Were you successful in getting your hands on the win-loss report from sales? Don’t feel too bad about it; that sort of information is not something sales people share freely, especially the loss part of it.

This week I want to talk about the importance of the good news bit of their report. Now we know that sales people are not always as truthful as we might hope when it comes to letting on why a particular piece of business got away. I think you’ll find, however, they are a lot more forthcoming when they have landed a tasty bit of business.

I’m not sure they are more truthful about why, at least in their reporting, but I am sure they are pretty keen to talk about it. All day long, if you let them. This is the time savvy marketers know to pounce. Grab your credit card and your notebook and start having lunch with your best sales people.

Sales Squirrels are an easily distracted bunch who love to compare their piles of nuts with their colleagues’ piles of nuts for hours on end, so I suggest you try to speak to them one-on-one if you can, ideally over a coffee or a meal so you can periodically shut them up with food long enough to make notes. Maybe even drag a colleague along with you to help keep up. If you have enough new business, it might be worth splitting the list up with other marketers and doing a blitz with as many sales folks as you can corner.

I know, I know, summer is short enough without having to waste precious patio time on braying sales people, but this is worth it and here’s why. We can learn a lot more from sales successes than we can from sales failures. The whole truthiness thing aside, I think marketers walk away with a much more actionable education when we know why we succeed than when we sling steaming piles of blame at each other for not succeeding.

Since conversations with sales people can go horribly off track, may I suggest you and your team come up with a list of questions ahead of time? I’d start with these:

  • How did you get in the door at this customer?
  • Do you recall the lead source? (yes, I know they are supposed to put this in the database, but it’s never a bad idea to check)
  • Tell me about the conversations you had with the customer from first contact to the deal closing?
  • What questions did you ask that surprised or challenged them?
  • What questions did they ask that you were a little surprised by?
  • What problem was the customer trying to solve?
  • Why did the customer choose us to solve their problem?
  • What objections did you face and how did you deal with them?
  • Is there anything marketing could have done to make objection handling easier?
  • How far along the buying process were they when you got involved? How did you know?
  • What could have made this sale close faster?
  • What could have made this sale bigger?
  • When you called this customer, how well did they understand our products and brand?
  • What resources did you need to get the deal – demos, technical consultants, SMEs, etc?
  • What content did you put in front of them?
  • What content worked; what content made it harder?
  • What relevant content didn’t you use and why?
  • Who really made the final decision? Is that who you expected?
  • On a scale of one to ten, how fierce was the competition at the end of the day?
  • How long did it take to close this deal?
  • How many people were involved in the purchase decision?
  • How closely did this deal follow our sales cycle assumptions and models? (marketers, be sure you track this in the aggregate)