Negative Research Note Threatens Incumbent Status

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThis post is one in a series of case studies on analyst relations teams have worked with their sales colleagues to grow the company’s top line. Readers that have AR-sales stories they would like to turn into case studies are encouraged to contact SageCircle. We will do the work of creating a case study at no charge.

About the Company:

The vendor in this case is a billion-dollar computer hardware and services company that sells to large enterprises with a direct sales force. The analyst relations (AR) team consists of one AR manager plus some support from the vendor’s PR agency.

Situation:

The problem started with a very negative research note from a major advisory firm that raised FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in a financial services industry customer. The vendor was the long time incumbent supplier of hardware infrastructure. The negative analyst commentary called into doubt the vendor’s ability to remain a viable player in the market. While the analyst had become more skeptical of the vendor’s capabilities, this research note was unexpected due to the harshness of its tone.

The fallout was immediate and dramatic. The EVP of IT at the customer waved the research note at the vendor’s major account team leader, threatening to put future business up for bid. The revenues at risk were $10m+ in annual hardware, related software, and services sales.

Action:

Because the sales account manager knew exactly how the problem originated, he started searching for an internal resource for assistance. The account manager did not know about the existence of AR, but simple started asking everybody and was eventually pointed in the direction of AR.

After investigating the situation, AR pulled together a portfolio of counter-balancing research from competing firms… and colleagues of the negative analyst at the same firm.

AR coached the sales account manager how to Continue reading

Selling the Concept of an AR-Sales Partnership – November AR Coffee Talk

icon-coffee-talks.jpgThe idea of an AR -Sales partnership is very powerful. But, how you do sell your executive sponsors and Sales it is a great idea to invest in? – You already know that working with sales in a coordinated fashion can leverage the value and influence of the industry analysts. But how do you sell this idea to your executive sponsor, the sales management, and perhaps even other team members? In this AR coffee talk we will discuss techniques for educating these groups on how AR and sales working together can drive top line revenue growth.

Join us to chat about approaches to take when discussing this concept , and what proof points to offer your stakeholders.

November 3 at 10 AM Pacific      Free - Click here to register

November 11 at 8 AM Pacific      Free - Click here to register

AR Coffee Talks

Networking and chatting with peers is a great way to expand your knowledgebase. Unfortunately, we do not always have the time to Continue reading

How AR used analyst inquiry to help an end user make a decision leading to a $1.2m win (Case Study)

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThis post is one in a series of case studies on analyst relations teams have worked with their sales colleagues to grow the company’s top line. Readers that have AR-sales stories they would like to turn into case studies are encouraged to contact SageCircle. We will do the work of creating a case study at no charge. 

About the Company: The IT vendor in this case is a multi-billion dollar server and storage hardware company that sells to large enterprises with a direct sales force. The analyst relations (AR) team consists of one director and three AR managers. There is a formal but early stage AR-Sales Partnership program in place.

Situation: This project was kicked off by an email from a sale representative to the analyst relations (AR) lead on the AR-Sales Partnership program requesting assistance. The email read in part:

“…IT shops in large healthcare organizations are very project driven.  They get funding for special projects, approved by the Board of Directors, which are unpredictable at best.  …

Recently, we were approached by <prospect> to provide a hardware quote for about $1.2Million of servers and storage.  They have been tasked to present the platform solution to the <prospect> Board of Directors and one of the issues they need to address is server and storage life cycle.  In support of their ROI analysis they needed an unbiased 3rd party statement on server refresh.  That is where this request is coming from. …”

Action:  The AR manager worked with the sales representative to arrange an inquiry with an advisory analyst to discuss server refresh decision methodology and how to create a business case to present to the Board of Directors. The steps that AR took were: Continue reading

Rapid Response by AR saves a $35 Million Deal (Case Study)

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThis post is one in a series of case studies on analyst relations teams have worked with their sales colleagues to grow the company’s top line. Readers that have AR-sales stories they would like to turn into case studies are encouraged to contact SageCircle. We will do the work of creating a case study at no charge.

