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Want to Win Your Next Big Sale? Win Lab It

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

When it comes to winning big sales opportunities, sales leaders often share 2 complaints:

  1. Sellers aren't proactive. They fail to drive their most important sales opportunities forward with determination and rigor.
  2. Even when sellers are proactive, they don't follow a consistent process to put themselves in the best position to win the sale.

Based on our research and experience, we've found that the key to fixing these management headaches is to focus on opportunity planning, and installing the discipline in sellers to follow the plan.

In fact, the better sellers are at planning for sales opportunities, the higher the win rate. The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research recently studied the effects of sales opportunity management process and win rate. We asked, "Which of the statements below best describes the organization's overall process for winning individual sales opportunities."

51% of respondents have not formally defined their sales process. From the 49% who have, we compared 3 levels of sales process maturity: level 3 "Defined," level 4 "Managed," and level 5 "World-class."

The stronger opportunity management process, the greater the win rate.

Average (Mean) Win / Loss Rate by Sales Process Maturity Level


When you suggest to sellers, however, something like, "Let's build an opportunity plan," it feels flat. Like a chore. No energy. Still, you need to do it to win.

To inspire intense pursuit of big sales opportunities, change the way you talk about sales opportunity planning. Enter the concept of the "Win Lab."

A Win Lab is a collaborative, rigorous process to generate the best ideas, strategies, and action plans to win a sales opportunity. The term itself has an important effect on company culture. When planning for a big opportunity and you say to your sales team, "Let's Win Lab it," you get energy, enthusiasm, and focus.

The definition of a Win Lab includes 4 characteristics, each one significant for achieving the best outcomes:

  1. Win Labbing is a rigorous process. Without a standard approach to sales opportunity management—including effective tools, job aids, and checklists to support thinking—sellers often forget important steps, lose focus, and fail.

  2. Win Labbing inspires ideas and strategies. When performing win/loss analyses on major opportunities, we've heard countless times, "The competition did something bold and creative that we didn't think of, and they won." A fundamental tenet of Win Labbing is that it creates the platform for coming up with the ideas and strategies that will leave the competition scratching their heads and losing to you.

    Read: How to Win Big Sales Opportunities with Big Plays

  3. Win Labbing results in an action plan. The act of planning done right almost inevitably creates energy, enthusiasm, and confidence in pursuing a sale. What often lacks afterward is execution. With a written action plan, sellers know what to do now, next, and for the rest of the sales process. A written action plan also provides sales managers with the opportunity to help sellers make the plan as strong as possible, and hold sellers accountable for getting everything done and done right.

  4. Win Labbing is collaborative. When sellers work together with the right resources at their companies, and collaborate directly with their buyers, they are much more successful than when they work alone.

The last point is crucial. At your average organization, sellers tend to create opportunity plans alone. The problem is that sellers (and people) are almost universally good at some things and not others.

When they work alone, sellers often either make critical mistakes, or completely miss opportunities to:

  • Investigate buyers and their situations, challenges, and strategic agendas
  • Discover both explicit and hidden needs
  • Build components of the solution that could make a difference for the buyer
  • Create and communicate the return on investment (impact) case
  • Define the most compelling value and sales messaging for a particular sale
  • Prepare and respond to objections and minimize vulnerabilities
  • Strategize ideas and creative tactics to give them every advantage to win
  • Create the action plan that will best move the sale forward

The real magic happens when the right players on the team collaborate in the Win Lab to cover these various areas. When sellers work together, they push each other to be better. A brainstorming session lets creative ideas and strategies flow. It also ensures everyone is on the same page and held accountable for sticking to the written action plan.

The result: A compelling opportunity plan that is as strong as possible and executed on.

Our research bears this out. In our Benchmark Report on Top Performance in Strategic Account Management, we analyzed the factors that set the companies with the strongest revenue, profit, and client satisfaction growth in their existing accounts apart from the rest.

One of the greatest differences between high performers and the rest was their internal, collaborative process to discover ways they could be of most value to their accounts. Check out the figure below:

Process to internally assess and evaluate additional value that can be brought to strategic accounts


The same holds true for sales opportunity management. Those companies that work collaboratively to plan for ways to maximize the value they can offer, and how to communicate that value to buyers, win the most sales across the board.

This is why the concept of Win Labbing is so important. It implies and drives collaboration, which drives more wins. 

Last Updated August 14, 2023

Topics: Sales Research Sales Opportunity Management