While critical for the growth of any business, winning new clients is more than an exercise in closing the deal. It is also about understanding why the deal was closed and identifying productive tactics and strategies which may be replicable on future similar competitive business interactions. As well, losing potential clients is an interaction that is packed with learnings to aid in reducing future losses while increasing win rates on future deals.
First, when assessing, through research, what drove a firm to select or not select your products and services, it is critical to make sure that you are getting a representative sample of firms from which you can do your research. This is best achieved through partnering with your sales team to forward all win / loss decisions to your research team for potential surveying. This should be your first goal. This means that there can be no selective “cherry picking” of win and loss transcripts. Cherry picking will absolutely reduce research efforts to a waste of time with biased results, at best. Transcripts of deals from the sales team should include:
These elements will afford the opportunity to understand how your firm performs under various conditions and identify whether there are strengths and or weaknesses in geographical areas, within product categories, or deal sizes.
The knowledge gained from research will help to assess how best to prepare for similar future deals and may lead to decisions to not bid on business where you may know your chance at winning the business is highly limited due to elements about your firm that cannot be changed.
Secondly, functional business teams should be committed to listening to research findings without the fear from senior leadership that admitting that they have “actually learned from the research” would send a signal that they were blind to elements associated with a loss. Far too often, Sales, Marketing, and Product teams will claim that they learned nothing new from win / loss research when that is simply not the case. The fear is often that acknowledgement of learning is a sign to senior leadership of a process or knowledge weakness that could result in punishment. All functional internal clients must be open to learnings and recognize that through accepting research findings, they can gain more in rectifying weaknesses than in repeating the same behaviors that may have led to a prospect loss.
Thirdly, optimal win / loss research should be designed to achieve the most actionable information both for the short- and long-term. Win / loss, rather than a point-in-time exercise, should be an ongoing program. This design allows for trending decisions over time, the identification of deep learnings that can feed strategic decision-making relative to products and services, marketing materials, geographical sales team coverage, pricing, and final presentations, while also staying current with competitive activities.
The best win / loss research programs should be structured to link to existing client satisfaction programs and lost-client research. In such situations, a firm can track how satisfied a new client is from the end of year one. A year one assessment will provide details on whether the client believes that what they were sold is what they received. Over time, firms can understand what type of clients (industry, size, product needs, etc.) are their best clients in terms of loyalty, satisfaction, profitability, and more. This coupling of win / loss with a client satisfaction program can enhance prospect bidding by understanding who your best prospects are before spending time on a prospect type that may be shown to be highly disloyal and unprofitable. In this respect, win / loss research can not only dovetail in with client satisfaction research but can also provide insight into development of a lost-client research program.
Ultimately, win / loss research is more than a project; however, when optimally designed, can elevate your firm to greater bid tactics and strategies, while also reinforcing other critical research programs. Win / loss research is both an art and a science of deep importance to your firm’s success.
At Greenwald & Associates, we would love to assist you in thinking through your win / loss research goals. We are always ready to partner with you on win / loss research design. Please contact Jim Di Corpo at 202-686-0300 x-139 for more information on arranging an initial discussion.