Sales is tough. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t schmooze your way to the end of a sales cycle by wining and dining prospects these days.
Training salespeople is tough too. Old notions about how to close don’t always hold up in a modern marketplace. Prospects want transparency and autonomy in their paths to purchase, and it’s up to the salesperson to detect those preferences and deliver.
In fact, Salesforce recently reported that 89% of business buyers expect companies to understand their business needs and expectations. That’s no small feat, especially when most of the contact happens over email or the phone rather than face-to-face.
Plus, salespeople don’t usually get a constant flow of feedback from buyers that they can use to refine their approach. When I lose a deal, I might think: The price was just too high or We had a feature gap. But if the prospect told me honestly, would they list the same reasons?
Asking for feedback seems natural with customer service interactions, but most people are hesitant to collect feedback during the sales process. As a result, most companies focus on measuring service touchpoints only. However, I would argue that sales surveys can tell you just as much about your business and make an impact on it faster.
I’ll explain how our sales organization uses win-loss surveys to refine our processes and develop our competitive positioning.
Why and how we decided to run win-loss surveys
A couple years ago, we were a small organization with a very immature Salesforce instance, and we had an issue with sales reps going “rogue.”
There weren’t too many rules in place for moving through opportunity stages, and though we had a closed-lost field, it was optional. As a sales rep with a lot of deals to manage, filling in those details for each deal just seemed to take time away from actually selling.
We tested a few methods for gathering information, and some worked better than others.
First, we tried adding a bunch of fields in Salesforce for the sales reps to fill out.
Each time a sales rep closed an opportunity, they’d have to fill out these fields. This quickly became a burden, and the extra info cluttered up our Opp detail pages. Plus, to get reliable data, each sales rep would have to fill out the fields by the book (which wasn’t happening).
Next, we tried sending internal surveys to the sales reps.
The survey had a preset number of questions (never more than 5) that we could easily click through and submit. We weren’t hit with a bunch of required fields in Salesforce—things were looking up!
Moreover, our team integrated the survey with Salesforce, so our survey responses would tie back to the opportunity and rep. This meant management could run reports and analyze the data alongside the information in the Opp itself.
While this gave us a lot of great insight, it wasn’t enough. The sales rep surveys weren’t giving us objective data on why we were winning and losing deals. As I mentioned in the intro, my own beliefs about why I lose deals probably don’t align perfectly with what my prospects would say.
So, we decided to survey the sales rep and the prospect.
We created workflows in Salesforce to automatically send an internal survey to the sales rep and a close-won or close-lost survey to the contact when we closed an opportunity. You can see an example of our close-lost survey here.
This felt like the best route for many reasons:
- Right off the bat, we could see the differences in perspective between the rep and the prospect. We could measure reps’ judgment accuracy when it came to win and loss reasons, and tie that back to gaps in the sales process. Did we spend enough time identifying prospects’ needs and how we could fulfill them?
- Prospects were more likely to answer honestly. I always ask people why they didn’t choose us when I lose a deal, but over weeks of discussions, you build some camaraderie with your contacts. If you’re the problem, they’re less likely to tell you. On the other hand, they’ll probably tell the truth if they’re getting a survey invite from a generic email.
- Accountability became a very real thing. When we lost deals, it was easy to see how the sales process had failed. Maybe we didn’t qualify enough or dive into the real issues the prospect was facing, and explain how we could help. In our weekly sales trainings, we could focus on solving that particular issue, then put it into action as soon as the next day.
- Positioning, positioning, positioning. We could share all the feedback we collected with our product and marketing teams. What are our strengths and weaknesses? Is this how we want to market our offerings? Are these the types of deals we should be focusing on? How should we frame conversations with companies of this size in this industry? When this or that competitor is in the mix, how does it affect things?
What we learned from the feedback
We learned a lot! And in a very short period of time.
For example, after the first few weeks, we realized our product team needed to focus on building out native survey analytics in our platform. Built-in analytics weren’t essential to using our product, and our Salesforce customers tended to manage their reporting and analysis within Salesforce anyway. But as it turned out, native analytics was an item we needed to check off the list in order for some companies to commit.
We also learned that prospect feedback evolves, so running batch surveys once a year doesn’t deliver the kind of insight you need to make real changes in your business. When you start gathering feedback, you may see that the data tells a story you didn’t expect, or that trends change quickly. This is why a feedback program needs to be iterative by nature to deliver long-term value.
How we run win-loss surveys today
Today our sales management team uses dashboards to aggregate data from our win-loss surveys. They inform some of the most important aspects of our business:
- Sales experience: how companies rate their satisfaction with our sales team, win or lose
- Sales performance: sales reps’ product knowledge and ability to consult companies on their customer experience initiatives
- Product experience: the quality of our product and how well it answers our target customers’ needs
A few takeaways on sales surveys
Based on my experience watching our own feedback program grow, I’d offer the following tidbits of advice:
- Formalize your feedback process, and do it early. Decide how and when you’re going to survey prospects and customers, then communicate that process company-wide. Make sure you’re sending on-brand, mobile-friendly surveys and following the standard survey design best practices. GetFeedback surveys have worked tremendously well for us because they’re engaging and quick, and you can map the results back to Salesforce seamlessly.
- Get feedback from both sales reps and prospects/customers. You could miss out on a learning experience here if you just survey one group. What “I” think may be different from what “they” think.
- USE THE DATA. Sounds obvious, but you have no idea how many people survey customers just to say that they survey customers. Use your learnings to alter product direction, pricing and packaging, sales processes, marketing campaigns, and more. You’re getting direct feedback on why someone did or didn’t choose your service, so make the most of it!
Don’t be afraid of the win-loss survey. People are much more willing to give feedback than you think, especially when you ask in a way that makes them feel heard.
As competitive offerings today continue to converge on features and functionality, customer experience is a stellar way to differentiate your company. The more you can learn about and refine the experience you provide throughout the sales cycle, the better chances your chances of succeeding!
Getting and analyzing data is awesome—but doing something meaningful with that data is revolutionary.