TALKING SALES 6: "What is Win-Loss Analysis" - Cian McLoughlin

John Smibert

Win - lose No decision

6451ea26116b5457449ebb1f56752c48Sales Win-Loss analysis and its vital importance.

Interview with Cian McLoughlin by John Smibert.

I was particularly interested in Cian's view of the customer's role in a Win-loss review. I was keen to get Cian's advice on how to get the customer's buy in whether we have won or lost the business - His recommendations were insightful. [private]

Cian is a guru in win/loss analysis, he's an author and a speaker and a great advisor to the sales leaders and sales professionals.

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


John: Welcome back! It's my pleasure to introduce you to Cian McLoughlan. Cian's a guru in win/loss analysis, he's an author and a speaker and a great advisor to the sales environment. Welcome, Cian!

Cian: Thanks, John! Nice to be here.

John: Cian, win/loss guru. What does that really mean, and what does win/loss mean to you, and what the value to organisations who use it?

Cian: Sure. I mean, it's nice to be termed a guru, but it really means I think that I spend every day living and breathing the idea of understanding why we win and lose the deals we pitch for. There's so many organisations out there that spend a vast amount of time and effort and resource and people power prosecuting opportunities, bidding for new business, bidding for existing business. But unfortunately what very few of them do is spend any time analysing [01:00] why do they win and lose the deals they pitch for.

John: And that's got to be a must, doesn't it? Because there's so much investment that goes into a sales activity, and then what? We don't learn from it?

Cian: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, if you just think about the potential wastage that occurs where multiple businesses are all pitching for the same piece of business. Hopefully one wins in the end, but the others walk away with nothing. What's really interesting is that if you spend the time to sit down with the customer at the end of the process - win, lose or draw - and really start to mine the sales process: what happened? What did we do well? Where's the room for improvement? Now you get to extract something meaningful, you get to walk away from that sales cycle with something inherently valuable.

John: I think I see the importance of that, but do the customers buy into that?

Cian: They do. What's really interesting, and it was probably a bit of a surprise to me, was just how receptive customers are to sharing that sort of information. You have to create the right environment, so you have to explain to them what you're going to do with the information and what you're not going to do with the information. We're not going to use it to try and get back into the sales cycle by the back door. We're not going to use it to beat up on our salespeople, if they've made a mistake or if they've dropped the ball.

We're going to use it to improve, we're going to use it to refine what we do. Maybe to innovate our product or our service or our pricing model to better service your needs, and hopefully we'll earn the right to come back and win your business again in the future.

John: How often should we do this? Should it became a part of our process?

Cian: I'd love to think that win/loss will become just a standard step in the sales process. We know our discovery, we know our needs analysis, we walk through the sales process, sometimes we do a proof of concept, we negotiate the deal. We really should be trying to understand why we win and lose in virtually every deal we prosecute.

John: And you're saying win as well as lose, so you do an analysis when you win the business.

Cian: Oh, absolutely! And what's really interesting-I get to do this all the time and it's probably the most fascinating part of my day - I'll speak to a customer on behalf of an organisation or on behalf of a vendor, and then I go back and sit down with the sales management team and say "Why do you think you won that deal? Why do you think you lost that deal?" And what's really interesting is how often their view is at odds with the customer's view, and... it's amazing.

John: [laughs] I can understand and I sympathise that. There's been a number of cases where I know I've had a sales team win a deal and they had no idea why.

Cian: Really?

John: Yeah.

Cian: Yeah.

John: So we learn a lot from that.

Cian: We do, we do. And I think also there's another point which is really interesting: customers respond very favourably to an organisation who takes the initiative to say "We want to learn, we want to improve, we want to grow."

John: So the bottom line is: it's really important we do it all the time, and we make sure we're not embarrassed to ask the customer, and the customer will generally say "Yes."

Cian: They will. You get your frank and candid insight, and then you take that back and you actually do something with it in your business.

John: And doing something with it is the important part.

Cian: Critical.

John: Thanks very much Cian, great advice! Look forward to the next chat. Maybe we'll learn more about the value of win/loss the next time we get together.


See the 'TALKING SALES' series here



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