Understanding Why Sales Organizations Win: Q&A With Sales Researcher

By: Rachel Clapp Miller on September 19th, 2019

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Understanding Why Sales Organizations Win: Q&A With Sales Researcher

Categories: B2B Buyer  |  Competitors  |  sales challenges  |  Industry Insight

Melissa Short (Primart Intelligence) 2Melissa Short is the VP of Reporting Services at Primary Intelligence. Primary Intelligence is a global leader in Win Loss and Customer Experience Analysis. Both solutions provide analytical insights that help companies win more and identify the root causes that lead to lost revenue and customer churn. In advance of her webinar with Brian Walsh, Force's content team asked Melissa to share some perspective on her research and the companies with which she works.


We write a lot about sales effectiveness and there are frequently topics that resonate most with our customers. Are there any primary themes in your research that continually show up?

One thing we consistently see is the importance of understanding buyer needs. Regardless of industry or product, understanding each buyer’s needs repeatedly surfaces as a tipping point in purchase decisions. It is usually the most important sales activity buyers consider. Sales teams that create advantages in understanding their buyer are also more likely to win.

That's such an important pivot salespeople need to make, helping their buyers understand how their solution maps to those understood needs. We, too, find that gap in many struggling sales organizations. You do a lot of win loss analyses with companies, what are they most surprised at typically in your findings?

For one, hearing the voice of their buyer first-hand is often surprising. When we interview buyers, we record and transcribe those conversations. That gives our clients the ability to hear the nuance in a buyer’s voice and pick up on the sentiment behind their words. It makes the research relatable. The fact that our research is all primary source also helps retain an objective view of win and loss reasons, and this type of clarity can yield unexpected findings. In some cases, our clients are can be surprised to discover that the reasons they think they win or lose are not the same reasons their buyers provide– and they can also uncover new opportunities.

We had a software company gain insight into a few areas of differentiation that they didn’t know were important to buyers. They knew they were losing deals due to a product deficiency. But they didn’t know they had a straightforward way to resolve it. In just a handful of win loss interviews, our client uncovered that their integration capabilities with partnering vendors actually overcame that weakness. Prior to interviewing buyers, they also didn’t realize how important this integration piece was to prospects. Our client tweaked their marketing and sales efforts to counter the gap and accentuate the strength, effectively turning a missing feature into an advantage. For them and other clients, getting an “outside in” perspective can be game-changing.

What do you think is missing in a lot of sales organizations today?

Visibility. A lot of sales organizations lack visibility into why they win and lose – and not just what the outcome reasons are. But, they also lack visibility into how those reasons line up to revenue. For example, one of our clients was recently losing 30% of its deals due to a disconnect in the sales process. The sales team wasn’t understanding buyer needs fully, and this gap was readily apparent to buyers during the product demonstration. It equated to $15M in lost revenue annually. Our client actively addressed this weakness, and in our follow-up six months later, their loss rate due to sales weaknesses dropped from 30% to 5%. Without the visibility into what lever to pull and the impact it could have from a revenue-standpoint, this client could have continued losing deals to a relatively “easy” area to fix.

Given your research, what do you think is the one thing sales leaders can do to move the needle in their sales organizations?

First, understand why you’re winning and losing. If you’re like our client above, you might have a relatively “easy” fix, but you need to know what is actually impacting buyer decisions. You need to understand your buyer’s perspective in order to align to it. Even if you don’t have a formal win loss program in place, there are other ways you can approach this with known best practices. Standardize your discovery process to ensure that your reps truly understand the buyer’s need and equip them to be resourceful as they address that need.

Your recent whitepaper, "Predicting No Decisions", is the foundation for our next webinar. It's a prevalent issue, but there are so many topics to tackle. Why did you pick “no decisions” as a white paper topic?

“No decision” deals are common, yet they are poorly understood and costly for many organizations. Our goal was to shed light on how to find them before they negatively impacted revenue. We also had some assumptions to challenge. For example, we commonly heard that most no decisions occurred due to a buyer’s internal politics. We were expecting to see buyer-focused reasons for lack of purchase such as, organizational changes, mergers, acquisitions, etc. While these events certainly factored into some no decisions, only 20% of no decisions directly resulted from a buyer-driven issue. Instead, the majority of reasons related to a vendor’s weakness (most often product and/or price).

Meaning, that's something that the sales organization can control. We'll be sure to tackle that topic in our webinar. Lastly, what’s your favorite part about your current role?

While I really enjoy digging into our data and uncovering trends, my favorite part is mobilizing that data. For me, the best part of any day is when a finding creates an, “A ha!” moment for a sales leader or executive. It’s about connecting the dots between data and application to enable sales and make an impact.

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