About the Company: The IT vendor in this case study is a $6 billion per year IT professional services and outsourcing company that sells to governments and large corporations. The AR department consisted of one AR director and one AR coordinator.

Situation:  AR was notified by Sales that a bid for a $35m services opportunity never materialized because a major analyst firm had not included the company on the short list. This was puzzling because the AR department had recently developed a good relationship with the analyst in charge of research for this market.

Action:  The AR director did an inquiry with SageCircle to develop an appropriate course of action. After the inquiry, the AR director contacted her colleague in Sales to obtain more information. The underlying cause of the short list exclusion was that the prospect had outsourced several components of the vendor selection process to a major analyst firm’s consulting group. The analyst firm consultant’s job was to create the request for proposal (RFP), set up the vendor short list in collaboration with the client, send the RFP to the selected vendors, and then evaluate the responses. The client was to make the final vendor selection decision based on the work the consultant had done.

The key item found during the investigation was that the analyst firm employee was a consultant not an analyst. A follow-up inquiry with a SageCircle strategist provided the AR director with the critical insight that analyst firm consultants do not always work with the analysts, even though a close relationship between analyst and consultant is often implied when analyst firms sell consulting engagements. Quite often, consultants refer to written research and do not actually talk with analysts, even from their own firm. Exacerbating this situation, consultants often Continue reading

Sales impact is the ultimate proof of analyst relevance

AR Metrics & MeasurementThe AR Coffee Talk on “Proving to Executives Analyst Relevance” was one of SageCircle’s most attended events with many questions and comments coming in from participants. This illustrates that the perception – or wishful thinking – among some vendor executives that industry analysts are no longer relevant in the age of the Internet and social media is a major issue for analyst relations (AR) teams. 

During the AR Coffee Talk, SageCircle provided a number of ways that AR could educate their executives and stakeholders about why the facts do not support the perception that analyst influence is waning. Some suggestions focused on explaining what the advisory analysts really sell (hint: it’s not written research), others on the financial performance of the two public companies (FORR and IT) and others on how the largest advisory analyst firms are adopting social media. The most important proof point however is how the advisory analyst influences vendors’ revenues.

There are four ways that AR can collect data about the impact on sales:

  • Ask the analysts – easy to do and can provide useful anecdotes, but not hard data
  • Ask the customers – surveying the customers and prospects provides good data, but is expensive to do and can only be done infrequently
  • Wait for sales representatives to call AR – these are real world sales deals with great Continue reading

Launching the AR-Sales Partnership: It’s Not About Pushing Out Research Reprints

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThe more awareness sales reps have about the role analysts play in enterprise buying decisions, the more leverage they will have in closing deals.  AR can play a pivotal role in this process by providing Sales with the right information and services, in the right amounts, at the right times during the buying cycle.  With this approach, AR can help drive top line growth and transition from a cost center to a strategic profit center. 

It’s Not About Pushing Out Research Reprints

Quite often the success or failure of the sales representative hangs on how well he or she overcomes a hurdle created by analyst recommendations.  Unfortunately, the typical vendor sales team has not been educated about who the analysts are, what they do, and how to overcome negative commentary.  As a consequence, salespeople experience high levels of frustration as deals go to competitors, sales cycles lengthen, and contract negotiations go in favor of the buyer.

In order to exploit positive research or to mitigate negative analyst comments sales executives need to work with AR to prepare tools and train their sales teams on certain basics about the analysts’ role in the IT industry.  What needs to be avoided is the temptation to overwhelm the sales force with too much training, too many tools, and too much raw information.  The goal of the AR-Sales Partnership is to equip the sales force with the minimal tools and knowledge needed to deal with the analysts and how to get help when the situation moves beyond the training.

To help AR executives and teams decide when and how to support sales, SageCircle has a public half-day workshop focused on how to incorporate an AR-Sales Partnership Program into the AR portfolio.

