Win-Loss Analysis: Understanding Customer Needs
by Laura Latshaw
In B2B research, one of the biggest concerns is maintaining and growing business. Companies often rely on their sales team for information on why the company was able to win over a new customer, and also why a customer decided to break off its relationship.While the salesperson is a great source of information about customer relationships, we often find that customers are reluctant to provide honest feedback to the sales team because they feel uncomfortable talking about unpleasant situations with someone they know and like. With prospects, getting that feedback is even more difficult, as they do not have any invested interest in making the effort.
Why Conduct Win-Loss Research
Win-Loss research is an excellent way to learn about how well your company does in developing and winning over new customers as well as assessing why customers choose to make a change and go to one of your competitors. Some of the learnings from Win-Loss research can include the following:
- Determine the factors and themes customers use as decision criteria.
- Identify and verify factors involved in sales success (the wins).
- Determine the causes of failure. Why were sales pitches lost, or when and how did the relationship begin to feel it was on a rocky road?
- Quantify resulting drivers of wins among customers and drivers of losses among prospects.
- Explore other important variables and influences related to overall success or failure.
- Determine strategies to help leverage strengths and address weaknesses.
- Ensure an early-warning system is in place for new issues that might arise in the future.
Prior to launching any program, it is critical to include stakeholders in the process. Your internal stakeholders are the key to making any changes that might be necessary based on the results of the research.
Quantitative or Qualitative Research
Whether you conduct the research quantitatively or qualitatively (or use both) will depend on your company's business goals.
Qualitative research provides a window into the rationale that customers and prospects use when choosing a supplier. During a one-on-one, conversational interview with a respondent, a moderator asks a number of open-ended questions. This enables the moderator to identify any underlying elements that are not straightforward or would not be easily determined in a quantitative survey. This approach is ideal in industries where the number of potential customers and prospects is very small.
If your company has a strong working knowledge of the influences related to winning and losing customers, quantitative research may be a good approach to use. Assuming there are ample customers and prospects, quantitative research provides the ability to gain feedback from a cross-section of customers. The results of the quantitative research should be able to help you answer the following questions:
- Are there any changes needed to the product itself? Is making a change even feasible or reasonable?
- Is there information that the sales team should know about and tell prospects regarding the company and/or products?
- Does the marketing department need to make adjustments to the marketing materials?
- Are changes needed in the pricing structure?
- What changes, if any, could or should be made in the sales process or team? Do customers and prospects feel that your company’s upper management understands their business? If so how well?
- Is there a difference in the results between office locations (or perhaps even states or countries)? Should the differences found in the local Win-Loss analysis impact overall strategy decisions?
Once the information is gathered, the process is not over. The information must be socialized within your company and used to guide changes that are needed within the organization. At times these changes can be painful as they may require adjustments to products and services. Socializing the information must be done in a way that creates a feeling of opportunity for your company and those involved.
Win-Loss research is an ongoing endeavor for companies. Over time, customers’ needs change, technologies change, and the competitive landscape will change. To ensure you are able to keep up with all these factors, it is important to carefully monitor the attitudes of both customers and prospects; win-loss analysis can be an important step in this process.
About the Author
Laura Latshaw (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Vice President, B2B Research, at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 610-356-3033.
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