Tips for a successful win-loss analysis

Editor’s note: Nick Kane is managing partner at Janek Performance Group. This is an edited version of an article that ordinally appeared under the title “Tips for Conducting Win-Loss Analysis.” 

There are many reasons why prospects accept or reject your proposals and bids. Perhaps it was the economy or the right product at the wrong time. Maybe it was the price or maybe your seller couldn’t sway a decision maker.

That’s what makes a win-loss analysis essential. It is the process organizations undertake to understand why a customer bought your product or service. It also explains why they chose not to. This information is vital to measuring the long-term implications of a won or lost deal. It’s key to making corrections to maintain or improve your position and grow your business. This article will examine some tips for conducting a win-loss analysis.

Win-loss analysis insights

According to, only 42% of companies regularly conduct a win-loss analysis. One reason for this could be the time and effort it takes. When you consider the process including interviews, questionnaires and surveys, it can be a lot. 

It is important to note that a win-loss analysis is not about assigning blame. This would make it a negative process, not only for your sellers. Instead, a win-loss analysis is an overall evaluation that can provide your organization with valuable insight into several key areas including:

  • Sales process.
  • Buying process.
  • Competition.
  • Marketing.
  • Product development.
  • Finance.

A win-loss analysis can reveal your customer’s perspective of your sales process. For example, it can address how your sales team engaged the prospect. Did they build relationships? Address needs? Did they invest the time required to understand the customer? Most importantly, did the customer feel valued and appreciated?

Another consideration is how well your sales process aligned with the buyer’s journey. Today, the buyer’s journey is increasingly complex. Buyers are better educated and there are more decision makers. Now more than ever, it’s incumbent on sellers to match their sales process to the buyer. 

There is also more competition. Educated buyers know their options. Sellers must not only be familiar with their own products and services but they also must understand the competition to differentiate their own items. They must clearly demonstrate the features and benefits and show their value over a buyer’s current product or potential replacement.

A win-loss analysis also offers insight into your marketing efforts. This includes effective messaging, accurate buyer personas and attractive value propositions. It includes the content your sales teams delivered. Was it timely and pertinent? Did it generate interest and help buyers make informed decisions?

A win-loss analysis can show whether your products and services meet the needs of your customers. How do they rate your features and benefits? This is critical for your L&D teams and product development. Price is often a major objection. A win-loss analysis can reveal what buyers thought of your price points in relation to value.

Common mistakes when conducting win-loss analysis

The mistakes organizations make when conducting a win-loss analysis often center around the approach. A half-hearted analysis will not yield useful information. Instead, organizations must invest. This means viewing their win-loss analysis as a vital tool in their ongoing assessment.

Additionally, the entire organization should buy into the process. This includes C-suite, sales managers and sales reps. All should appreciate the value of improving performance and, most importantly, win rates. Some common mistakes include:

  • Lacking clear objectives.
  • Not asking the right questions.

Start with a clear set of goals and objectives

Without clear goals, your analysis is a fishing expedition. Consider the things you really want to know. This should include information about your processes, products and people.

Ask the right questions

This includes documenting the questions and formulating them for maximum effect. For example, avoid closed-ended questions. These can be answered yes or no and might not be useful. Instead, use open-ended questions that invite explanation. Rather than, “Did you find the salesperson helpful?” ask, “Can you describe the salesperson’s helpfulness?”

Ensure accurate feedback

Accurate feedback is essential. Stronger input yields superior output. Here, consider the following:

  • Setup.
  • Sample size.
  • Facilitator.

Your setup is key. Tell the customer you are conducting a win-loss analysis and that you seek the reasons you achieved the sale or missed out. Assure them you want the truth and their answers will better enable you to meet their future needs.

Sample size is important. Contact the people who can answer your questions the best. This is not limited to your seller’s lead contact. It should include key decision makers like managers, tech specialists and other VIPs. A small sample size can result in skewed data. A wider net ensures you reach the right people and receive reliable data. 

Often, your salesperson is not the best choice to facilitate a win-loss analysis. Of course, their input is important and they should be part of the process, but they may be too close. Their investment is too great. If you want customers to speak candidly, consider high-level interviews, such as executive-to-executive. You could also hire an outside vendor to ensure you receive accurate information.

Best practices for a successful win-loss analysis

Following is a list of best practices for conducting effective win-loss analyses:

  • Brevity.
  • Know decision makers.
  • Standardization.
  • Ensure an ongoing process.
  • Thank/compensate customers.

Remember to keep it short to show your customers that you value their time. Ideally, do not exceed 30 minutes. This is plenty of time to address the biggest issues.

Make sure you talk to a decision maker or someone with a high degree of influence. Remember, you’re asking about buying criteria. You want someone who knows this information and is invested in the process. 

Have a standard set of questions. These should be thoughtful and geared to the information you seek. Also, be consistent in your approach. This helps you better understand the data in relation to other customers and deals.

A win-loss analysis should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. High-performing sales organizations know the value of regular customer feedback. This ensures your sales team consistently meets and exceeds customer expectations.

In addition, thank your customers for their time. This can be as simple as a follow-up e-mail, a small gift or other compensation. Be generous. After all, customer feedback is vital to improving your business. Today’s lost deal can return as tomorrow’s best customer.

Take advantage of technology

Interviews are the best way to get the information you need. Open-ended questions allow customers to offer in-depth responses. However, many organizations supplement their interviews with technology. Consider the following:

  • Questionnaires and surveys.
  • Segmentation/demographics.

Questionnaires and surveys can reach a wider audience and reveal more specific, quantitative information. Types of surveys vary from simple “Yes” or “No” to a dichotomous, two-point scale of opposites or more complex Likert scales. Today, there are many tools and software that can help.

Surveys can segment the data across groups. Consider the demographics. There may be differences between customer size, location, buyer type and even competitors. Often, a customer’s perception of your organization will change based on the competition. You might have been number one against some but number three against others. This can improve your process and pitch. 

Clozd research revealed that B2B decision makers are more likely to participate in interviews (30% of the time) over surveys (5%), even though interviews require more time. 

For sales organizations, success is never a zero-sum game. It’s not only based on whether you closed the deal. Sure, closed deals are better than lost ones, but in both cases, the reasons are important. For one thing, real success is based on consistency. To sustain growth, you must know what worked and what didn’t and you must be willing to make the changes needed to improve. We hope this helps your organization conduct productive win-loss analyses to better serve customers and close more deals.