Key Issues to be addressed in this workshop include:

  • What are the characteristics of a great AR-Sales partnership plan that provides the necessary detail without taking too much work?
  • How can AR sell the AR-Sales program to its Continue reading

So you were left off a Wave or Magic Quadrant – what next?

We don't exist according to ForresterIn January 2009, The Forrester Wave™: Community Platforms, Q1 2009 was published. This happened to be the inaugural publication of a Wave for this particular market. The primary author of this Wave was Jeremiah Owyang (bio, Twitter handle, blog) who conducted an incredibly transparent – for a Forrester or Gartner analyst – process for the creation of this Wave (see list of relevant blog posts at the end of this post). Jeremiah’s use of social media gave vendors in this nascent market plenty of opportunity to know what was going on with this research.

As is with the case with any piece of analyst research covering a new, dynamic, and extremely fragmented market only a fraction of the possible vendors can be fit into the time and space available. In this case, it was nine of more than 100 vendors. Neighborhood America, a social networking platform vendor, was left off the Community Platform Wave and did not take kindly to the exclusion. Neighborhood America created a web page, “Why weren’t we included in the Forrester Wave Report?”, to tell its side of the story. They also put a link on their home page (graphic above) to make sure visitors knew to go to the page. The explanation was reasonably well done (SageCircle would have counseled some additional text to provide context) and did not overtly attack either Forrester or the analyst. The latter part is important because an attack would have looked like sour grapes by a sore loser.

This was a very smart step to do. You can see the Community Platforms Wave graphic on Flickr and the PDF of the research note is easily available for free on the web. As a consequence, Neighborhood America prospects might see the graphic or Wave research and decide to drop them from a pending sales opportunity without further information. While Neighborhood America’s response will not get the breadth of readership that a Forrester research note will, it is a useful exercise.

SageCircle does not know the exact details about why Continue reading

Analysts can be excellent guest speakers at Sales training sessions

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAn interesting service that analyst relations can provide the company’s sales organization is arranging for an industry analyst to be a guest speaker at an internal sales training event. This could span the range from a main stage speech at the annual sales kickoff to a 15-minute discussion as part of a regular weekly sales team call. Topics can cover a broad range from changes in the competitive landscape, to what the analyst is hearing from end users, to why enterprise technology buyers use the analysts. We have yet to hear of a situation where the analyst session was not one of the highest rated sessions at a major sales event. Of course, the analyst has to have great content and snappy presentation skills. But in general feet-on-street sales representatives love to hear what the analysts have to say and to grill them with tough questions. 

There are a number of benefits for all constituencies in having an analyst guest speaker:

  • Your Sales representatives – valuable information and insights to help them close business
  • Sales training department – a special guest that will “perk up the audience,” especially after lunch at a multi-day sales kickoff
  • Sales managers
    • An agenda item on a regular team call that will get the sales staff to either a) attend and/or b) stop doing email with the mute button on and pay attention
    • Competitive market insights that will help them fine tune their plans and Continue reading

Take a retail approach early in an AR Sales-Partnership to drive adoption

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAR teams that are early in an AR-Sales Partnership Program launch logically take a “wholesale” approach to getting the word out about how Sales can take advantage of AR’s expertise to handle the influence of the analysts on sales deals. This wholesale approach typically includes sending out mass emails both directly or through field communications, participating in regular all hands teleconferences, and posting information on an internal portal. These are all worthy activities. Unfortunately they might not be sufficient steps because sales teams are bombarded with similar messages from other parts of the company and AR’s news gets lost. To cut through the noise, AR should incorporate some retail selling to complement the wholesale outreach.

By “retail” we mean working with an individual sales representative or small team in a pilot project (see AR–Sales Partnership [part 4]: Take baby steps by rolling out a small pilot phase). This affords AR the opportunity to work with Sales on a consistent basis to identify opportunities to help in a deal and try to inculcate new habits. While significantly more time consuming than the typical wholesale approach, adopting retail techniques can help AR develop credibility, generate testimonials to be used in wholesale outreach, and potentially start word-of-mouth buzz. The last is especially useful because nothing works better than one sales rep telling another “You have to work with AR because they can turn that Magic Quadrant situation around for you!”

