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Win-loss programs: Targeting leads and building a communication plan

This six-part series explores how a win-loss analysis program can help you improve close rates, better serve your customers and keep a pulse on competitors. We look at how to build a win-loss program, institute best practices and leverage the results.


Selecting the ideal candidate to interview is another crucial component of building a strong win-loss program. To start targeting qualified leads, review your current target list and determine the ideal qualification criteria to apply in order to focus on those people who will provide the greatest value. It’s always better to have a set of interviewees who share characteristics than ones that do not.

While it’s common for program managers to work through lists from a CRM system, that’s a mistake. Not only does it leave win-loss research up to chance, but you’ll also risk missing important targets. What if a loss wasn’t closed out of the system? And where is the science behind their process?

Here are a few best practices to help you build the best recruitment list possible:

Work with your sales team on selection building

Having a relationship with the sales leadership team is crucial for selecting successful targets. They have the deepest knowledge of target accounts and can nominate recent wins and losses that are fresh in their minds. Actively involving sales leadership in the process of selecting targets also reinforces the sales team’s ownership of the program.

Focus on competitive, advanced-stage deals

The more competitive the deals you target for win-loss analysis, the more insights you’ll receive. The same applies to late-stage deals, especially when it comes to losses. If your target went through a sales demo, for instance, and then attended your company’s conference and spoke with a customer reference, they’ve evaluated your company through several routes and can potentially provide rich feedback. The more they’ve experienced, the more they can share.

Select interviewees based on their knowledge of the decision process

When it comes to targeting interviewees, don’t assume the most senior person within the buyer’s organization is your best fit. The right candidate will have led the effort on the buyer’s side and worked closely with your teams, making them the most capable person to comment on all facets of the evaluation and the ultimate decision. This ability is largely unrelated to seniority.

Communicating your win-loss program

When it’s time to communicate your win-loss program, there are a few key metrics required to successfully create program awareness, interest and accountability, both internally and externally.

  • Have your sales leader announce your win-loss program: The way you announce your win-loss program is important. To ensure success, have the head of sales present the program, including its goals, simple instructions for sales staff, and how the program will benefit the team, both individually and collectively. Likewise, when it comes to nominating interview targets, sales leadership can deliver the news to each relevant sales representative that their contact has been elected, giving them a chance to respond. The more involved your sales team feels, the better.
  • Leverage the primary sales contact to invite win-loss analysis targets: Cold emails are less effective. Your targets will be more likely to agree to an interview if they’re invited by someone with whom they already have a relationship, good or bad. Following an initial email introduction, the project manager can take over communication and work to schedule the interview.
  • Include an incentive in the standard email: It can take several follow-up emails or calls from the project manager for the target to agree to the interview. However, you will increase the response rate by including incentives in the email template. Offering a gift card or donation to a charity of their choice can sweeten the prospect of the interview. Giving the sales contact a simple, standard email template they can leverage when reaching out to targets also simplifies this process.

Read more in this series