Throughout the sales process, you will inevitably win some customers and lose some prospects as people decide to buy, or not buy, your product. You can glean a lot of information from interviewing prospects who were part of the sales process. This is known as a win-loss analysis.

Benefits of win-loss analysis

A win-loss analysis enables you to understand your market and the performance of your organization. When prospects evaluate your product, they encounter many parts of your organization and its processes. While the outcome of the sale is important, you can gain valuable knowledge from both wins and losses.

By talking to people who have evaluated your product, you can better understand how:

  • Your product is positioned in the market
  • Your sales process works
  • Your product stood up to your competitors

Win-loss interviews offer a powerful way to understand your strengths and weaknesses in the eyes of the market.

Win-loss analysis does not replace the need to understand the market problems you solve, but it helps your organization to understand how you are being presented to a potential buyer.

Have someone other than the salesperson involved conduct the win-loss interview. Customers may not want to hurt the salesperson’s feelings by speaking openly, and the collected data could suffer.

What you can learn through a win-loss analysis

Win-loss interviews can help you uncover answers to the following questions and afford valuable information to your organization:

  • How important are specific aspects of your offerings?
  • Are you reaching the right types of buyers?
  • What obstacles are preventing you from selling your products?
  • What features are you missing that lead to lost business?
  • What are you doing well that can be repeated?
  • Which marketing messages do your prospects respond to?
  • What will help your buyers to purchase from you more easily?
  • Does your pricing match what your buyers are willing to pay?

Questions to ask in a win-loss analysis

If possible, conduct a win-loss analysis for every attempted sale of your product. Use the following list when interviewing prospects (you may choose to add your own questions):

  • What led you to choose our company in the first place?
  • What is your opinion of my company and our product/service?
  • How did our company compare to the competition?
  • What was the key deciding factor in your purchasing decision?
  • What issues were you trying to resolve?
  • What collateral and sales tools were involved?
  • What elements were missing during the buying process?
  • Which product features did you like the most? What features were missing?

Win-loss interview guidelines

The following guidelines will help you to conduct successful win-loss interviews.

Do it soon

Interview the prospect within three months of the product evaluation to ensure that that person is still involved in the project and that they remember key information.

Motivate them to help you

Many prospects will agree to speak with you. However, if they seem hesitant to do so, find some way to motivate them (for example, offer to donate to their favourite charity).

Keep it short

Similar to the guidelines for interviewing potential product users, limit your call to 30 minutes so that you do not monopolize the interviewee’s time.

Do not sell

Avoid dealing with any potential objections in an attempt to save the deal. It will put your interviewee in a defensive position, and this may negatively affect your data.

Position it as a learning experience

Your prospect will want to know why you are asking these questions. Explain that your purpose is to learn and improve.

Go off script if necessary

If your interviewee shares something interesting, feel free to go off script. Ask more about the issue, and let them explain their thoughts. There is no right or wrong answer to these questions. Your goal is to learn how they perceived the process and your product. The more you learn, the better.

What to do with results

Share the results of your findings with your team. There are many people in your organization that can benefit from this information. For example, your team can:

  • Identify how your product is positioned
  • Make your marketing message more salient
  • Learn what your prospects like and dislike about your product

A win-loss analysis is a powerful tool for looking back at your performance and learning how to improve.

References

Allison, R. (2010). The Eight Rules of Successful Win/Loss Analysis. Presentation slides. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/seminars/files/presentations/eight-rules-of-sucessful-win-loss/slides/
Duris, S. (2010). Win/Loss Analysis Checklist for Product Managers. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/magazine/2/2/0403sd
On Product Management. (2009). What’s the deal with Win/Loss Analysis? Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://onproductmanagement.net/2009/01/20/what’s-the-deal-with-winloss-analysis/