Steve Silver, a Research Assistant at Sirius Decisions, recently blogged about a client where the overwhelming reason for losing deals was price. But the client had a differentiated service where price should not have been the primary factor.
Silver discovered the reasons for this anomaly: The field was not used by any departments at the firm. Without an owner, the path of least resistance was selected — the first choice in the picklist. And in the case of the client, 90% of the losses were flagged as price-based.
Did we establish value?
Silver omitted a third reason, and one which is common amongst sales reps. Price is an easy scapegoat for lost opportunities. But if your service is well differentiated and you focus on your value proposition, price should not be the primary loss driver. Yes, some deals will be lost because a competitor low balls the deal (a true price loss), or the prospect simply does not have the financial means to purchase your service (a poorly qualified prospect), but in most cases, losing on price is a failure on the part of sales reps. If they thought about it more, they would realize that price is not an exogenous variable outside of their control. That’s because price is tied to value. Price is the critical variable if your value has not been established.
This isn’t to say that pricing could be wrong. If your competitors are quickly moving up the value curve, your historical price may no longer be sustainable as you become less well differentiated. With good data and analytics, you would capture this shift in the competitive marketplace and act accordingly (e.g. R&D to better differentiate your service, better product bundling, or reduced prices), but price should only dominate the loss reasons in a commodity business.
So what else could be gleaned from this situation? First, somebody needs to own data quality within the CRM. If a field is viewed as busywork, your sales reps will populate it with junk data.
Garbage in, Garbage out.
Managers should also be pushing back on reps to better understand why deals were lost so that mistakes can be avoided in the future. Does the sales rep need additional training or coaching? Are additional sales tools needed for competitor handling or establishing value? Are we poorly qualifying opportunities or failing to identify the key decision makers?
Yes, it is easier to move onto the next deal without taking the time to analyze deal losses; but a learning organization needs to understand its failure points.
Sales Operations should be cross-checking fields. If the loss reason is price or features, then a competitor had a better offering. Was the primary competitor recorded in the CRM? If the competitor is blank, then additional explanation should be required. Did you really lose on price or features if you don’t know who the competitor was?
Or did you lose to no decision or the incumbent because there was insufficient value established to warrant funding the purchase or sustaining the switching costs?
If you don’t collect the data or you allow a field to be treated as busywork, it won’t be available for analysis. I have had several instances where my clients did not record the loss reason or the competitors. I have also had others where the fields were usually blank. In short, the firms were operating in a competitive fog and not using their CRM for market monitoring.
In the end, it is important to not only gather win/loss information, but to use the data for sales training and coaching, marketing communications, sales enablement, and product development. When information is valued by the organization, then sales reps are less likely to blithely skip fields or enter the first field in the required picklist.