Growth Insights for CEOs

Pitching for Success: Three Ways to Get More Sales Wins On Your Playing Field

Posted by Karen Hayward

pitching-success-sales-wins.jpgFor those of us who participated in youth athletics, winning – we were told – was quite secondary to “how we played the game.” Sportsmanship and fellowship were the primary objectives, and if we were lucky, we would notch the kind of moral victories that kept our competitive juices flowing.

But, at some point, we grew up – we took on responsibilities that matched our maturing wardrobes and shrinking hairlines; and, for those of us who have found our careers aligned with our company’s earnings growth, we now realize that winning – in fact – is everything.

In particular, we are resourced to showcase our skills, to fill our catcher’s mitts with leads, and to fill out our roster with happy clients. The pitch is no longer a knuckleball across home plate, but instead the story we tell to ensure a brighter fiscal picture. 

And, though it seems counterproductive to stop and consider why a new client pitch is unsuccessful, we could indeed learn a lot from those days on the neighborhood baseball diamond – where there was as much to learn from defeat, as there was from victory. 

Today, with technology both creating a more level playing field and also delivering tons of analytics to our doorstep; and with so many prospects engaging in a passel of self-driven research before taking our calls, the need to analyze losses with equal fervor as victories is not just a good idea, but a necessity.

In 2015, more than 84 percent of B2B enterprises are conducting “win-loss” analyses of their sales efforts, according to a study by market research firm Primary Intelligence. 

A key driver of this trend is, quite simply, critical mass: Increasing marketing budgets, and more intelligent prospecting tools, are simply delivering more leads for us to cultivate. Protecting this investment requires a commitment to the constant improvement of our sales process. And, by the way, that same study found that companies committed to a “win-loss” analysis can triple – or even septuple – their win rate.

A solid win-loss analysis will uncover:

  • How your prospects are making decisions;
  • What your prospects care about most;
  • What are your strongest attributes (and most glaring deficiencies), and;
  • What led to the final decision. 

Getting to these answers, in my view, requires a focus on three key measures of efficacy. Those measures – and the questions you should be asking – are:

  1. Your product or feature set: Are we effectively addressing our prospect’s pain? Are we priced appropriately for what we offer? What are we missing? What was more attractive about the competitive product? Are we seen as contemporary and forward-thinking?
  1. The performance of your sales reps: Does your team understand all of the latest features and benefits of your offering? Are they effectively targeting all prospective buyers? Are they targeting the right decision makers? Do they have adequate materials to properly pitch your offering? Are they using an approach tailored to the prospect’s unique pain or situation? 
  1. The effectiveness of your marketing messages: Do you have a solid online presence? How about SEO/SEM? How difficult is it for prospects to self-educate on your offering? Are your marketing materials refreshed to reflect your latest product innovations and enhancements? Do your materials offer a clear sense of your value proposition, or how your offering solves your prospect’s pain?

One last note: Though it is useful to “spitball” these questions among your internal team, it’s even more beneficial to hear from the prospect directly. Surprisingly, fewer than 20 percent of enterprises conduct a post-decision interview as part of their improvement processes. This is one case where I would encourage you to be a part of the counterculture. And, it’s well worth the investment to engage an objective third party resource in this effort – you’ll achieve greater insights if the customer is able to be candid about his or her experience, without feeling that they may be “insulting” you in some way.

If done properly, this win-loss analysis will certainly help address the mechanics of your sales process, and will give your customers and prospects a beneficial voice in how you improve your processes.

But, empirically, this information can have even greater value to your enterprise if you use it to ensure that you are focusing on the right product innovations for the market, and that you are better able to quantify revenue attributable to feature development. 

So, what’s it going to be coach? Ready to boost your win rate? 


Topics: Sales Strategy, Sales Enablement, Sales Funnel

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