In part 1 of this blog series, we shared the wealth of knowledge we believe every company should be striving to capture from the sales process. I haven’t met a business leader who would pass up the opportunity to learn so much about how their company and offering is perceived versus their primary competitors. Today, let’s discuss how can you obtain this valuable insight.
Is Your Sales Team a Reliable Source of Insight?
The most common approach is having the sales rep ask the contact they’ve been trying to close why they made the selection they did.
Now, if the decision maker has a personality like mine, you may get some good insights that way. Us New Yorkers have a reputation for being candid and direct. However, human nature is such that most people don’t like confrontation, particularly when part of the reason a competitor was selected may have been due to a deficiency in the sales process or salesperson.
Having the sales rep ask directly might get you some superficial insights, but the feedback could also be misleading if – for example – something innocuous is shared to avoid offending someone.
Have You Effectively Analyzed Available Data?
Another approach is to charge a product marketing or sales operations team with preparing a competitive landscape or SWOT Analysis.
I’ve seen this work prepared and the output can be rudimentary – based largely on what can be found online – to very sophisticated. Employees comb through competitor websites, SEC documents, video presentations, and other publicly available documents (the days of dumpster diving are largely behind us) to find what they can about their competition’s pricing, positioning, roadmap, etc.
Data can sometimes be pulled directly from the company’s CRM or sales software as well. But, as we all know, the insights are only as good as the data entered into the system. If the sales organization is disciplined, there should be detailed notes, observations, competitive dynamics, pricing detail, etc.
In theory, the robust information entered by the sales team is available for export by a business operations or marketing person, who can cross-reference the data with personas, ideal customer profiles, buyer targets, etc.
Unfortunately, that optimal scenario is rarely realized. Many companies struggle to simply have win or loss reason codes filled in. But, even when extensive data is entered into the system, it can be risky to rely heavily on it. After all, the people populating the various fields are the very salespeople who were involved in the deal. That can make objectivity a challenge.
Should You Survey Decision Makers Online?
Some companies field short, online surveys once a deal is closed-won or closed-lost. They are usually only a handful of questions, and the results often skew towards closed-won deals, as companies that selected a competitor don’t have much of a vested interest in providing feedback. The findings can be helpful but are often inadequate to rely on for making important decisions.
What Do We Recommend?
I believe the best source of insights from the sales process is captured through a formal Sales Win Loss Analysis.
This program is a process by which the decision makers (and possibly influencers) at a prospect are interviewed after your company is notified that you’ve won or lost the deal. The interview, best conducted by phone, seeks to explore all the factors that led to the final decision.
If done properly, a range of topics is covered, including every ingredient in the decision-making process. The result is a comprehensive understanding of why your company or a competitor was selected, with candid feedback on each phase of the process, and a high degree of certainty in the primary, secondary and even tertiary factors that drove the decision.
What are some best practices of successful Sales Win Loss Programs? Read part 3 to get our viewpoint.