How NOT to do Win/Loss Analysis part 1: CRM Reporting


When I first meet the product (marketing) managers in a client engagement, they are often confused about why the CEO, VP Sales, or VP Marketing has hired my firm. The PMs present me with their own Win/Loss Analysis report, and wonder what we are planning to do. Fortunately, once we work with the PMs they often become our strongest allies!

It’s a fair question though: if you are really doing Win/Loss Analysis, why hire us?

When we look at the existing Win/Loss reports, we often find:

  • The report is a summary of CRM data with no direct customer interviews or visits.
  • If there are interviews, the interviews are frequently with the sales people! “I spoke to our top 3 sales reps to summarize why we win and why we loose.”

This is where the confusion arises. The PM or PMM feels they have done the Win/Loss Analysis, but senior management is unsatisfied. Why?

Take a step back and think about his from the perspective of your senior executives. Depending on your company, this may include the CEO, General Manager, xVP Marketing, xVP Sales, and commonly the CFO. Somewhere there is a small group of “Deciders”. Think about it from their perspective. Here’s some assistance.

Fundamentally, executives want to make confident decisions. They can pull almost any lever, push nearly any button on the board, but which moves will be effective? Your Decider wants confidence that they are pushing the right buttons. Everyone is offering their own idea of what buttons to push, but each insider has their own agenda, own perspective, frequently limited.

To illustrate the situation, one Decider I know called bluff on the sales team. The team had complained that they were losing because of price. He threw down the gauntlet and offered to cut the price to ZERO in any account where price was the issue.
Guess what? No takers.

drucker-effective-executiveThe point is this: while everyone has their complaints about the products, opinions are cheap. The executive’s job is to make decisions, and your CEO, GM, or other Decider needs to know that they are solving a core problem. They need confidence that any changes, investments, de-investments, any decisions, will have significant results. Peter Drucker has written extensively about the job of an executive to make decisions, perhaps most pointedly in “The Effective Executive”, summarized here1:

Effective executives, finally, make effective decisions. They know that this is, above all, a matter of system – of the right steps in the right sequence. They know that an effective decision is always a judgement based on “dissenting opinions” rather than on “consensus on the facts”. And they know to make many decisions fast means to make the wrong decisions. What is needed are few, but fundamental decisions. What is needed is the right strategy rather than the razzle-dazzle tactics.

With that perspective in mind, let’s go back to your CRM summary or interviews of the top 3 sales people.

Don’t you think the Decider is speaking to the top sales people already? In some form or fashion, the data that you are summarizing is already making its way up to the Decider. Based on that data they have already called a few bluffs or tried to change the situation, with insignificant results.

In this context, you work from home for a day or two, pour through the CRM logs, make a few calls to sales people, and write up a spiffy report.

Bottom line: this doesn’t help. The information is not new, and it doesn’t help your boss, or their boss, or their boss with their core problem: make confident decision that they can change the situation.

And so, dear product manager, you become the summarizer of common wisdom.

I mentioned at the beginning that PMs and PMMs eventually become my allies. Fundamentally this is because I come to empower you with information, and along the way teach you my methods. Most of your bosses will only read the summary information and rarely the detailed background and analysis. In the details we find a treasure trove of information that give you power in the organization. They feed your presentations, white papers, credibility with development, and ultimately more relevance with senior management. Real Win/Loss Analysis takes a lot of time, time you could spend making decisions, kind of like an executive. 🙂

Next up: Sales people don’t know why they win or why they lose.

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7 responses to “How NOT to do Win/Loss Analysis part 1: CRM Reporting

  1. “Real Win/Loss Analysis takes a lot of time, time you could spend making decisions, kind of like an executive.”

    Sort of sounds like a plug for your consulting company. What if I want to do win/loss on my own, but can’t afford to hire someone to do it for me? I’m glad that you’re pointing out what NOT to do in your series of posts on the topic, but it would also be helpful to hear what to do. So far the only bullet point you’ve provided under the “DO” column header is “hire eigenworks since you’ll never have the time to do this crap and because let’s face it, deep down you don’t really want to anyways.”

    • Larry – thanks for reading our blog and for speaking out.

      I am writing a series of articles on Win/Loss analysis, including some detailed advice and techniques on how to perform it. I am personally dismayed at the state of affairs in our profession, however. If you look back at my previous article (here), the Pragmatic Marketing survey of 1100 PMs and PMMs reported that only 20% actually perform Win/Loss themselves. Thinking a little further, I think the number is even lower. To really “do” win/loss analysis, I think you need a body of interviews and account write-ups so that you have confidence in the significance of the data. If we further asked the 20% how many write-ups they’ve done, my suspicion is that they have done very few. And of those who DO it, frequently they mean that they summarize the CRM logs or interview sales people rather than interviewing prospects and customers directly.

      It’s important, I think, to talk about both sides, i.e., what Win/Loss is, and what it is not. I’m starting with articles about the bad practices I see out there because I think we first have to admit the problem. (Step 1 of any 12 step recovery program is to admit the problem. I take that further and say it’s important to truly understand the problem.) The examples I give are from real life. Naturally I can’t reveal specific client information, but the stories are real.

      Certainly, a great product manager ensures that they can access good Win/Loss Analysis data. I have always done my own. But there are reasons why some will choose to outsource it. Our straw poll suggests that most PMMs and PMs are simply too busy, or think they are too busy, to do it themselves. And yes, my firm can help. But I hope that the main message comes across loud and clear: you need this data, not just CRM summaries, and I will be providing a structured approach for how to do it yourself.

      I have spoken on this topic several times. If you want to hear the best practices I recommend, you can check out an older webinar here: http://www.featureplan.com/ryma/press-releases/pr28.htm

      Since that webinar I have updated my approach, but most of the basics are, of course, the same.

      Stay tuned!

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  4. if you are a CEO of a company with qualified staff ,computer programmes and cash for good decision making,can you think of time when you will not want to do a full analysis and make a good decision?

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