What Can We Learn from the Detritus of a Deal?

By Michael Perla on Dec 29, 2013

2 Minute Estimated Read Time


An IDC survey this year found that only 55% of large B2B organizations have a formal win-loss analysis program in place.

Why should you care?

Sales is a competitive endeavor and a team sport. There is a reason that coaches and players watch game films of their competition before a game, and then watch their performance after a game. It is a best practice in preparing for competition and in learning what you could do differently in the next game.

In a nutshell, win-loss analysis is the richest source of sales intelligence you can gather. If a quarterback or boxer didn’t watch game films or prior matches of their opponent, you’d think they were foolish. Just as some opponents telegraph their punches, certain competitors use stock pitches and spread FUD[1] in predictable ways.

Today, we also know why buyers buy and what can drive sales. It’s not value or relationships, it’s both. No false dichotomy here. In a recent survey by Gartner of 503 organizations, they wrote:

"Personal interactions with providers are still the most influential activity in B2B buying decisions," … However, buyers do not value their interactions with salespeople as much as they did in the past. As a result, sales teams must adjust processes and skills to learn to guide buyers through their purchase cycle."  

Conducting win/loss analyses can help sellers to be more prepared and thoughtful in how they size up a pursuit, and can also arm marketing with the messages and value stories that strongly resonate with buyers. We (Symmetrics Group) have found that buyers still make purchase decisions based on many fundamental qualities of the sales professional and process. For example, some buyers are thinking …

  • Is pricing clear, credible and straightforward?
  • Do sellers get back to me quickly and actually listen to my needs?
  • Do sellers understand where I am in the buying process and align themselves accordingly?
  • Do sellers offer insights that get me to re-think about my situation?
  • Is the seller empowered enough to make ‘game time’ decisions?

In our projects, we have heard all of the above for reasons why sellers have lost a sales opportunity … and all of the questions/statements came from prospects or customers. Many times, it was small things vs. large offering or company differences. Not unlike many games in sports, sales pursuits are often won at the margins.

So if you don’t have a formal win/loss program in place, what should you do?

Similar to exercise, ‘do more than none’. Start with an hour call once a month to talk about the big wins/losses that happened over the prior month. What did the teams learn? There should be some learnings - something they can leverage going forward (worked well) or that they could do differently (didn’t work well) during the next sales pursuit.

Also, try to validate the Inside-Out perspective with some Outside-In feedback by talking to prospects or customers and understanding why they chose one company over another.

In closing, win/loss analysis is not a one-time event. It will not solve “World Hunger” … but it can drive the types of conversations that all sales organization need to have – why are they really winning or losing deals and what specific actions can they take to increase their win ratios.

[1] FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt

Michael Perla

Written by Michael Perla

Michael Perla is a contributing writer to Symmetrics Group's blog and co-author of the book "7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation." Michael specializes in providing actionable insights to marketing and sales organizations to help them increase pipelines, win ratios and productivity. In addition to working as a sales performance consultant, Michael has worked as a sales overlay, head of sales operations, and head of strategic marketing planning. Michael currently serves as a Director of Business Value Services at Salesforce.

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