Imagine that you’ve just learned that a prospect has elected to go with the competitions solution instead of yours. Your sales team did everything they could to understand the prospects needs and build the relationship. Your product managers and marketing executives provided excellent support as well as thorough well-thought out responses to all the prospects product-related questions. The demonstration of your solution went exceptionally well. Management was actively following the opportunity, and everyone thought you were going to win. The deal was an important one because of who the prospect was, or the absolute size of the deal, or the industry the prospect was in, or a combination of these things.
Now everyone wants to know why you lost.
Your prospect just selected the competition, and youve been tasked with calling the decision makers to find out exactly what happened and learn everything you can about why they chose the competition.
You spend the next three weeks leaving messages, but they dont call you back, or you catch them live on the phone, but they don’t have time to answer your questions. Now what?
One of the constant challenges that we face in the execution of win loss analysis is maximizing response rates or participation rates. That challenge is even greater in this type of market research because sample is limited and you only have a finite number of competitive wins and losses you can study. If we aren’t able to get them to participate, it is a missed learning opportunity that we cant necessarily duplicate.
The example above is probably one youre familiar with if you are involved with your companys win loss program. The question becomes, How can we increase our response rates?
At Primary Intelligence, we spend a lot of time and resources addressing this very question. There are quite a few things we do to increase participation rates for our customers, but one of the most important practices we have identified is to create and utilize what we call introduction notes. These are notes that introduce why you want to talk to the decision maker and what you are hoping to accomplish. While the content of this note is very important to improving response rates, who this note ultimately comes from can be even more important than the words you use . There are three potential options when it comes to deciding who the introduction note will come from:
- From a key executive (higher the better, with CEO being best)
- From the sales representative responsible for the deal
- From you
To successfully implement this practice, you will need to choose which of these three options will work best for your situation and then create two introduction note templatesone for your wins and one for your losses. If you analyze your no decision deals, you will want a different introduction note for that as well.
The introduction note really helps remove the surprise attack feeling that decision makers can get when you are cold calling them to do a debrief of their purchase decision. Cold calling a decision maker is a lot like the solicitor that knocks on your dooryou open the door expecting someone you know and instead get a complete stranger that wants to wash your windows or aerate your lawn. Surprising a decision maker is a sure way to kill response rates for your win loss analysis program.
There are five key elements to include in the introduction note that you will send on behalf of an executive, the sales representative, or yourself:
- Introduce the executive, the sales rep or yourself at the beginning of the note
- Introduce the purpose of the e-mailto understand how you can improve
- Ask them to be candid and forthcomingwe learn the most from our mistakes
- Identify the amount of time youll need for the interviewbe specific and honest here
- Let them know when you plan on calling to schedule the interview at their convenience
Even though there are a lot of elements you need to include, it is important that you keep your note brief and to the point. For these notes, straightforward information and a simple request will be your most persuasive argument.
Introduction Note from Key Executive
This is your best option for improving participation rates. You can send the e-mail on behalf of the executive, but you will want the executive to understand what youre doing and have him or her sign off on the processas they could get replies from decision makers and they will need to be in a position to respond to those replies. C-level executive sponsorship will do wonders for increasing response rates, with the CEO being the best possible option.
This approach is easiest if you have a direct executive sponsor. You will be sending the e-mail on behalf of the executive you ultimately get to sponsor your efforts. This way, you have complete control over the process and your efforts wont be held up by the executives busy schedule.
When you have an executive sponsor, you will want to emphasize to respondents that they can reach out to the executive if they have any questions or concerns. Make sure your executive is prepared for this situation, as it can really have a positive impact on decision makers when they see your companys commitment to them and improving your solution to meet their needs.
Introduction Note from Responsible Sales Representative
If you cant get an executive sponsor, the next best solution is to involve sales in the win loss analysis process. An important distinction here is that the sales rep responsible for the deal should not be doing the interview with decision makers. Decision makers will filter out information they perceive to be negative if the sales representative is the one doing the interview with them. See my post on sales-derived versus decision maker-derived win loss analysis for more on this topic.
In order to get sales support, you will likely have to overcome some natural anxiety that the sales representative will have with you contacting the people they were selling to. You will want to reinforce that this process is to identify areas for improvementto help them sell moreand not a witch hunt. Dont be too hard on your sales repsimagine how you would feel if someone said they were going to come in and analyze how you were doing your job. Its natural for them to feel some discomfort, but once they see the results of your efforts and how you intend to leverage those results, this discomfort and anxiety should fade away.
You will want to send the e-mail on behalf of the sales representative so that you can control the process, although we have quite a few customers that have their sales representatives send the introduction notes directly. A sales representative introduction note differs in a few ways from an executive introduction note. You will want to add the following elements to your sales introduction notes:
- Reinforce that you are not trying to re-engage the sales process (applies to losses and no decisions)
- Make the request for a debrief a personal request on behalf of the sales repleverage the relationship the sales person has with them
Introduction Note From You
If you are utilizing this method it means that you werent able to get executive sponsorship or sales support in your efforts to review why you are winning and losing. Dont worry, you can overcome this lack of sponsorship and sales support by pressing forward and gathering actionable data that you can share with both executives and sales. Utilize the data to accomplish your objectives, but dont be selfish with it. Share the data with everyone you think could benefit from it, including the CEO (trust me, these guys are ALWAYS interested in why you are winning and losing), product management, product marketing, sales support, sales management, marketing, and sales representatives. In our experience, it only takes sharing a couple of reviewed opportunities (especially losses) before both executives and sales will recognize the value of the intelligence and get on board with the program. However, this cant happen if you arent sharing the dataIve seen too many cases where this valuable intelligence isnt shared across the organization.
The most important thing to remember about introduction notes that are coming from you is that you are letting the decision maker know why you want to talk to them and removing that surprise element. Practicing this will improve your response rates, but your real goal is to upgrade your program to the executive-level introduction notes or the sales representative introduction notes.
Sample Introduction Note Templates
Over the years, Primary Intelligence has created many of the three types of introduction notes I described above. We have spent a lot of time and effort in creating notes that will elicit the kind of response we need to be successful. If you would like a template for one of these introduction note types, send me an e-mail with the template you are interested in and Ill send you a sample of what were currently using to help move you along with this best practice.
About the Author: Ken Allred, Founder and CEO of Primary Intelligence, is a thought leader in SaaS-based sales intelligence, analytics and sales enablement solutions. He is committed to the optimization of sales, marketing and product management teams through the implementation of advanced Sales 2.0 intelligence solutions.