Episode #100 of the B2B Market Research Podcast: Lost a Client? Don’t Generalize from a Specific
During this podcast, we cover:
- How to determine if losing a client is an isolated incident or if you have a new competitor.
- Why it’s important to enlist your sales team’s help.
- How to build a digital footprint of the competitor by investigating its size, workforce, partnerships, funding and other telling metrics.
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Sean Campbell – CEO of Cascade Insights
How do you know that you’re not generalizing from a specific? That’s the topic of today’s podcast.
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Now let’s get into the topic of today’s podcast. Regardless of your role in your company, you’ve probably come across this scenario: your phone rings and there’s a loss to a major competitor. Worse yet, the person calling about the loss is an executive.
In this scenario, it is important to distinguish whether a new competitor has been born or if you’re on the verge of generalizing from a specific. That is, wasting time analyzing a loss that’s highly unlikely to happen again.
So how can you tell the difference? How do you know if you’re generalizing from a specific or not? How do you know if you’ve just lost in a meaningful way? These are some of the topics that we’re going to cover in this podcast.
Here are some things to consider:
How often has this occurred?
It’s such a simple and elemental question, but it’s a hard one to ask, especially if an executive is asking you to investigate the problem. But it’s an important question to ask, regardless. No matter how big the deal was, no matter how important the client was, if it’s only happened once, it may not happen again for a very long time. That’s the first thing you need to consider.
Have you heard of this competitor before?
The next question you need to ask yourself is whether you have heard of this competitor before? Do you have any additional metrics on their growth? Do you have any history on the competitor?
One of the easiest things you can do is to start building a bit of a digital footprint on the competitor. Do they generate a signal? Do they have any meaningful traffic to their site? Do they seem to show any meaningful customer engagement via case studies or anything similar? What’s the makeup of the competitor’s leadership team? Does this leadership team appear to have the right amount of market insight and ability?
Has your sales team heard about the competitor?
Develop a tracker that your sales team fills out whenever they hear about a competitor for the very first time.
One of the things that you can do – and you can even do it somewhat programmatically – is to develop a tracker that your sales team fills out whenever they hear about a competitor for the very first time. It doesn’t even have to be a competitor that they lost a deal to per se. They simply use the tracker for the first time they heard a new competitor’s name come up in a sales conversation.
Given the fact that most B2B sales cycles take somewhere between 12-18 months to run, sometimes more, sometimes a little less, this provides a great set of early warning signals that you’re collecting over time. So in sum, make sure that you talk to sales team members and say, “Have you heard of this competitor before?” Maybe you haven’t lost to the competitor more than that one time, but the sales team has heard about the competitor several times across a number of different deals over the last few months or the past year. And that’s news you’ll want to have on hand.
Don’t be afraid to call the requestor’s bluff
This can be difficult to do, but it’s important. You need to ask, “How important is this research effort versus other ones that you might undertake?” That’s an important consideration, especially if all the other signals seem to show that this was an isolated loss.
Unknown company? Dig into the competitor’s background and biographies
Finally, what can you do when the competitor is small and somewhat unheard of? Well, first, you want to look at the biography of the owners. Small companies tend to be driven by the talents and the abilities of the leadership of the company and that’s an important thing to investigate. You want to look at the background of these individuals, to determine what kind of companies have they run in the past, and what kind of abilities do they bring to bear today.
You also want to look at simple things like metrics on company size. You can dig into this with tools like LinkedIn or even PrivCo. If the company seems to have received a certain amount of funding, that would be another thing to look at. In short, there are a number of databases you can use.
You also want to make sure that you look at the development staff of the company, because in many cases, especially with technology companies, the number of executives and managers and people that they have on staff may not necessarily be as visible in the same way that the development staff is.
For example, the development staff may be offshore. So, if you simply do a profile of how many employees they have on LinkedIn, you may not be able to see the entire size of the development staff. But you can dig into this. It just takes a little bit more time.
Also, does the company have any meaningful partnerships? Maybe the company has been able to expand their reach through partnerships and the level of competition they’ve been able to generate.
Make sure you look for observable customers, not just case studies.
Make sure you look for observable customers, not just case studies. You can mine things like LinkedIn, job postings, and a variety of other databases to get a sense of whether this organization has sold to a limited number of customers (of which this one loss is included,) or whether they have a certain amount of momentum and you’re about to hear a lot more about them.
Interview your competitor’s customers
…At a minimum you can at least attempt to interview the customer that you lost.
Finally, don’t stop until you’ve interviewed at least one, and preferably a number, of their customers. Again, while you don’t want to generalize too much from a specific, at a minimum you can at least attempt to interview the customer that you lost. If this is a small competitor where this is one of their first wins, and your sales team is saying that they’ve heard a lot about them, you might gain a lot of insight even from that single interview. Again, don’t over-generalize from that specific conversation, but still continue to be diligent until you actually have that conversation.
So in sum there are a bunch of key questions you want to ask yourself when the phone rings and you’ve heard about a loss for the very first time. How often has this occurred? Have you heard of this competitor before? What do other sales team members know about this potential new competitor? Don’t be afraid to call the requestor’s bluff. Finally, use some of those techniques I just mentioned when the competitor is small and somewhat unheard of.
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