The art of sales can be tricky. It’s rewarding when that massive deal finally comes through, and sorely disappointing when it doesn’t. You have to have a thick skin, a good attitude, and, most importantly, the ability to really hear your prospect. And by “hear,” I don’t mean just “listen”—we’re talking about two very different things.
Sometimes as salespeople (or, let’s face it, humans in general), we think we’re doing a great job of listening, but when something doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would (like when we lose a deal we were sure was coming in), we may find ourselves asking, What did I miss? Maybe I listened, but failed to hear the real problem they were trying to solve. We may go back to the customer and try to find out what happened, but sometimes too much water has passed under the bridge, and well…they just don’t feel like telling us.
A salesperson is often not in an objective position to obtain feedback, but the rub is that you still want to know! And if you don’t, you really should because there is no such thing as bad feedback. This is how we learn. To quote Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking that makes it so.” There is a wealth of value in understanding why customers buy and why they don’t. Great salespeople and executives want to know the difference.
Real feedback from your customers is gold whether it’s positive or negative so obtaining it is a must do for every salesperson. I have spent a career in the tech industry helping all sizes of companies market and sell their products and have found that an effective win loss analysis program can truly move the needle forward, not only for an individual salesperson but for the business overall. Having a third party conduct post sale research to provide insight and understanding into why business was lost or won is truly critical to how you build, market and sell products and services and stay relevant against the competition.
Most recently, I was running sales enablement for Acquia, an exciting, Boston-based tech company, and worked closely with our executive and sales leadership teams to develop a win-loss program in an effort to understand where we were winning, where we were losing, and why. Whether the focus was on understanding product strengths and weaknesses, competitive positioning, sales execution, or marketing effectiveness, we were able to work with DoubleCheck Research (our independent, buyer-insight, research firm) to design a highly customized and focused program to help identify trends and gain valuable insights to take action where needed.
From a field productivity perspective, we were able to leverage the data and incorporate key lessons learned into our overall enablement strategy, including content for weekly targeted sales trainings and podcasts, and individualized coaching sessions. This provided our field teams with first-hand exposure to authentic feedback directly from the customer in a constructive and collaborative learning environment. It also provided managers with valuable insight into their team’s performance. Our efforts also gave us an understanding into our sales process and where we might be skipping stages or steps, resulting in a win or a loss. This allowed us better visibility into individual rep capability and comprehension around our customized selling process.
Originally situated within the product marketing organization, we decided to move win-loss under sales to extend our learning beyond product. However, regardless of where it lives in an organization, a well-developed, comprehensive, and thoughtful plan for understanding your customers’ buying preferences is absolutely essential to driving continued revenue and growth for any business. Understanding the real reasons behind purchasing decisions will arm not only your field teams, but your engineers, product managers, marketers, and tech leads with the knowledge and information to drive actionable change, which will lead to improved sales effectiveness, better products, and, ultimately, robust growth.