The 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Win-Loss Program

Some years back, I read a book that helped alter my approach to everyday life and if it is not on your bookshelf it should be. The book was called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Steven R. Covey. In the book, he gives us seven “habits” or processes that we can use to better ourselves and those around us. The 7 Habits Dr. Covey outlines are:

  1. Be Proactive

  2. Begin with the End in Mind

  3. Put First Things First

  4. Think Win/Win

  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

  6. Synergize

  7. Sharpen the Saw

These habits have stuck with me and I can attest to their validity, I have asked myself: How can I apply these concepts when designing and executing an effective Win-Loss Program? Implementing the 7 Habits into a Win-Loss program will have a positive effect on outcomes at an organization and a buyer will want to obtain. The 7 Habits broken down are below.

1. Be Proactive (When Gathering Sample)

In a Win-Loss program, the success of the program is only as good as the sample (or buyers) that can be gathered to study. Being Proactive and constantly getting sample for contacts to interview is the difference between a successful program and a program that fizzles out. With a Win-Loss program this process is streamlined and constantly monitored, so you never have to worry about falling behind.

2. Begin with the End (Winning More) in Mind

With a Win-Loss program, the desired end is obvious: increase your win rates! Having a framework of best practices designed specifically to gather intelligence that will lead to an increased win rate, including best practices for effective sample collection, stakeholder involvement, and debriefing services. Based on best practices, you are able to organize a strategy to execute and thus meeting the end needs of your program.

3. Put First (Actionable) Things First

In order to put first things first (i.e., prioritizing those things that need to be accomplished first before moving on to other issues), you need to first outline everything that needs to be done, and then decide the most effective order for accomplishing your tasks. This is exactly what happens when you debrief with the pursuit team and stakeholders after a Win-Loss interview. During the debrief you find key findings from the interview, and suggest which issues need to be addressed first in order to improve your win rates and to make positive process change happen. Having this sort of laser-accurate focus on the actionable issues from the opportunity and using a collaborative discussion to develop best practices to address them allows you to put first things first.

4. Think Win/Win (and even an EXTRA Win!)

When you put together a Win Loss program you are there to give the information to win in more engagements. Creating a Win/Win situation by offering feedback from debriefs and opening discussions that are not to be punitive or point fingers but open up conversations to create action items that matter. A program will have valuable feedback on what buyers really want, so that a company can offer improved services and products to their customers and prospects. This actually makes it a Win/Win situation for you/your customers.

5. Seek First to Understand (Your Buyers), Then to be Understood (by Yourself)

Debrief sessions of interviews, we first seek to understand the needs of the buyer. Once the needs of the buyer are understood, then the information can be relayed to the client, who can use the information to undertake a serious examination of how their organization responds (or doesn't respond) to those needs. Therefore, a well-run Managed Win-Loss program not only helps a client understand their customer base—the unbiased, third-party nature of the information also gives them a mirror by which they can better understand themselves.

6. Synergize (and Analyze!)

When we synergize, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (1+1=3). Gathering information from both quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews will allow metrics and data collection to take place and the true buyer opinions to be expressed. Using sophisticated analytic tools will allow organizations to see thewhole story. With the information from surveys you can evaluate scoring and with the individual interviews, you develop trends that your organization can then utilize to develop better products or services that the buyer needs. In this way, the sum of the parts leads to a more effective whole.

7. Sharpen the Saw (and Cut Down the Competition!)

Sharpening the saw is a process of constant self-renewal and improvement. In Win-Loss, it is the culmination of bringing all the pieces of a Win-Loss Program together so that your organization can constantly be aware of why they are winning and losing in engagements and adapting to those reasons to remain effective in their marketplace. By continually getting the right sample to interview, debriefing with those involved in the sales engagements, and involving the appropriate stakeholders, clients can ensure that they are not letting their edges dull—instead, they will remain sharp and change what used to be mere possibilities into probabilities.


Covey, S. R. (2013). The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Anniversary Edition. New York: Simon & Schuster.

#salesintelligence #winlossanalysis #competitiveintelligence #strategy

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