

And having spent some time before that in market research, when I was in marketing, I understood the benefit of customer surveys, of focus groups. Of basically talking, getting a third-party group or independent group to talk to prospects to truly understand their needs and what was going on. So it sort of resonated with me and I thought, "Oh, this is kind of like a... this was a best practice that someone in sales operations should do." So I started looking into how to resource it, the benefits of it, and sort of how to make that happen either through interviews or surveys, which we had a pretty effective survey platform. So I figured it would be fairly straightforward to do.

Richard Sgro:                                          

It's definitely an interesting time to because at that point about a half a decade ago, sales ops was still kind of a new discipline. So it's exciting and exciting value add that you can bring to the table.

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah. I was new. I think you're right. The sales operations discipline has progressed enormously. I didn't know what it was when they asked me to [inaudible]. I had to go figure it out. I had a very good mentor in that role. A head of sales to help me understand what some of the needs were. But yeah, I think what we started to anticipate is we thought that the win-loss insight... insights from win-loss would actually help us in the sales team and help us to improve our win rates, to figure out what we doing poorly, or what are things that we were trying to do were not actually working well. So getting some real-time feedback and some objective feedback of how our efforts in enablement, in pricing and coaching that would implement and messaging. How those were resonating within... in our sales efforts.

There were a couple of things going on in sort of a few years after I started that were really... that ended up being important to Qualtrics' growth. Qualtrics had just launched two new products in the employee engagement space and a really dedicated product in the customer experience space. And we are also... we're trying to sell into bigger companies and make that jump that many companies do to go from a very transactional selling motion, we were almost all inside sales. Making that jump into bigger deals and figuring out how to make that transition and that's very challenging for any company and it was for us as well. And so we ended up getting a lot of some insights and help on how to make that from the feedback for perspective customers.

Richard Sgro:                                        

Oh, I think that's great and Qualtrics is certainly a very, very successful run there. One of the things that I hear a lot about win-loss programs is it's a lot of work. Is this kind of an all or nothing investment? Or is there a... maybe a lightweight approach that a smaller company, right? Qualtrics was decently sized when you were there, but is this something that smaller companies should be doing too?

Austin Bankhead:                                      

I would say yes. And I think that there are several levels of maturity to running a program and we did not start out running a best in class program. We had some fits and starts. There are a couple of things kind of on the process side and on the people's side. I'll start with process because I'm in sales ops, so let me start there. But then I'll talk about some of the people challenges. We partnered... Wanted to partner with our client success organization to try to understand for client success, why were customers leaving? Why was our attrition rate or expansion rate lower than we wanted it to be? And then we... On the sales side, we have the typical questions. Why are we winning? Why are we losing? What do we know about our product? But we already had in sales force kind of a reason the deals got lost. When people mark deals lost, but we did some analysis.

We found out that it was all due to price and product. There was nothing else going on. So that would be kind of... The minimum is at least ask the question. But what we quickly learned is, and realized is that that's almost, it's barely better than nothing. Just because it's hard for reps to be objective and really know, "Why did we lose a deal or what really contributed to the win?" We then talked about doing surveys to our reps to try to be more proactive in getting information and even to our customers but Richard, what as we read we realized there were some real value in getting an independent party to speak to the prospective customer. What have you won, what have you lost?

If you think about it in your own life, you are probably more likely to be candid with someone with whom you may not have a future relationship or an ongoing relationship. It's just easier for someone to just level and shoot straight with someone that's considered an objective third party. And so we started small Richard. I think our first kind of pilot, we did just, I think 30 interviews. And you could start with 15 and you could do 10, but we just started just to try to see, "Gosh, what can we learn from a win-loss program?" And then we already had some level of surveying going on. And so that was sort of the process side, so small. We engaged an outside firm. There are several to choose from and we started to get... So anyway, I was all excited. I had it all ready to go.

So the people side was really where I got surprised. I remember we had a bi-weekly or every week staff meeting with the senior sales leaders the one week. And I came in, I had time on the agenda and I explained, "Hey, we're going to do this win-loss. I'd like to do this win-loss. This is all the reasons to do it. This is how we'll do it. We'll select these deals. We'll use big ones." And then I was expecting the sales leaders to be like, "Hey, finally Austin is bringing us something that we can really value here." The reaction was kind of... It wasn't exactly high fives or fist bumps. It was kind of like, "Yeah, maybe but not. We really want to kind of move on."

