Why you don't let sales do Win/Loss analysis

The Dude has been around awhile, and in his long time on this planet, he has learned a few things that are hard core truths. Don’t bet against Apple (since the second coming of Jobs), don’t give in to Engineering on what the customer truly wants, and never EVER let Sales do Win Loss analyses.

While I am sipping a fine Caucasian this Wednesday morning, sitting on the couch wearing my ratty old, yet comfortable dressing robe, I am reminiscing about a few times where in the past, I was not allowed to conduct the Win/Loss analysis. There are tons of great resources to help you do effective analyses, and I know some third party groups that will get fantastic results, that only come from working with an outside, disinterested party. No, this is the pitfalls of letting Sales run wild with it.

First, win/loss analyses are great ways to objectively understand what the dynamics were during the development of a lead, through the ultimate decision to buy or not, and from who. Unbeknownst to the garden variety sales person, customers are usually quite loquatious when asked, even if it is from someone working at one of the party companies.

In an organization, if an internal resource is to be used to handle the Win/Loss analysis, the best team member is the one who is most closely associated with a Product Marketing role. They usually have the communications skills (the how to ask penetrating, yet not off-putting) and experience in working with customers from their Voice of the Customer work. The worst team to tackle it is Sales.

Yet, Sales is often the team that grabs the reins and tries to own it. This is like putting the fox in charge of the hen-house. Sales is uniquely unqualified to handle the process:

First they have a long and intimate relationship with the customer. This makes it impossible for them to be unbiased and impartial. They literally discount bad news even when told to them directly.

Second, they have a vested interest in the outcome. They want to look good, so you will see that wins are often distilled to superior sales skills, or how awesome their efforts were. Losses are always due to factors outside their control, like “Product didn’t meet needs”, or “Product missing feature X that Competition had” (note, they never dig in to see if that feature was important to the customer), or the number one item “Price” – often with no other information around it.

When you get into a more formal process however, the truth comes out. My company recently hired a third party firm to do a report on a major loss (a multi million dollar deal with a very large financial institution), and the findings were revealing. On technology we were ahead of the competitors, and more importantly, we were better aligned with their needs and requirements. Our pricing was middle of the pack, and most importantly, the customer thought that our technology offerings, and our commitment to the product and market made our value very high against the competitors. But they chose the competitor anyway, because the sales person for our company was arrogant, unresponsive, and perceived as being deceitful.

Granted, this is a single case, but it is hardly unique. It also highlights the value of doing a structured win loss analysis, and going that extra step to understand the market dynamic. Customers are amazing people, they will tell you some amazing things, as anyone who has done a formal VoC exercise will attest to. Don’t let your biases and jealousies interfere with getting at the truth.

Time to grab another cup o’ Jo, and continue my morning slacking. League games tonight, need to mentally prepare to roll.

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