Competitive Intelligence

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There are so many reasons to conduct win loss analysis, yet most companies don't do it. And the minority that do it, don't take action based on their customer's input. What has been your experience with this tactical form of CI analysis?


At this year's SLA, the Ask the Expert Panel, identified three types of win loss processes:


1. Develop your win loss in-house and have your marketing people conduct and analyze the results

2. Develop your win loss with outside help, and conduct your own win/loss interviews and analysis

3. Develop your win loss with outside help, and have a neutral party conduct the interviews and do the analysis or split it up among yourselves. One suggestion: conduct your win interviews and have an outsider conduct the loss interviews.


What methodology do you prefer? Why?


Lastly do you prefer to share your company's name when conducting win/loss interviews or do you prefer to keep it a secret? What do you see and the plusses and minuses of each method?

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Replies to This Discussion


In my company at present we are in the process of selecting and putting in place a method to do win-loss analysis. On personal front, i believe, the 2 method - develop with outside help & conduct your own self - seems to be the preferred choice. This method, gives the advantage of preparing for the analysis using professional & best practices help and on the other hand enables the within company team to reflect the results along with the naunces of the company real time. The analysis can conferred with relevance to internal and external situations of the company and resultant action plan for improvement can be better prepared.

Prakash Dogra
Hi Ellen & Prakash,

I'd have to say based on experience that a version of 3 is the best option. Develop the process either with or without outside help (depending on whether you have savvy CI folks in house in the first place I suppose who know the ins and outs), have a independent third party do the interviews, but have the final analysis done by internal personnel that aren't tied to CPM or sales support. (ie have upchain SCI or TCI do the analysis)

The issues with the other options tend to be the following:

Option 1/2) Having internal Current PM and Sales support folks conduct the interviews and analyze the results methods-

i) First, given they tend to start with an inherent predisposition to validate their own extant assumptions or generally maintain what they want management to believe (ie we lost because of price, we won because we are the best sales folks on the planet) they end up contorting the data to support foregone conclusions.

ii) These folks haven't really been taught the art of probing, and they aren't going to"probe" because of (i).

iii) By virtue of the fact the people calling are representatives of the company, this often puts the client on the defensive, particularly in instances where the company was not awarded the business; hence they balk. Better to use a third party who doesn't have skin in the game to conduct the interviews.

I have to agree with Monica. If the company itself conducts the interview, they will tend to validate their own blindspots/assumptions and clients at the other end may feel uncomfortable in telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Political imperatives will often shape the outcome of a win/loss before it is carried out.

We did a win/loss for a major corporation a number of years ago and our results were very different to the one they had run internally just a few months previously. The CI and Marketing Managers felt they were not getting everything. Their guts were telling them something was not right. They called us in and we ran the interviews across the same group of customers (although we had a wider group), asking the same questions.

In this instance, sales had neutralised any negative responses for a variety of reasons.

Now, I know that may not always be the case but we need to be cognizant of not only blindspots and assumptions but that political imperatives in an organisation will impact win/loss analysis.
I've seen varieties/hybrids of all three. I would have concerns about using a different method for wins/losses. To some extent because, even with all other things being even -- variance would make the comparison a little less comparable. Not sure how to put it precisely.

Internal personnel -- even if they are from non-sales departments -- can still face challenges when positioning themselves as "independent." We ran into concerns around confidentiality of their comments. Even on wins -- particularly when the sales team had relationships with the interview targets. The best results came when the targets felt secure in sharing when confident that what went to sales was sufficiently aggregated to blind individual responses.

Realistically speaking though -- that typically wasn't how things shook out, and I personally wouldn't feel confident guaranteeing that most of the rime. Of course, these were service settings where the offerings really weren't apples to apples, and we pitched more large contracts. I have to imagine that would be more feasible in a higher volume setting.

Bottom line, I would recommend an internal-external partnering for program development, and external execution.Making sure that the methodology isn't skewed to yield specific results, of course. The key skills with the contractor including elicitation skills, a certain degree on industry/product knowledge, and the ability to both stay on point while mining feedback coming out of more open-ended queries.

The other issue I would raise is that is too often we aren't really interviewing someone who is the real decision maker -- just sales' point of contact. As someone who has been on the other side of the table -- particularly when a committee is involved -- and/or sales flow through procurement or a functional dept like IT -- we didn't go into detail with them about our decision matrix. Sometimes for confidentiality reasons, but as often as not because we were all busy. So any kind of feedback vendors got could be [unintentionally] misleading.
I have seen varieties of all 3 work, and can appreciate that an outsider prevents blind spots, Babette. However, the insider knows the product line and the company's culture better than an outsider, so can dig deeper into responses from customers/prospects based on that knowledge.

When I was at Bell Atlantic, now Verizon, we used both company market research professionals, who were one step away from Sales, and really knew our product line...and also took no nonsense...and consultants. It was a great combination, but it's not for everyone.

It's most important to know what your objective is in conducting win/loss, and then I think the approach you use will fall out nicely. For example, if you're losing Sales unexpectedly, and want to get to the bottom of it, I would hire someone outside. If you're looking to more deeply get to product development, I would be more apt to use company sources, perhaps with an outside source, but not necessarily.
BTW no one has commented on the plusses and minuses of letting clients or prospects know the identity of the company versus keeping the company's identity secret. As a panelist at SLA's "Ask the Expert" Claudia Clayton mentioned she prefers the result of interviews when keeping the company's identity secret.

Jan Herring claims a best practice for win loss is to have the company conduct its own win interviews/analysis, but have the loss interviews conducted by an outside firm since it's most often that the company has blind spots around its losses and prospects are more comfortable sharing with an outside firm.

What has been your experience with these issues?


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