And I was pretty deflated. Just, I thought, "Here's this great thing we're trying to do and sales is not very excited about it." And so upon introspection there were some reasons for that and really valid ones. And we worked to overcome some of that indifference, maybe, is probably the best word. And the trick was we did something though, and we did a pilot and we got some really neat insights coming back after our first... after six months. And that sort of was the catalyst to help us move from maybe a level one or a level two type program to a more sophisticated, sustainable program that continues to yield insights.

Richard Sgro:                                        

I think that's great advice. And I think with programs like win-loss, organizations can look at that and go, "Oh, it's not for me. We're too small or we're too little," but I think that's a phenomenal point. You can start by starting. And maybe for organizations that don't even have the reason why it was closed, lost, failed in sales force. I mean, that's a starting point. It's a little bit of something and it gives you some insight on that. But I want it to double click in a little bit more. Being a recovering sales leader, I know we're not necessarily the easiest group to sell to. What was the biggest challenge that you dealt with in terms of starting to roll this out? Was it more on the people side or was it on the process side or was it kind of a little bit of both?

Austin Bankhead:                                      

It was a bit of both. Let me talk about the people side, because at the end of the day we work with people. And sales, especially, we work with people that... And really one of the reasons why the sales leaders at times can be indifferent, or maybe not as supportive as you might expect, have to do with the fact that they are people and they work with people. And for example sales leaders, they're very, and I say sales, men, women. Sales leadership, and they're reps. They're protective and proud of the relationships they have with customers.

Richard Sgro:                                        

Very territorial. Yeah.

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah. But that's why they have their work. Their job is to bring in revenue for the company. And so when they have someone that maybe comes in, whether it's another part of the organization or an outside party and could be... they might fear that their competency or their relationships could be at risk or be questioned. They put up a little bit of a wall and sometimes they think that their reps know, or they just don't want. They just don't want it sort of the nose, your nose in their business, so to speak. Even coming from sales operations, and we sat within the sales team. And so they had some reticence and it wasn't until we be able to show them that the insights for a win-loss program could actually drive something that they care a lot about, which is hitting their number and-

Richard Sgro:                                          

Funny how that works.

Austin Bankhead:                                      

[crosstalk] Helping coach their reps, and help get support from the rest of the company for investments in product and in technology, and in other types of enablement to help them be more successful. It's kind of like the... When we found that, Richard, that the win-loss insights help generate support from the C-suite for the sales organization, that wasn't a benefit that I just did not anticipate, and I hadn't read about. But we actually, we learned that the insights actually empowered and gave the sales leadership more strength and more input in the company than they may have had before.

And that was kind of a neat insight, and help them see that not only is this not a threat to them, but it is a way for them to validate. And it often validates what they've been telling the rest of the organization, but that the organization is kind of like, "Yeah, I don't really buy it." And they point the finger at sales when more often than not, it was like, "Hey, we have some issues around our product or about the support we have that is preventing our salespeople from winning more enterprise deals." And the lights started to go on.

Richard Sgro:                                          

Oh, I think that's a great added benefit of this, is transparency fosters this culture of, I don't want to say sympathy, but understanding of the sales discipline.

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah. [crosstalk].

Richard Sgro:                                        

And oftentimes sales...

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah.

Richard Sgro:                                        

Yeah. And I think oftentimes what you see is sales is kind of over here and then you've got everybody else in the company that's like, "Oh, those guys and girls, they get paid a ton of money. They just need to make more cold calls or do more Wolf of Wall Street stuff, whatever they're doing over there." But you're really right, this brings some data to the discussion. You've got a great story with what you did at Qualtrics. So let's jump into that a little bit more because it didn't... it wasn't like you jumped in and you figured everything out. I think you said you started with a pilot. So let's talk a little bit more about how you kind of got things going, and then we can talk about how that evolved over the time.

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah. So as I mentioned earlier, we started with a pilot. We had about 30 interviews and then our client success team has about half as many. And there's a little bit of the setup. You need to go and figure out, okay, which of the deals that we've won or lost are going to be evaluated? And what's the role of the salespeople or sales management and agreeing that we can do that evaluation again. They have the relationship and they have information that might be germane to who we survey or who we interviewed, who we don't. We needed to engage a firm. There was a time lag between the time we send a deal out and they have to call them and talk to them and interview them and get the insight back.

