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Win Loss Best Practices: Competitive Intelligence Leads to Strategic Decisions

Guest post by Primary Intelligence, CustomerCentric Selling® Partner

Any electrical socket around you provides a tap to a near endless supply of energy. Inside the wires, there is enough power to run a houseful of gadgets, recharge your electric car or deliver an awful shock (don’t try that at home).

But, until you use the power to do something (turn on the lights, recharge your phone, etc.), it really doesn’t offer much value. For the electricity to be effective, it must power something that is important to you. Otherwise, it is just a bunch of electrons with potential energy sitting in copper wiring.

Your competitive intelligence is very similar to the electricity in your wires. You can collect as much competitive intelligence as you like, but until someone uses it to power change in your company, it really isn’t effective at all.

competitionCompetitive Intelligence for Strategy

Your competitive intelligence is most effective if it:

  1. Strengthens your company’s position when you compete
  2. Enhances your offerings to create desirable solutions that customers will buy

Answer These Competitive Analysis Questions

To maximize effectiveness, we recommend answering these questions:

1. Top-line Revenue

  • Does this intelligence create new revenue opportunities?
  • Can we take away sales from the competition?
  • Will our existing accounts stay longer and be more profitable?

2. Bottom-line

  • Can we be more efficient or learn best practices?
  • Are there better ways to manage our processes?

3. Application

  • How easily will we be able to act on this data?

What’s Your Best Source for Competitive Intelligence? Your Customers!

How often do you talk to your customers? If you add up the touches made by sales, account management, marketing, and other client-facing services in your company, you might find that each of your customers is talking to you on a regular basis.

You should have a central management group that has established some formal information gathering processes. Very common programs would include Customer Satisfaction, Account Loyalty, Win-back, Win Loss, Client Retention and Defection. Usually, these programs fall under the heading of “Voice of the Customer” (VOC). (Check out our Resources page to learn more about these programs.)

So, you have two types of contact:

  1. Informal, everyday conversations
  2. Formal programs to gather Voice of the Customer data

The fact of the matter is that your customers know nearly as much about the competition as they do about you. They evaluated the competition before selecting you as their vendor. They are regularly courted by the competition and many of your best clients also have purchased from your competitors, either in the past or currently.

Take a minute to see if your win loss program is generating competitive intelligence.

buyer-meeting-customer-experienceIn our experience, most customer satisfaction and loyalty interviews focus on the client’s experience with their present vendor. Go one step further and:

  1. Ask your clients who they perceive as your biggest threats.
  2. Find out what they are hearing about the competitors’ recent initiatives and offers.
  3. Understand how you stack up in various performance areas.

Put the Competitive Intelligence Collected to Work

The competitive information collected from your customers will not only be enlightening but will show your company what is happening in the market place in real time. (For more reading, download 7 Competitive Intelligence Strategies Used by Successful B2B Companies.)

Your company will benefit in the following ways:

  1. Sales will know what is being said about your company by the competitors. They will have more intelligence to sell more effectively and counter negative messages.
  2. Marketing will know what the prospects and clients value in the marketplace and will be able to establish messaging that drive home the most important value propositions.
  3. Product Development will know the advances being made by the competition and will understand how well these innovations may be received by the marketplace.
  4. Executives will have the right competitive intelligence to make strategic decisions.

Last thoughts:

Are you sharing competitive intelligence with the stakeholders in a timely manner to make sure that your company is capitalizing on the market as efficiently as possible?

Collecting data and sharing customer insights are valuable competitive strategies, but competitive intelligence must be converted to actionable decisions if you truly want change.

Sales Tips: 7 Best Practices to Increase Competitive Win Rates

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

No matter which industry you’re in, sales evaluations play a major part in your company’s success. While product features and functionality are usually the most important aspects in an evaluation, buyers still consider company reputation, service and support, and future direction in the final decision.

Here are seven best practices you can apply to increase competitive win rates for your company.

Competitive Wins

Increase Competitive Win Rates

1. Highlight and demonstrate your company’s deep expertise in the customer or prospect’s industry.

Because experience in the client’s industry is critical to buyers from an overall company perspective. Make sure you’re well aligned in the opportunities you’re pursuing in terms of your company’s background and expertise.

2. Vet customer references.

Ensuring that your company has solid customer references will help to assuage any concerns customers may have about your experience in and commitment to their industry. Look for promoters who can help to evangelize your company and the strategic direction in which it’s heading. Case studies, user conferences, co-webinars, and joint customer-vendor presentations at industry events will help to showcase your most successful customer accounts.

