If you want to improve your sales closing rates and your team's sales skills, running loss interviews is a crucial activity. Nobody wants to make that call - but it is one of the best ways to uncover what needs to be fixed in your sales operation.
Viewpoint Analysis have conducted many loss interview for our clients, and prior to that, in our sales roles. As such, we know what questions really need to be asked. Win Loss Analysis should form the basis of every sales engagement - particularly for larger opportunities. In this article, we look at the questions that need to be asked in a loss interview.
What is a Loss Interview?
A Loss Interview is an interview with a customer to understand why they decided not to buy from us. It is a piece of work that is conducted at the very end of a sales cycle and can also be referred to as Win/Loss Analysis.
When should a Loss Interview take place?
A Loss Interview should take place as soon as practical and ideally within a week of being informed about the lost opportunity. It is important to move quickly for two reasons:
1) The experience will be fresh in the minds of the buyer and the seller - ensuring that all relevant information can be captured.
2) If there is an opportunity to rectify the situation, moving quickly can be a real benefit.
Who should conduct the Loss Interview?
The best person to conduct a Loss Interview is someone who has no axe to grind and can ask blunt questions without the person being interviewed being worried about what they might say. Ideally, this would be a person external to the company.
How should you prepare for a Loss Interview?
The more preparation that goes into a Loss Interview, the more skewed the results can be. We often believe that no information or preparation is better than too much. As such, the recommendation would be to have a simple conversation with the customer - start from the beginning and learn as the interview proceeds. In most cases it matters little what the customer is buying, what we really need to hear is how they experienced the process and what went wrong.
What questions should you ask in a Loss Interview?
It is important to ask the questions that will really benefit the organization to learn more about the reason for the loss. Some questions will be direct, whilst others will be mainly fact-finding. We want to ensure that the person being interviewed has the ability to speak openly and honestly, without fear of reprisal or that they may cause a problem.
Good questions to ask include:
Can you tell me who you selected?
Can you explain why you selected them?
Are you able to tell me what you liked about your experience working with us?
Are you able to explain areas that you feel could be improved?
Can you talk through your selection process?
How did our business arrive as one of the vendors to be considered?
How was the initial experience of getting in contact with us?
How would you rate our experience with X, Y, and Z (e.g. salesperson, technical team etc)
Did you have any contact with anyone other than the sales team, and if so, what was your experience with them?
If you had the opportunity to run the selection process again, what would you change?
If you were in our shoes and you had the opportunity to engage in the process again, what would you change that we did?
What was the best aspect of working with us?
What was the worst aspect of working with us?
Was there something specific that you believe our product or service lacked that the chosen supplier didn't?
Was there anything that we did that upset you or any of your team members?
Have you contracted with your selected vendor and is there anything we can do to earn back your business?
Benefits of conducting a Loss Interview
The Loss Interview should take little time to prepare and conduct, but if done properly, the benefits of conducting could be priceless. You should:
Uncover areas for additional training and development.
Develop product or service improvements.
Improve individual and team win rates.
Develop new strategies for future engagements.
Demonstrate a professional sales approach to the client.
Be able to ask questions that may not be possible in any other given situation.
What to do with the findings
The findings should be shared with the sales team but any sensitive information may be left out if this was specifically requested by the customer. We encourage our clients to conduct regular win/loss analysis. If this is the case, we will almost certainly find a pattern in the responses and this should be shared with all core teams - product development; executive leaders; marketing, and all those contributing to the success of whatever is being sold.
Win Loss Analysis is such an important part of a sales process - and the Loss Interview is the core element of making this a success. It needn't be difficult and it is not important to overly prepare. The key thing is to move quickly, ask the difficult questions, and learn from what you find.
If you need help or if Viewpoint Analysis might be suitable to run the interviews for you, you can find more information on our Win Loss Analysis services page.