Make Sales Interviews a Win-Lose Proposition

The sales force is uniquely positioned to be the eyes and ears of an organization. Their proximity to customers should be utilized to gather insights and feedback from product users. This benefit of the sales force should be tapped to learn from people who do not buy from you. Dan Bernoske recently wrote on the Sales Benchmark Index blog that the ability to give feedback to other departments in the organization from product users should be extended to gathering information from non-buyers. Bernoske uses the term "win-loss interviews" to describe what salespeople should be doing with buyers in the post-purchase stage.

The number one benefit of conducting win-loss interviews is that the information obtained ideally can be used to improve a company's products and services. Interviews with buyers should reveal reasons why they went with your product. Patterns of responses would suggest strengths that could be leveraged to develop new products and market existing ones. While loss interviews (conversations with non-buyers) might be less enjoyable and even awkward for salespeople, they are vital to learning from a lost customer why the decision was made to buy elsewhere.

A great deal of emphasis is put on the process of selling - persuading someone to buy. The sales funnel focuses on moving prospects through to the point of purchase. But, what about post-sale, after a customer comes out the other end of the funnel? Salespeople should not ignore customers at this point. Now is the time for the win interview. And, if the funnel springs a leak and prospects do not buy, the loss interview is useful in figuring out how to patch holes in the funnel to reduce the number of lost customers.

Dan Bernoske makes the point that although user reviews posted online are valuable sources of information to learn from buyers and non-buyers alike, there is no substitute for face-to-face conversations about a buyer's experience with your company and products. Transform your sales force from product sellers to information gatherers and relationship builders. The win-loss interview is a methodology for making the transformation possible.

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