3. Share future direction.

It’s important to share product road maps, strategic vision documents, long-term planning, and other evidence of your organization’s future direction with your customers and prospects. Ask recipients to sign non-disclosure agreements if necessary but make sure your customer base is excited about the strategic direction in which you’re headed.

Customer Support and Support

4. Improve service and support.

Understanding what changes need to be made to offer customers outstanding service and support will help make your company stand out in the eyes of your customers. Leading organizations target improvements in customer experience as a competitive differentiator to ensure their customers stay loyal over the long term and don’t defect to competing vendors.

5. Understand ratings for your firm and vertical.

Make sure you understand the ratings for your company specifically, as well as your industry overall. How are buyers judging you in terms of your industry expertise, in terms of your customer references?

Also understand what’s important to buyers in your industry and how your industry is doing overall in terms of company-based attributes.

6. Leverage areas of strength; correct areas of weakness.

Look for areas of strength you can leverage, along with areas of weakness you can correct. If you know you have weak customer references, look for new accounts you can solicit as references. If you know you’ve got a solid reputation or that you consistently deliver what your sales team sold, advertise that as a key selling point.

7. Look for best practices in other industries.

Go beyond your own industry to seek out best practices that you can adopt from a company-attribute standpoint. Unlike the solution capabilities, most company-related attributes are the same, making cross-industry comparisons easy and straightforward.

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Sales Tips: 6 Strategic Best Practices to Apply to Your Win Loss Program

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Win Loss TipsWin loss programs are important at all levels of the organization because they help explain why buyers choose specific solutions and why they do not choose others. Win loss takes us beyond market research and competitive intelligence.

Win loss analysis is more than just gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information about a market. It’s more than just sizing a market and understanding the growth rate, competitors, and buying segments. Win loss research is a sales, product, and marketing enablement tool focused on improving sales, improving the product/service, and improving a company’s market presence as a result of listening to customers.

Here are six strategic recommendations you can apply to your win loss analysis.

Six Win Loss Strategic Recommendations

1. Get Sales and C-level leadership support: Getting Sales buy-in for Win Loss is critical.

C-level support is also important and can make or break your win loss program. Once senior executives see the value of the win loss information the company is getting, however, they are usually quick to provide their full endorsement. We often see C-level executives taking their win loss programs from one company to another, as they learn to rely on win loss findings.

2. View Win Loss as a learning tool.

It’s important to put forth the right message about the win loss program, stressing that win loss feedback will be used as a learning mechanism, helping the entire organization improve. This communication is especially important to ensure sales teams are fully on-board with the program, especially since buyer feedback that is most critical tends to focus on sales behavior.

Goals3. Define program goals.

At the outset of the win loss program, it’s important to ensure there is organizational clarity about the goals for win loss analysis. Is the program in place to improve sales effectiveness? Better understand buyer behavior? Improve product features and functionality? Will the program be used strategically, tactically, or both? Make sure you have clarity on these issues because this will drive the questions you ask and the results you receive. Also make sure you have clarity around processes you’ll put in place, such as how customers will be contacted, how the information will be communicated back to internal constituents, and how deep structural changes will be made within the organization.

4. Share information broadly.

At Primary Intelligence, we feel strongly that wide distribution of win loss information is a best practice. Organizations that share buyer feedback from win loss interviews have better outcomes than those that limit the findings to a small group of executives or managers. Individuals in different parts of the organization can see the impact of their actions—even if they’re not interacting with the customer directly. Linkages can also be made between different geographic regions in terms of market conditions and competitive responses to specific offers or product initiatives. Companies that close off access to win loss information don’t get the benefits of win loss programs that organizations that share information widely experience.

5. Look at individual interviews and deal reports.

It’s important to look at individual interviews or deal reports, as well as program information in aggregate. A lot can be learned from specific buyer feedback reports, while over-arching trends can be seen from consolidated information. It’s important to do both. Now, the types of information you share may be different depending on the person or audience’s needs. For example, you may share individual deal report information with the sales team responsible for specific opportunities or product management, pricing, and support representatives when buyer feedback highlighted issues relevant to their domains. In contrast, executive summaries may be shared with C-level executives.

6. Conduct debrief/discovery sessions.

Debrief and discovery sessions are incredibly helpful to engage in because they allow key players to hear details of won and lost opportunities and strategize on next steps, both internally within their organizations and as they relate to the market, including competitive threats. While individual stakeholders can read reports and digest the information individually, discussing key wins and losses with other company executives helps to promote greater synergy and helps to “connect the dots.” We’ve seen debriefing and discovery sessions work very effectively for our clients.

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