SageCircle Technique:

  • Incorporate a pilot project into the AR-Sales Partnership launch plan
  • Select a pilot group who will let AR Continue reading

Support sales managers as well as feet-on-the-street sales representatives

icon-dollar-euro.jpgTypically when it comes to supporting the sales organization the primary focus of AR is helping quota carrying sales representatives mitigate negative analyst commentary and leverage positive analyst research. This is extremely valuable, both to AR and the vendor, but there is another group inside sales that can benefit from AR’s support: sales management.

AR should consider investing in supporting sales managers because building relationships with this key constituency will increase the understanding about how the AR-Sales Partnership program leads to greater cooperation. Remember the AR-Sales Partnership is not just about AR providing value to Sales, but also Sales providing value (e.g., sales impact data, political support and resources) to the AR team.

Supporting sales managers should be done, as in all new initiatives, in phases so that AR can learn the basics before going to advanced activities. Nor does adding this support require any budget in the beginning. Some example activities include: 

  • AR should conduct a short strategic briefing for the sales managers on how key analysts influence markets and customers
    • Level: Basic
    • Budget: None
    • Effort: Low
  • AR can arrange for an analyst to participant on a short phone call as part of the sales executive’s regular team call to answer Continue reading

Asking analysts about sales impact [Practitioner Question]

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAt last week’s workshop “Launching an AR-Sales Partnership Program” we had a number of insightful questions.  We posted one item already about getting feedback from recorded sales training but here is another that came from a participant. 

We were suggesting the use of inquiry as a way of asking analysts about the influence they have in your market space.  Questions such as “how many short lists did you review in the past week (month)?” are examples of ways that a short inquiry can be used to approximate the impact on sales.  However, what if you don’t have a contract and cannot do an inquiry?

We always suggest that inquiry access with your key (tier one) analysts is a requirement for AR teams.  But with the current economy and associated tight AR budgets we are hearing of some teams that wind up without all the desired contracts.  So how do you pose these questions without inquiry?

Most analysts will reply to well-placed and appropriate questions during a briefing (note: this has been a problem with Gartner analysts – we suggested a workaround in the SageInsight sent to client “Schedule inquiries the day after briefing Gartner analysts to deal with the ‘no questions during briefings’ issue”).  We always suggest that you have prepared a sequence of general questions to go with every interaction of any type.  These of course include such things as “what research are you working on next?” or “what interesting thing did you learn at the XXX conference”.  Placed in context you could also ask about the kinds of questions that IT buyer clients are asking or places where the market might be changing.  This gives you the rationale to ask questions that would give you insights into the influence this analyst has in a particular market.

While having inquiry privilege is the best approach you can be creative and still get some information.

Another potential resource is the analyst firms’ account representatives. They Continue reading

Getting started with an AR-Sales Partnership is as simple as 1-2-3

icon-dollar-euro.jpgany analyst relations (AR) managers perceive that an AR-Sales Partnership is a complex and time consuming endeavor which they simply do not have time to initiate. While a full scale AR-Sales program for a large vendor does take significant resources, getting started does not have to require a lot of work. Rather, AR can conduct a feasibility pilot for a modest investment.

