How to Conduct Win/Loss Analysis to Drive Strategic Growth

July 8, 2014

Conducting win/loss analysis is one of the most cost-effective ways of generating the insights you need to increase revenue and grow your business. So why aren’t you doing it? Marketing strategist Sue Duris walks you through the process.

I have been involved with win/loss Analysis from the product and sales sides since the mid–1990’s and have written about the subject since 2009. To this day, I do not understand why more companies aren’t conducting win/loss interviews, analyzing results and implementing lessons learned.
When I speak with companies, many think they know the answers to the following questions:

  • Why did we win/lose this business opportunity?
  • Why were we selected over our competition or vice versa?
  • How are we perceived in the marketplace?
  • How does our value proposition align with our prospects and customers’ needs?
  • How do we differentiate ourselves from the competition?

These answers may come from market research, speaking with customers, competitive intelligence, and online surveys. The trouble with these methods is that they are subjective – we can manipulate data to get the results we want.
What these companies fail to consider is that win/loss analysis provides deeper and more accurate insights than the above methods provide, and frankly, it is more cost-effective.
Of course, end-to-end win/loss activities must be done accurately. For win/loss analysis to work, organization personnel must be open-minded to the entire process and win/loss analysis must be done in a timely and objective manner. When it is done properly, companies will gain valuable insights and be able to implement initiatives that will help them increase revenue and grow their business. It’s a win-win all around.
There are three parts to win/loss analysis:

  1. Pre-Interview
  2. Interview
  3. Post-Interview

In this post, I’ll be tackling the pre-interview and interview phases. In my next post, I’ll dive into the post-interview phase.

An Introduction to Win/Loss Analysis

What is it?

A process of understanding why one sales opportunity was won and another one was lost.

Why is win/loss analysis important?

It provides insights on:

  • How sales and marketing can better align
  • How to fine-tune your SWOT analysis
  • Whether your messaging is on track
  • How you are perceived in the marketplace
  • How your competition is perceived in the marketplace
  • How your value proposition is meeting the needs of prospects and customers
  • How well you are differentiating yourself and your products from the competition
  • How your competition are differentiating themselves from you
  • What criteria prospects and customers are really interested in when selecting your or similar products and services
  • How well your end-to-end sales processes are working

How do I get my sales team on-board?

It’s best if a member of the C-Suite is championing this effort and your Chief Sales Officer is on board. However, you may have to prove its worth first by showing examples of companies who implemented a win/loss analysis plan and how it helped them increase revenues. In order for your organization to grow effectively, you need to obtain accurate insights about your business, and win/loss analysis is an effective tool to accomplish that goal.

Setting up a strategy

You will want to create a win/loss analysis strategy to determine such things as criteria used to select those customers/prospects to be interviewed, as well as the overall framework of the process.

The Pre-Interview

What occurs during the pre-interview?

After the sales opportunity has been clearly won or lost, a pre-interview strategy session should occur with sales, marketing, product, customer service, and any other key stakeholders. Be sure to include the highest-ranking salesperson in the discussion. If you will use a third-party to conduct the interview, include them in the strategy session as they can help frame the entire win/loss analysis process and provide insights on questions that should be asked and discuss the appropriate interview format (later on they can also help you analyze results and put an implementation plan together). This should be a collaborative process with all stakeholders contributing in the session.

Key decisions to make

  1. Decide who will conduct the interview: While third-party interviews will typically provide the most unbiased, in-depth information since prospects and customers are more comfortable in sharing information with third-party sources, your company can conduct the interview. If you choose to go that route, ensure that the individual(s) conducting the interview are personnel independent of those who were involved in the sales opportunity in question.
  2. Determine questions to be asked: Questions should cover every aspect and touch every point of the sales opportunity. Get the sales team’s input as to the background, including how the company got involved in the proposal, the type of relationship they had/have with the customer/prospect, sales processes involved, the problem that was trying to be solved, products or solutions used to close the sale, how they felt the prospect/customer reacted to each phase of the sales cycle, the result, and whether they anticipated this result. Sales can also provide information as to appropriate customer/prospect personnel to be interviewed.
  3. Determine the logistics of the interview: Interviews typically run approximately 30 minutes and occur over the phone.
  4. Schedule the interview with the customer/prospect: Interviews should be scheduled immediately after the sale has closed (no longer than four weeks). Let them know in advance the topics you plan to discuss.

The Interview

If you are using a third-party, they will conduct the interview. If you are conducting the interview, make sure you have a script of everything you plan to say/ask in the interview (which you should create prior to the interview). This will enable you to spend more time taking notes.
For starters, introduce yourself and thank the prospect/customer for their time. Explain that the purpose of the interview is to learn as much as possible about their perceptions and experience during the recent sales process so your organization can continue to improve.
Discuss confidentiality with the prospect/customer, stating that while you want to communicate feedback throughout your organization, the prospect/customer should identify any sensitive aspects during the course of the conversation.

15 Questions to Consider

  1. Confirm the opportunity and products/solutions discussed. Was it a fit from the beginning? Why/Why not? What pain was customer/prospect trying to solve? What are the customer/prospect’s perceptions in your ability to solve that pain?
  2. Which other firms were in the competitive mix? Why were you included in the mix? How and why did the customer/prospect make it a competitive process?
  3. Why did/didn’t you win the business?
  4. Ask about the decision-making process. Who was involved in the decision? What was the key selection criteria used?
  5. What was the customer/prospect’s perception of the quality of the Sales team? Were they knowledgeable? How did they feel the Sales team managed the relationship? Who did the customer/prospect meet from the Sales team and what were their perceptions of them?
  6. What was the customer/prospect’s perception of the sales presentation and messaging used?
  7. Was the customer/prospect comfortable with your capabilities? Which capabilities were most/least important?
  8. What were the customer/prospect’s thoughts about your pricing? Was the customer/prospect able to determine true value from your pricing?
  9. How did you compare with the competition? What did the customer/prospect view as your strengths and weaknesses? What did the customer/prospect view as your competition’s strengths and weaknesses?
  10. Did the customer/prospect call your references? If so, were they helpful? Why/Why not?
  11. What was the customer/prospect’s perception of you prior to entering the buying cycle? How did their perception change? What were their perceptions of the overall experience?
  12. What advice would the customer/prospect give you for working with them in the future?
  13. Would the customer/prospect feel comfortable in recommending your solutions to others?
  14. If a win, would the customer feel comfortable in participating in a case study, testimonial, joint press release or beta program (for a future solution)?
  15. Does customer/prospect have any additional comments or suggestions?

Wrapping Up the Interview

Thank the customer/prospect and provide them with your contact information should they want to add anything at a later date.

Do you have any questions about the pre-interview or interview phases? Ask me in the comments, and stay tuned for my next post on the post-interview phase.

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Photo by Víctor Nuño

Director of Marketing and Customer Experience

<strong>Sue Duris</strong> is the Director of Marketing and Customer Experience of <a href="">M4 Communications</a> a Palo Alto, CA-based marketing strategy and communications firm that helps technology, entertainment and nonprofit organizations build and extend their brands.