What are the true reasons why deals are won or lost?

When a Sales team is asked why opportunities are lost, the top reasons include price, product functionality, and the amount of disruption created by switching.  When the same folks are asked why deals are won, the top reasons include “they love me”, our product was better, and the terms of our agreement were better than the competition.  But are those truly the real reasons why deals are won or lost?  How can you know?  And further, what would you do differently if you did know the the real, quantifiable reasons for winning or losing?


Most companies do not take the time to conduct Win/Loss calls.  They are happy to get a win, and disappointed when they lose.  Yet time is of the essence.  There’s no time to wait around to root cause this, or think about that.  Moving on to the next opportunity, the next at-bat, is the best medicine for making the number – or so they think. 


There’s a treasure trove of information just waiting to be uncovered by conducting Win/Loss calls.  Of course, not everyone, even those that buy from you, will be interested in spending time to help educate you.  However, over a decade of evidence proves that most will give you their time if you ask.


Who should own conducting Win/Loss calls is a question that is asking consistently across executive teams.  Some view it as Sales responsibility, after all, they’re the ones on the front lines responsible for a company winning or losing.  Right?  Or what about Product?  They’re the ones who designed and built the product or service, so they are responsible for wining or losing. You can see that this question can go around and around considering all the different vantage points and opinions. 


The right place for Win/Loss to reside is within Marketing. In fact, every Marketing organization should have someone responsible for conducting a certain number of win/loss calls each month.  To focus your efforts, download the Win/Loss Call Template and customize the questions for your unique business and audience.


Here are the top 5 reasons why Marketing is the right place for this critical function to be executed: 


  1. Check and Balance. Most companies performing win/loss calls use their Sales team.  It’s a Sales function and thereby should be a Sales responsibility to understand why they won or lost.  But not so fast.  There are many risks involved with using the Sales team to conduct these calls.  Personal bias, deal attachment, predispositions as to why it was won or lost, are all emotions that come into play.  Marketing is removed from any form of deal attachment and therefore in a better position to be unbiased in gathering customer feedback. The key point here is to gather the buyers genuine feedback. Our research shows that buyers are more willing to be open about their buying experience with a 3rd party than seller, or even that persons manager.  The buyer is more willing to be open and candid with their feelings relative to their interaction with your company. 


  2. Brand Promise Alignment. Win/loss calls, if conducted properly, gather key insights into what motivates your buyer.  You will be able to determine what’s truly important to your buyer, and further, prioritize these criteria in terms of importance.  If your brand promise is everyday low prices, yet your buyer’s number one reason for choosing another brand is variety of choices, or speed to implementation, you’ve identified a disconnect between your brand promise and what the buyer wants.  Use the feedback from these calls to ensure you are continually monitoring, or adjusting your brand promise if necessary.  Likewise, if there is a disconnect between what you’re promising and what your buyers value, you need to revisit your targeting strategy. Are you focusing on the wrong prospects?  Have you accurately identified your true Sales Addressable Market? Positioning your message and promise to the right target audience will improve the probability of making your number.


  3. Sales Coverage Models. This can be a highly charged area if the CMO and CSO are not aligned.  Said more directly, if there is a lack of trust between these two roles, this specific benefit may be seen as a point of contention.  Regardless, win/loss calls can identify how a buyer wants to engage with your company.  Feedback that indicates “I would have preferred to buy online”, or “I wanted to see someone in person”, are evidence points that help determine which type of coverage model best resonates in the market.  This does not consider, or assume, that your company can actually make that model work, but you should at the very least be aware of the buyer’s preference.  It’s also an important point to note that global companies must conduct Win/Loss calls locally as buyer preferences are not universal.  Buying behaviors and patterns change from geography to geography. A recent study of U.S. small business owners were asked what their preferred method of communication was when conducting business.  The response showed 77% preferred texting as their primary method of communication, over email, paper mail, phone calls, or other instant messaging applications.  However, in the Philippines, 90% of business owners prefer a face-to-face encounter with a sales person as they move through their buying journey.  By Marketing gathering this insight it is best suited to create the right communication for the appropriate channels to meet the buyer where they are in the marketplace.  


  4. Input to the Product Roadmap. There is a natural tension between Sales and Product organizations. Sales has a reputation for always blaming product for not delivering and Product has a reputation for not listening, or giving Sales what it needs to sell.  Of course, we all know these are extremes and the truth lie somewhere in between. That said, Marketing serves as the unbiased partner in this mix.  It’s the Function that can bridge the gap and validate the buyer and customer needs in order to improve their experience and result in capturing a greater share of wallet for a longer period of time.  Marketing can work with Product to share the output of win/loss calls to prioritize features or functionality that if present would result in more revenue.  Additionally, Marketing, working with Sales, can provide clarity on what the buyer really wants, and the value that would compel them to buy.  By creating a buyer’s value chain, Marketing can help enable the Sales team to focus and prioritize on the most relevant needs of the buyer.


  5. Contribution to the Corporate Strategy. CEO’s are increasingly looking to the CMO when developing the company strategy.  World class CMOs have a deep understanding of the buyer and his/her pain points.  They understand what other options are available along with the pros and cons of each of those options.  They have a pulse on where the market is going, trends developing, and competitor insights.  CMOs can effectively add significant value to casting a corporate strategy that clearly defines which markets they compete best in, how to create new markets via new products, attract new customers to an existing product, or convince customers to buy more of an existing product. An emerging best practice observed in the top 20% of growth companies involves Business Analytics, or big data, reporting into the Marketing organization. Senior marketing professionals are becoming more sophisticated given the availability of data.  As more data becomes available, Marketing’s ability to infuse science with art to create growth strategies continues to rise. Leveraging this data requires Marketing to have strong analytical competencies to analyze, interpret, and ultimately create the strategies required to achieve the corporate objectives.


Regularly conducted Win/Loss calls not only provide the benefits above, but can also improve cross-organizational alignment.  Having access to the variety of reasons why buyers chose for, or against, your product can help create a winning attitude as it becomes a strong rallying point for all functions of a business.


To get started, download the Win/Loss Call Template and customize the questions for your unique business and audience.  Implementing Win/Loss calls early in 2018 will help you reach the right buyers, with the right message, at the right time.