So there were some... a few process things that we needed to work out. Where I think things really started to pop for us is when we got our first round of research back and we shared it with, not only sales leadership but with other leadership in the company. And we found insights around five different areas that really helped us receive the value of this. We saw we had insight on our sales process. We saw that our salespeople were perceived as good and friendly and reliable. We had some kind of mixed feedback on how well we demoed, was very inconsistent about how we showed our products. We learned the value of prior relationship with our customers, and then that seemed to be a trend where we would... it would sort of give us credit for areas maybe we weren't as strong in on these new products because they had seen better success with our earlier ones.

We got great product feedback. Our product managers started just lap the stuff up because now they had customer quotes and more real use case information of where maybe we had fallen short vis a vis to our competitors. Another interesting thing about Qualtrics is that we found is as we were going enterprise, we had a very strong "do it yourself" culture within our company and within our product. You kind of, you do your own work or research, or you do your own customer experience research in the company as opposed to engaging an outside party. And we found that in the enterprise space, we... That was hurting us a bit compared to some of our other competitors.

And so we were like, "Oh yeah, we actually might need to beef up our capabilities or our offering, to be able to provide some of those services that might... maybe we thought we wouldn't be needed in earlier times." So we picked up a lot of insights. And then now it's like, "Now I don't have to just do budget for 30." The next year we did 50 because now people are like, "Oh yeah, that stuff can actually work." And our process gets a little better and we learn how to share the insights and the company a little better. And now people are starting to... instead of like, "What's this?" Or like, "Hey, do you have any insights on this from the customers?" And so now we start getting some motion and engagement across the company.

Richard Sgro:                                          

I think it's phenomenal about how that success kind of breeds success. And then I imagine at that point too you saw the walls drop down a little bit and the territorialness maybe that sales had before, it was just like, "Now, give us. Give us more, give us more."

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah, that happened. We had, sorry, we had our first phase and we did our second phase and that led to more success. And as I wound on my time at Qualtrics as head of sales ops, I remember planning for the next year of win-loss and we had more budget, we had more schedules, we had sales leaders vying for us to do interviews with their deals in Asia, in Europe. And, "I want this," or, "No I want this." And so then we have this, a few extra that we can... the interviews we can save and reserve. But they wanted that and we had a better process to get the permission and get the information to the third-party that did the interviews in a more timely manner. So we, even though we found them at our vendor that gave us a better service and more use more technology. And so a lot of these things just kind of snowball effect. And now I think last year they did probably around, I don't know, somewhere around 125, 150 type interview. So it's a substantial investment, but that's because they see the value that's there.

Richard Sgro:                                        

Yeah. And echoing a point you made earlier, you just start by starting, right. It can start small from humble beginnings. What'd you enter your first time, 15?

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah, we did. Yeah, we did 30. And that was-

Richard Sgro:                                        

Yeah, small.

Austin Bankhead:                                      

You could do free with it now.

Richard Sgro:                                          

Yeah. I think, I mean, I think this is great and I love this story here, but let's... I mean, so what, right? How did this actually help? You mentioned before helping salespeople make more money. What did you get and how did the organization of evolve that helps folks understand like, "Hey, this actually moved the need quite a bit on this set of priorities?"

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah. I think that we saw some sustained benefits. On the marketing side, if there happen to be any people in marketing, the lesson to this, you often struggle to get case studies and you also may struggle on what to say or how to message things. We find that we would receive from our win-loss feedback, whether we did it in surveys or we did it on with interviews, third party interviews, very discreet feedback around what messaging was resonating that we provided. They gave us some case study examples that we otherwise would not have had from the sales team. And you can just... And real quotes. You're not making up a quote. You're going to get some really good verbatim quotes from prospective buyers. They're telling you where you win and where you lose, and what's good about your product and what's not.

And that helps you in terms of knowing what to say. On our product side, we had a couple of events at Qualtrics when one of our products that we had launched fell in a quarter or a couple of quarters fell short of expectations. And one of our founders led an effort to do a wholesale evaluation of what was going on with the product. And it turns out that one of the ingredients in that was the interviews and the surveys about deals where we'd won or loss. So this got founders C-level attention. And that was a resource that we could use when evaluating how successful our products were. We were able to receive more support and funding to hire more sales engineers, because we realized that for our enterprise teams, that that was necessary for us to do better and more effective demos and value selling.

