How to Turn Win-Loss Analysis into Buyer Insights

Jim Wilson
Sep 5, 2017 · 3 min read

As early stage companies scale they begin to report on wins and losses, but few companies actually turn this data into valuable buyer insights. Good Win-Loss analysis should answer these fundamental questions:

  • What parts of our pitch are missing the target of our intended buyers?
  • Why are we winning so we can fill product gaps and map better to the buyers needs?
  • What metrics (ROI) and KPIs are buyers using to justify their purchases?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors?

Leverage Multiple Feedback Channels

In order to get the complete customer picture, collect buyer feedback from three different channels:

  1. Self-Reported Win/Loss Reason Codes and Stories: Most companies ask the sales team to report this data in their CRM tool. When setting up the inputs make sure to have clear and concise “reason codes” and make sure to limit the number of codes (5–6 max). It’s also helpful to have an open dialogue box so reps can add comments and context. If it’s a win being reported the story of “why we won” is incredibly valuable to the sales team.

However, be aware this baseline can be misleading for a few reasons:

  • Sales is self-reporting on win/loss reasons so the answers might be skewed.
  • Customers rarely share the real win or loss reason, especially with a vendor.

The information captured is high level and doesn’t include deep insight, but it’s a baseline requirement to show trends and is valuable in a high velocity sales model where a lot of transactions are occurring.

Example of self reported win/loss reason codes

2. Customer Studies and Surveys. Customer studies and surveys can be extremely useful to get deeper insights beyond reason codes because it engages with the actual decision maker. Some of the best practices I’ve seen are:

  • Make the survey anonymous. Give buyers the option to be contacted if they want to discuss more.
  • Don’t confuse a survey with a study. Surveys tell you “what happened,” but a study will tell you “what about” and “what if.” A survey helps validate existing insights but a study will help you gain new insights.
  • Keep it short and simple. Ideally the study or survey is no more than ten questions and takes no more than ten minutes to complete.
  • Mix up quantitative questions like ratings with qualitative requests like comments and feedback. Whenever I review survey results I always read the summary of comments first.

Surveys and studies can be done quarterly and should be conducted by marketing or customer success. These studies can be extremely helpful to get product insight from customers, but are also useful to gather metric data for justification and ROI analysis.

3. Third party customer interviews. Companies should strongly consider hiring independent vendors like Eigenworks to conduct third party interviews. There are some distinct advantages with this feedback approach:

  • Customers will be more transparent with a third party.
  • Real-time interviews allow much more insight to be gathered.
  • A third party eliminates the natural bias that will come from the sales team.

Every time I’ve used a third party I get surprising insights and trends that I would have never captured through self-reporting win/loss codes or surveys and studies. I recommend surveying 20 losses and 20 wins for third party interviews. A good survey company will be able to provide the raw data (interview recording) as well as broad themes, common patterns, and key insights.

All good founders live in their own reality distortion bubble: it’s what makes them have the conviction, enthusiasm and motivation to build the company. Great Win-Loss Analysis, collected from multiple channels, will help balance that enthusiasm with the cold, hard facts and the voice of the customer.

You can view the complete webinar deck on the topic here: Turning Win-Loss Analysis into Buyer Insights.

Jim Wilson

Written by

Operating Partner @CostanoaVC, Former Sales Exec: Sumo Logic, NICE, Merced Systems, Microsoft, Groove Networks, Inktomi, PTC

Costanoa Ventures

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