Summary / TL;DR: To be the most effective, Win / Loss discussions with the customers should not be used for other purposes, like product roadmap validation, pricing or market material testing. We want to ask open ended questions, not enter into the conversation with specific hypotheses to test. We should be doing those things in other venues, but in the context of a Win / Loss interview.
There are many reasons why we might want to talk about Won customers and our Lost prospects, and it’s absolutely fantastic to have a customer – Won or Loss – who’s willing to speak to you. These kinds of people can be an incredible intelligence resource for you, giving you the insight and feedback on all manner of things about your company and your whole offer.
But, it’s also important to parse out and separate the interactions with those customers so you can get the very best and most actionable feedback.
One common trap to avoid is blurring the lines between a win-loss interview and another intent, say, a product roadmap feedback interview, testing marketing materials, or discussing price structures. Blurring the lines like this is not good practice. Win / Loss interviews, to be the most valuable, must not be mixed with, for example, product feature testing, because once we do that, a couple of things can happen.
The backdrop of a sales call reappears, which is the very thing we have tried so hard to eliminate. The one thing that almost guarantees that, instead of frankness and candor from the interviewee, they are going to slip into guarded and measured responses.
You’ll start to skew the answers. The type of answers that you will get will be very much influenced by the set and setting of the questions you’re asking. Win / Loss is, by design, filled with open-ended questions. “Talk to me about the product offering. What did you like? What didn’t you like?” compared with “Did you value feature X, yes or no?” With that latter question, we’re going to get the binary answer we seek. Let’s say they say “yes”. We might then incorrectly conclude that feature X that led to the win.
So, we look to keep the lines of our Win / Loss interviews crisp. They can be very powerful, but they’re not product roadmap testing interviews. They’re not sales process optimization interviews. They’re not price structure testing interviews.
In addition, without this level of customization, patterns that emerge can be much more heavily relied upon because the answers won’t have been skewed by the type of questions asked.