article | June 20, 2015
What to Do When Sales are Slipping and Your Product Is The Cause
Diagnosing reasons for falling sales is essential, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
In fact, you can and should incorporate it in regular business operations.
The best choice is the Win-Loss-No Decision Review. It’s a no-nonsense way to root out and remedy product problems. In this post, we’ll guide you through the process. Conduct a Win/Loss Review to pinpoint where your product falls short.
How to Conduct a Simple and Effective Win/Loss/No Decision Review:
This review is not complicated. A win is a sale that closed. A loss is a deal that fell apart. And a no decision is one where things just faded away or got postponed. No decision happens about 50 percent of the time.
We suggest using our Win/Loss Interview Guide to conduct your next review. The Guide includes which questions to ask to get quality feedback from customers and prospects. Download the guide here.
In conducting your review, your company is asking customers about their experiences. Assign this role to someone who wasn’t involved in the transaction.
Why? To avoid biases. Those on the product side go in thinking the product is great. Those on the sales side won’t think missing the sale was their fault. To them, the product stank. We recommend the marketing team for this task. These people are independent and just want the facts.
Also, this is not something to be done by email. Pick up the phone.
A Structured Approach:
The interview with the customer should be brief – 15 to 30 minutes. That respects their time and doesn’t tie up yours.
Ask the same set of questions in every call, so your comparisons are apples-to-apples. That way, you start building a trendline.
There are only three topic areas: product, price and experience.
What Was Good? What Wasn’t?
Ask the customer about the product. Compared to competitors’ offerings, is yours superior, the same or deficient? Whatever the answer, follow up: In what way? This usually is a conversation about features.
Talk money. If your product is better, was there a premium to pay for that? How much, by percentage? Or if the price was the same, was product superiority the driver? If it wasn’t better, was it inexpensive? Was price the primary concern?
How was your experience with marketing and sales? What expectations did it set up for post-sale support?
Repeat Quarterly and Stay Systematic:
Build the Win-Loss-No Decision Review into your operating procedures. This takes discipline in the organization.
Conduct the interviews throughout the quarter, soon after the interaction. Don’t bunch them at the end. Catch your customers while the experience is fresh. Discuss the results at the Quarterly Business Review.
Your sample size should be large enough to be relevant. Ideally, you should have 30 respondents in each category – wins, losses and no decisions.
But even if you have a smaller sample size, do the review anyway. It might give you more variability in the data. But only the customer can tell you whether the product is a problem.
Produce the final report at the end of the quarter. For more on solid KPI reporting, read this case study.
Let’s say your review has revealed the product really is the problem. Now you need to understand it. What, exactly, does the customer think is wrong with the product?
Where do you go from here?
You go first to the product management team. Present the results from the review: “This is what the marketplace is telling us.”
With this information, there are three ways forward. The first is the most reactionary. It’s a directive to close the gaps. Until that happens, sales can’t close any deals.
Prevent Future Problems:
The second is an examination of the product management process. Requirements were certainly in place for development, but something was missed along the way. Production made a product no one wanted to buy.
Prevent that going forward:
Third, on the tactical side, change the product’s positioning based on its value proposition. These are marketing and sales areas.
The value proposition identifies the customer’s problem and the product’s ability to solve it. The cost-benefit: The customer’s problem is worth solving, and the investment is worth making. The positioning statement highlights why your product is better than the competitor’s.
Product Problems Have Solutions:
If sales start to slip, learn what’s wrong and take steps to correct it. The Win-Loss-No Decision Review is a direct pipeline to answers. You’ll be consulting the real product experts. Your customers.