This shouldn’t be a grand inquisition, nor should it be too cursory or casual. Ask too much and you’ll frustrate and bore them. Ask too little and they’ll wonder why you wasted their time (and possibly reinforce why you lost the deal).
The person conducting the review should be the person who owns the overall process from the business, not someone from within sales or marketing. When the time comes to interview the buyer, the reviewer should be prepped with info gathered from the process coordinator, which includes data from the sales funnel, and well-informed of the circumstances of the sale from the rep’s notes.
While the tone and dialogue should feel conversational (as opposed to scripted), it is helpful to capture answers to the interview questions in a standard template or format, which helps to ensure consistency and thoroughness.
After introductions and pleasantries are exchanged, ask some basic questions and then drill down and probe when appropriate. Listen for feedback regarding not only the sales rep, but also your product or service, delivery, pricing, and reputation.
For wins, ask:
- Why did we win?
- What specifically set us apart from the competition?
- Are there any specific areas where the competition was stronger than us?
For losses or disqualifications, ask:
- What was it about the competitor that made you select them?
- How well did our solution align to your needs?
- What was the problem that you were really trying to solve?
- How effective were our salespeople?
- Were there any breakdowns in our selling process?
- Why did you decide not to go forward at this time (for disqualifications)?
- What can we do differently next time?
It is crucially important to ask the question and be quiet while the buyer responds. You can give subtle words of encouragement, such as, “this is very helpful, thank you” to motivate them to give more and better information and elicit a response. But if it’s not there, then don’t force it — you certainly don’t want to antagonize the person being interviewed. And regardless of their answers or demeanor, resist the temptation to get defensive!
Close by asking them what you could have done better or differently to win their business (if lost) or make the experience even better (if won). If you’ve done a good job of building rapport, this should get to the heart of the matter and yield the information that will be most valuable to you. The insights gleaned from the conversation could be granular, getting down to the macro level covering their overall experience but also perceptions of your solution, price, and the performance of your sales reps.