We had challenges at times because our culture was the rep does the demo himself or herself. Had they done it successfully for years, it worked really well for transactional selling. We had a challenge getting the resourcing. Funny, we started to learn and win-loss contributed that sells engineers work critical part of our enterprise play. And so we found with another resource issue, client success. One of the feedback from our client success early interviews was that we didn't really have the ongoing relationship and account management skills that we needed with some of these bigger clients. Well, that was what are the ingredients to help us develop a more robust client success outcome. So many of the key things that developments in product, in marketing and sales that led to Qualtrics' continued growth, 40-50% year over year growth every quarter is that culminate in new realistic, successful outcome for the company. And they continue to be in a fantastic company. Many of those things were influenced by the insights that we received from our prospects, both wins and losses that came through this program.

Richard Sgro:                                          

I think that's a really great... There's a bunch of great examples in there, but some of this there's really no way you would have known had you not done- [crosstalk]

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Oh, no, no, no. My vision for what this could do was, I guess, kind of more narrow. Why are we losing deals, not at a rep level. And I didn't anticipate the cross-functional benefit of a good program like this.

Richard Sgro:                                          

Yeah. I mean, especially when you're making a headcount investments to start to solve problems that you're seeing in the sales process, whether it's with customer success or sales engineers. I mean, that's a really strategic way to address a problem that your prospects are encountering. I think that's a really important takeaway here. All right. Well, we've kind of talked about what you did at Qualtrics. We talked about why this is important, obviously the value from it, but what is, if I'm building this from scratch today, what are some of the elements of the successful win-loss program? Or what are some of the things that you feel like are incredibly important for someone to have when building this?

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah, I'd say that there's, I think in this there's about five things that... And we can share these with the group later as well. But the first thing is you want to do a mix of interviews and some qualitative type and quantitative survey type feedback. This will help you get more deals covered less expensively, and allow you to generate enough sample size. So when you go to the rest of the company, you say, "I don't..." Just five or six examples. You have enough that people start to see themes and patterns emerge that help drive decisions. Then so the interviews are more costly and they require more work, but you can supplement with survey platform whether you use Qualtrics or something else, it's inexpensive. It can be effective way to gather insights.

So you need to do surveys and interviews. That'd be kind of the first thing. With regard to interviews, some companies tried to have the salespeople visit, or maybe a marketing person. That seems like a great way to do it and less expensive but I think you'll find two things. First of all, doing these things takes time and you will not get to it. You will not actually make the time to do the interviews. And the second thing is the quality of the feedback that you receive will not be as good. You're not as trained as a third party partner and the interviewees will not be as candid with you if you do it themselves because they don't... It's harder for them to speak freely. So it use a third party. The third one is you... To overtime build a streamline process to select the deals that you want to be evaluated and to get the feedback mechanisms started.

Sometimes if you close a deal in June and you don't get the survey done until December, you've lost six months of really valuable insight that you could have used to drive your business in that timeframe. So you need to compress that. To get the right deal compress the time. And then last, but certainly not least, make the effort as a revenue ops leader to be strategic. This is a great way to get yourself a bigger seat at the table. Take those insights, synthesize them and then make sure that they get delivered to people who will use them. And when I say delivered, minimum is send them an email or forward them an email with a PDF.

A better way to do it is to sit there and find 30 minutes on the calendar and help them understand, what is the win-loss program? Why are you doing it? The insights that you think would be relevant and resonate with them. That is a great way to build momentum for the program, but also deliver value. And again, elevate yourself as a true strategic partner to the revenue team, whether you're reporting to a head of sales or a head of CRL, et cetera.

Richard Sgro:                                        

I think that last piece is incredibly important. This is an organizational effort, right? It's not just that sales didn't make enough cold calls or the product was missing this widget or the marketing messaging was off by this. It is each one of those pieces gets the ship moving in the right direction more quickly. I think that's a great, great point to mention here. So Austin, I know you've pulled this together. We've touched on a lot of different topics here. Do you want to just share your slides quickly and just give folks a couple of the key points we've hit on all of these folks, but Austin did a great job just pulling together a couple of the key points that we hit on here. And he's going to take you through those just real quickly. And I think we're going to share these afterwards as well.