SageCircle Technique:

  1. Understand your options
    1. Educate yourself about the concept and the issues
    2. Involve stakeholders, both your management and Sales
    3. Make a Go/No Go decision on whether it is practical to proceed to step 2
  2. Determine required investments
    1. Develop a plan
    2. Identify investments required to for a pilot project and estimated requirements for a full rollout
    3. Make a Go/No Go decision on whether to launch a pilot project
  3. Launch a pilot project
    1. Train pilot sales team
    2. Deliver information and tools
    3. Assist on sales deals
    4. Collect data and insights
    5. Make a Go/No decision on whether to move to the next phase of limited production

Bottom Line: Getting started with an AR-Sales Continue reading

Does your Sales Force Hunger for Information about the IT Analysts?

icon-dollar-euro.jpg At a multi-day all-hands sales meeting, one SageCircle client gave a short 15-minute talk to his company’s sales force on the IT analysts. After the meeting, the VP of sales brought to the AR manager’s attention that on the written evaluations of the all-hands meeting almost every sales representative mentioned the information about the analysts as one of the top three take-aways. In addition, getting more information about the analysts was considered one of the top areas for follow up.  Impressive! What makes this story even more powerful is that the AR talk was totally unscheduled and impromptu. The AR manager happened to be sitting in the audience during a marketing communications one-hour session when he was asked if he would like to make a few comments about AR and sales. With no formal presentation, the AR manager provided a succinct description of the issue and fielded some questions. Even though the presentation was ad hoc and not on the evaluation form to be formally scored, the topic was of such intense interest to the average sales representative that they consistently ranked it as one of the top talks.

This is not an aberration. 

When SageCircle strategists have done sales force training sessions – whether face-to-face, via webinar, or on a teleconference – the interest is always very high with lots of questions from the sales team. This is because the average sales rep is the one bearing the brunt of the analyst impact on their sales cycles. It is his or her ability to make quota and go to President’s Club that is on the line when an IT analyst is talking to a prospect. As a consequence, when offered information about the analysts and how to use them, or how to recover from negative comments, the sales reps welcome the opportunity.

Many AR departments assume that it will be a struggle to get the attention of their sales force in order to Continue reading

Encouraging your Sales Force to ask Questions

icon-dollar-euro.jpgne of the strategic initiatives AR should be focusing on is “Arm Sales – Close Business” which means creating training and tools for the sales organization to deal with analyst impact on sales opportunities. While this is an excellent idea, there is the not-so-small matter of getting Sale’s to cooperate.

Most sales organizations are manically focused on closing business. A common complaint from Sales is that they are bombarded with “junk” from other parts of the company which wastes time and interferes with their single-minded pursuit of making quota. 

One of the very easy tasks that sales representatives can do is ask their prospects and customers about their use of the analysts. This can be done during their initial qualification activities or at any other point in the sales cycle. Why ask questions?  Doing so can:

  • Prevent sales cycles from being derailed
  • Identify situations where a potential lever is available that could accelerate a sales cycle

IT vendor sales representatives are often blind-sided by specific analyst comments late Continue reading

AR-Sales Partnership is powerful… and scary

icon-dollar-euro.jpgOne of the more common inquiries we are handling these days is on the topic of launching an AR-Sales partnership program. The AR manager is obviously intrigued by the idea but a little concerned as well.  This would be true for any person confronting a potentially new challenge. In addition, other AR pundits like Forrester’s Kevin Lucas have actively advised AR programs not to support sales in a number research notes like “Industry Analyst Relations Should Focus On Achievable Objectives: Supporting Sales Is The Hardest Challenge For AR” and “Should AR Focus On Sales? It’s Not Just The Wrong Question – It’s Downright Misleading”. Wow, that does make working with Sales to be a scary proposition.

 However, we know from research over the last eight years and personal experience running an AR-Sales program at one of the largest global vendors that when done right an AR-Sales partnership delivers real business value. Let’s quickly review some pros and cons:

 Why consider avoiding it

  • It might open the floodgates as there are many more sales reps than AR team members
  • Getting Sales attention and time is difficult
  • Developing a collaborative relationship takes time
  • How do you find the time for a new initiative when you are already overloaded

 Why consider doing it

  • Provides your company with a competitive advantage
  • Attacks a significant pain point for Sales – one which is often unexpressed
  • Promotes AR as a critical strategic Continue reading

Leverage the existing sales infrastructure, don’t reinvent the wheel

icon-dollar-euro.jpgOne of SageCircle’s recommendations for AR programs thinking about launching an AR-Sales Partnership Program is to leverage the existing sales infrastructure for training, information distribution, and sales support. These are all critical aspects of creating a partnership, but AR simply does not have the resources to reinvent what the sales organization has already built. In addition, sales representatives will be much more likely to work within their existing system than to add other communications methods. 

