Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Win/Loss Analysis

Whenever we look at product strategy it's extremely important to separate opinions from facts. Everyone will have an opinion, often held quite firmly and passionately.  Our job is to discriminate between opinions and what's really happening out there in the market.

The first place to turn is the financial system.  Ask for a dump of all transactions, with as many fields as possible.  Don't worry about sorting - import the file into Excel and use pivot charts and tables to create an effective analysis.  I won't go into all the possible ways to slice and dice data, but try to create the sheet so it can be easily reused and extended. 

Note that the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is never as accurate as the finance system (which must be audited). The CRM system may have some useful information, and can be used to find lost and won accounts, but salespeople are very busy, and they often don't have time to complete all the data for a customer record (and some companies ask too much)  Don't rely on CRM data - use the finance system as a baseline and get out and talk to customers.

The next data source is win/loss analysis. There is always no shortage of sales people and SEs who can tell you when deals are won and lost, but the data often paints a different picture.  Pick 5-10 customer wins and losses, and interview them with the same script.  Make it clear to the customer that you are not a salesperson, and offer a small incentive, such as an Amazon gift card, for their time.

Firstly, make sure you capture all the customer details:
  • Customer Name
  • Contact Name & follow up details
  • Industry
  • Size
  • (any other segmentation that makes sense)
  • Project name
Next, move into the win/loss questions.  Make this as brief as possible and don't waste the customer's time (no more than 10 questions)  Here's an example of a script:

  1. What problem/pain points you were trying to solve with this project?
  2. How did you find our company?
  3. What were the reasons you selected/rejected our product?
  4. Did you evaluate more vendors? Which one(s). What criteria did you apply in short listing vendors for comparison?
  5. Any comments on why you did/didn’t offer us opportunity to work with you? What are three things that would have helped us win your business?
  6. How did you find our products compared with other vendors you evaluated? (internal note – find strengths and weaknesses)
  7. Any different pricing model you would like to see for your next purchase?
  8. Did we live to your expectations after you finalized purchase of our product?
  9. Have you integrated our product? Any more suggestions on our products, sales and support process?
  10. Would you recommend our products to others?
As you work with the customers ensure that sales is advised, but don't let them try to "recover" lost accounts during the call.  If sales wants to be involved then allow them to be a silent listener.

After each call input the results into an Excel worksheet, and create charts to look for trends. After doing this a few times I have seen gasps around the organization as we demolish generally held beliefs, and really demonstrate why customers buy, and why we lose.

Of course the next step is the action plan...

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