Win and loss reviews – how to always win

We all know the great expense incurred when bidding for a major piece of work from a customer, and we all know that depressing feeling when we find out that on some occasions we have not been successful with our bid. But that shouldn’t stop a company conducting a loss review to gain a detailed understanding of why they were not successful on this occasion, and how they can improve their competitive offering for subsequent bids.

In a survey carried out by Customer Champions with large business to business companies across Europe, we identified that less than 1 in 5 performed any form of win or loss review on bids, and were therefore missing out on this valuable source of knowledge.

It has been our experience that, after completing their procurement process, many organisations give a standard response to unsuccessful companies such as ‘the decision was based on price’. When the unsuccessful applicants dig deeper in a loss review it is often the case that price was indeed a factor but not the defining reason behind their loss which could be as wide ranging as the attitude of the sales team to the packaging of the proposal. Few decision makers and procurement professionals take the time to detail the reasons for a loss which is why conducting a loss review is critical if you want to review where you are falling short. Furthermore, the decision maker may be slightly embarrassed to share their organisation’s perceptions direct with the bidding company and salespeople, in particular if the feedback is sensitive. As a result they avoid the conversation altogether by giving an uncontroversial but sterile response.

Loss review case study

One example of this sensitivity was evident when we conducted a loss review for a consulting firm who had just lost a large bid with an international bank. The official response was that the decision was based on price however when they compared the attitudes of the two sales teams from the opposing consulting teams, the winning consulting firm favoured a more collaborative approach, working alongside the client team. This was in contrast with the losing firm which gave the impression that they wouldn’t be working alongside the internal team but would implement their proposed solution with little input from the incumbent team. This was blatantly obvious in the two presentations where the winning bid team put up an organisational chart which integrated the consulting team alongside the internal client team (the losing firm’s organisational chart just detailed the consulting team’s names and responsibilities). Had the losing firm never conducted that loss review, they would never have understood that just that one slide and their approach to the internal team was what really caused the failure.

Just as there are lessons from losing, so there are also lessons to be learnt from winning. A robust win and loss review process offers the opportunity to increase the win to loss ratio of your bidding process, improve cross selling and up selling to current customers as well as gathering vital competitive information. In short, by understanding what you did right or wrong you learn what you need to do in order to better meet customer requirements in the future..

Win loss review benefits

The main benefits of conducting a formal programme of win / loss reviews and investing a relatively small amount of time and money in understanding the reasons behind the success or failure are wide ranging:

• increased probability of winning subsequent bids

• generate corporate goodwill with the customer that puts the supplier in a more positive light for subsequent bids.

• establishing advantages and disadvantages compared with the competition that can be used in future sales proposals

• lessons learnt from understanding why the bid was lost will significantly increase the probability of winning subsequent business by increasing the attractiveness of the market offering, thereby also increasing the opportunities to up and cross sell

• better spread of knowledge throughout the company through sharing the structured feedback with the wider bidding team and beyond

• provides executive leadership with a concise and timeous view of their customers’ perceptions of their organisation, its salespeople and service offerings

• by formally recording the reasons it increases the availability of knowledge about why the business was lost or won to a wider audience, beyond those that were in the meeting / on the phone with the prospect when they were informed of their decision

• rank importance of issues

Reasons for not being successful are prioritised by the customer so those future barriers to success can be prioritised and planned to be removed. With the customer’s ranking known, a company is able to focus on those priority areas that can be controlled and improved upon as part of a loss review, or can be developed further within the context of a win.

Improved product attractiveness

Link the information gained through the loss review to the new product development process to help prioritise product enhancements, again increasing the probability of winning the next sale and even of cross selling or up selling.

Vital feedback to the Sales Support and Marketing teams

A loss review provides invaluable feedback to the sales support and marketing teams who developed the proposal, and who often, receive no formal feedback on their efforts. This feedback could be positive too such as, “your proposal content was packaged really effectively” even during a loss review. Not all feedback in a loss review is negative so it is valuable to also know what it is your organisation is doing correctly. Similarly it is helpful for all parties involved in the bid process to know collectively how they can improve.

Continues to build the relationship with the customer / prospect

Customers see the investment made by an unsuccessful supplier in a loss review as a positive move, and positions that supplier as customer focused, and therefore in a stronger position for the next potential piece of work. This is particularly true if the supplier has been seen to invest in external independent expertise in conducting the review.

Positive experience for the customer

The customer is also positive about providing this feedback as part of a loss review as they too have invested significant time and effort in evaluating the proposals, and it can help them to run through their evaluation process and discuss how they came to their conclusion.

All of these points are equally as true for the proposal that was won. However again the research by Customer Champions shows less than 1 in 5 companies formally establish why they were successful. The focus of companies is to charge into delivering against their proposal, and chasing the next sales opportunity, not to support this with the opportunity to take stock and obtain the true value of the reasons why they were successful – beyond the ‘skills of the sales person’ – by undertaking a win review.

A company that has successfully introduced a Loss and Win Review programme is a UK based multinational B2B services company whose Market Research Manager sees this approach providing dividends as:

“Using a third party agency [Customer Champions] allows our customers to provide invaluable feedback on why we have been successful or not, and this is then linked into our overall customer review programme”.

Within the company these win review or loss review findings are linked to other programmes such as Customer Satisfaction Measurement, and internal operational metrics.

“Not only do win reviews and loss reviews help us to see why we were successful or not, but we can see what needs to be done in terms of enhancing our total offer to the market to make it even more attractive”.

Customer Champions believe that many suppliers could significantly supplement a more traditional customer satisfaction programme with the introduction of a win and loss review programme.

Take the next step

To request more information on how Customer Champions conduct win or loss reviews and how that could improve future performance in your own organisation, or to request a copy of the process that should be followed to conduct these reviews, get in touch with Customer Champions today.


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