Explaining the Unexplainable

Stu Perlmeter

Weaving a story that makes sense following a major sales loss

Making sense of the seemingly random things that happen in business and in life is just part of human nature. It’s how we’re wired. When a significant sales opportunity is lost to a competitor, that instinct goes into hyper-drive. There is a lot of explaining to do.

Not only are the “numbers” lost on the forecast, there is almost always leadership visibility of the deal. Even if company leaders were not directly involved in the opportunity, they were aware and at least hopeful. When a deal like that doesn’t go the company’s way, there is a need and a demand for accountability, and a plan for how to do better on the next deal.

Whatever “story” can be cobbled from the available facts and statements coming from the buying organization is often distilled down to simple statements, such as,  “there was a social relationship”, “the competitor dropped their drawers on price”,  “they simply didn’t understand our technical leadership” and others.  Sound familiar? And, there is often a lack of agreement internally about the reason for the loss.

Almost always, there is a fuller story, but not the simple one being paraded as the one that explains the loss. The story of that big loss that matters is one that is deep, contextual and abundant with insight about how to avoid similar losses in the future. While getting to that true voice-of-the customer story is difficult, it is indeed possible.

Three Factors Needed to Leverage Customer Truth 

  1. A strong desire by leadership to understand not only the recent loss, but also generate a fabric of learning that will support a winning culture, designed to improve results steadily and measurably over time
  2. Commitment to a set of values around teamwork, where all relevant teams are treated with respect, specifically sales, marketing, product development, and management
  3. An experienced professional third-party that has a proven Win-Loss Analysis methodology and point of view

Getting to the key decision maker(s) to learn about their company’s purchase-decision journey must be handled precisely right and you only have one chance. Having a sales rep or some other company representative contact the decision-makers can tragically undermine your search for truth. 

Not only will they be approaching the discussion with their own biases and agendas, but the decision-maker may not be comfortable sharing all their decision factors directly with the person who has put so much effort into the sales process.  That’s why it’s important to have an objective skilled third-party interviewer who can elicit deep insights while maintaining an impartial view of the sales and decision-making dynamics.

And even with this more professional, formal quest for truth, the story can be a difficult one to tell and hear. It requires an outside view that can look across departments, hierarchies, and personalities and  deliver a sometimes challenging point-of-view to leadership.  Couple that with the ability to identify thematic key takeaways across multiple sales opportunities and you have the customer insights needed to inform actionable strategies.  If leadership is committed to long term growth and success, implementing a rigorous Win-Loss Analysis program can become the roadbed for the highway that will take you there.

About the Author

Stu Perlmeter

Website Google+ LinkedIn

Stu brings 30 years of marketing and research experience to 1st Resource, which he founded in 1996. Stu’s primary expertise is in understanding the market insights that tie to success formulas for companies seeking to grow their business in strategic ways.