Austin Bankhead:                                      

Yeah, sure. So then for those listening on the call, if you're a visual person, this might help you. First slide here. These are just some keys to an effective program. This is kind of what you want to do when you get to a fully scaled program. As we talked about earlier, don't let your fear or lack of resources prevent you from at least starting. Start doing number one, start doing number two. The other ones will follow and then you can start to have the ongoing success and impact that we've described during this session.

At the beginning of the session we talked about why sales leaders or other people might be indifferent or even opposed to putting in a win-loss program. So if you look at these slides here, the first three really relate to the fear or worry of sales leaders and the reps, that this program will be perceived as intrusive or threatening or critical of the work that they're doing. And nothing could be further from the truth, but you need to have the discussion with your sales leadership and help them see this as almost like a coach. We think of great athletes. Great athletes that we read about in the paper that win competitions, they all have coaches. They're all really good. They're better than any of us will ever be at tennis or whatever it is, golf, whatever, but they need coaches. And think of this as a way to get coaching from your customers and prospects.

Sometimes other investments in revenue ops takes priority, especially in a fast growing company. And you might be putting in a sales enablement, automation systems, sales intelligence system, you're doing some type of messaging campaign. You can get these started for not too much, in fact. And these win-loss programs, I guarantee you, they will have an impact on your win rate. You will find insights and get resourcing to help you win more. The fifth is a program costs. These can be expensive. An interview can be a thousand to $2,000, depending on how you set it up. Several things to think about here. The first is whatever your average deal size is, how many extra one deals we'll pay for this cost? Number two, the second one is what improvement in your win rate will justify this? So think about this, the modest improvements that will be required to pay for it.

And then the third is that you can run a really good program for the cost of hiring an SDR or an AE. You think about, "Hey, if we can improve our win rates or get insight about our product or get support for extra resources, is this the type of justification to help get this program off the ground and started?" The six are doubts about accuracy of the insights. This has a lot to do with sample size that I talked about earlier. So making sure you do have enough insight so it doesn't... it's not dismissed as anecdotes, but you start to see the patterns and trends. And then the seventh is just being unsure of actually how to put all the pieces together and execute it. Sometimes that's even a resourcing issue for sales operations. So those are very... are overcome able as well. You can talk to outside companies or former sales ops leaders like, I guess, me or people, that other colleague you have on how to put that together.

But it's not... it's very overcomeable. So those are kind of the seven obstacles that you might typically see. And then last, why do this? At the end of the day, this is the whole point, right? You want to learn the truth about why deals are won or lost and the best source of the truth, it's not people inside the company. It's not the salespeople. They can inform it. The best the people that actually made the decision about whether or not to buy your product. And it turns out that they will talk to you. They will. They will talk to you and they'll shoot straight with you. You find insights for one-on-one coaching and enablement, this is really the reps specific benefit of doing a win-loss program.

The third thing, you can secure support for additional resources. We talked about sales engineers. We talked about enablement. We talked about messaging, talked about client success staff. So it helps your CFO and your CEO hear not just from you, from the sales leadership or the marketing leadership, but from prospective customers. "Hey, this is why we did not buy from you. You dropped the ball here, here, and here." There is nothing like that kind of story to motivate introspection and resource prioritization. Number four, you get insights that shape the rest of your company, product pricing, marketing, et cetera.

And then the last thing which you got to think about, think about the impression that your company leaves with a prospective customer from whom you have just lost the deal. If you care enough to find out and ask them for their feedback, it leaves the door open for a future relationship with that company. If the supplier that they chose over you drops the ball, or that comes up to RFP again, you just left a very positive impression from them that you care about their feedback and you care about the relationship or future relationships you have with that customer. So those are some reasons I'll put together of why I think in my experience, a compelling win-loss program is a must have for a revenue operations leader. So Richard, back to you.

Richard Sgro:                                          

This is really informative stuff, Austin. I know you're incredibly busy. Thank you for taking some time to pull this all together. And certainly, I think that in combination with the slides and the talk track here, this is very, very valuable resource. So with that, on behalf of everyone who's watching, asynchronously here, on behalf of the team at Modern Sales Pros. I'm glad I had a chance to be involved with this, but Austin, especially thank you so much for taking some time out of your day to share all this amazing insight.

Austin Bankhead:                                      

You're welcome. Thanks for having me here.

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