I recently had a request asking for help to design a win/loss analysis interview. As this topic has general applicability across industries, I thought I’d share some of that exchange with you, dear readers.
Question from PM: “My colleagues and I here are looking for a good but brief 15 minute interview guide for win/loss analysis.”
My response (AA): Why 15 minutes? I generally find it takes 30 minutes to get to the real answers. Also what is the ASP for your product? If you work large deals, I again question the 15 minute limit. Are you planning to do a single interview per sales opportunity? How many stakeholders do you generally have in a sale?
PM: 15 minutes is what we were asked to limit ourselves to by the Sales rep I believe. I agree with your point that more would be better. We can try for that.
AA: If all of my earlier assumptions are correct, then a 15 minute interview could actually be worse than no interview at all. It takes most interviewees about 10-15 minutes to warm up to the interviewer and start to open up. I spend the first 15 minutes helping the interviewee get comfortable with me by asking some feel-good questions such as their own professional background, the story leading up to the consideration, and so on. This also allows me to understand the real drivers of the decision as opposed to the final conclusions. I don’t ask my high-value questions (about final conclusions) until I reach that tipping point of trust and openness with the interviewee. So if you start with your high-value questions right off the bat, you are going to get the defensive answers, not the open answers. Also you will not have any way to question the answers you get because you haven’t studied the underlying drivers.
So in 15 minutes, you will get the same answers that the sales rep already knows. You’d be better off interviewing the sales rep and recognizing that it’s sales’ opinion. If you interview the client for 15 minutes, it becomes the client’s answer when it’s really just the surface answer. That’s why it’s worse to do the interview – it just legitimizes the surface answers and gives them more weight. The sales rep will likely say (to you directly or to themselves), “you see, I knew all that. That’s why I don’t think you needed to do that interview, and that’s why I’m only ever going to give you 15 minutes with *my* customers.