SageCircle Technique:

  • Add an AR-Sales Partnership element to your regular AR Strategic and Tactical Plan including goals for the year
  • Start with a modest pilot project (SageCircle clients can request a copy of the “Simple Steps for Starting an AR-Sales Program”)
  • Identify the key players inside the Continue reading

AR-Sales partnering – comments from AR managers at the Coffee Talk

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThere was a great turn out at the two February Coffee Talks on the topic of AR and Sales partnering to drive revenues. The best part of the Coffee Talks is when AR managers share their experiences and ask questions. Here are some of the comments from the past two Coffee Talks. 

Comment: Dana Stiffler (AMR analyst, Twitter handle) tracks the value of the deals she is influencing…

SageCircle: Not many analysts are savvy enough to formally track that kind of information like Dana. However, most analysts can give you a top-of-mind feel for the number of deals they are advising technology buyers on in a typical week or month and a rough average of size per deal. Not scientific, but this info can provide useful anecdotal points for AR teams to use with their executive sponsors.

Comment: I had a panel at a sales kickoff where sales folks told their success stories of working with analysts and AR… it was the best way to instantly gain credibility.

SageCircle: Sales reps want to know what techniques work so this type of “customer panel” is incredibility effective. To make it even more effective, AR can follow with tips-and-tricks and lessons learned from these sales reps to be posted on the internal sales portal/blog, included in regular sales newsletters, and during regular sales team conference calls. Repetition is a critical success factor to making sure that the training about the analyst impact on sales deals sticks.

Comment: Most good sales people understand the value of relationships and once you’ve helped them, they “pay you back” by keeping you informed… when they remember.  Best thing is to keep a tickler file and check back with them regularly for a status.

SageCircle: One of the common questions we get when talking about AR-Sales Partnerships is whether the sale reps will give anything back or share credit with AR. The answer is absolutely because smart sales reps will want Continue reading

Do I place my bets on AR-Sales partnering or adopting social media?

icon-dollar-euro.jpgQuestion: If I had to choose between starting an AR-Sales partnership or launching a social media initiative, which way should I go? If I did both, but with limited resources, how should I divide my efforts?

 During the happy hour after the first session of our STRATEGIC ISSUES advanced AR seminar, one of the attendees asked these great questions. Both Dave and Carter answered immediately and in unison:

     “AR-Sales!”

Why? Even a simple AR-Sales partnership pilot will give the AR team an opportunity to gather real world examples of the analysts impacting sales opportunities. These types of hard sales numbers, even in anecdotal form, are powerful tools for illustrating the strategic value of AR. In addition, a pilot project can Continue reading

AR & Recession – AR needs to help Sales deal with analysts’ cost cutting advice

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAt SageCircle we keep our eye on all aspects of the analyst ecosystem. This includes other bloggers with opinions about the analysts. In a very uninformed blog post, Irrelevance doesn’t pay, analystsanalyst said that analysts should “… start telling people how to save money and jobs, NOW.” What a nonsensical statement. Does analystsananlyst not know that helping their end-user clients save money is the bread-and-butter advice for Gartner and Forrester (and META and Giga before they were acquired)? Has analystsanalyst not looked at Gartner’s IT and the Economy theme webpage, which is about gathering all the research on cost optimization? Did analystsanalysts not follow SageCircle’s lead and listen to Gartner’s February 5th earnings call where CEO Gene Hall mentioned 

“… In consulting, fourth quarter results were stronger than expected and this was driven by robust demand for our contract optimization and benchmarking services. These unique services directly help our clients lower costs and their outperformance continued the positive trends from the second and third quarters. …”

Obviously, analystsanalyst has never been an effective end-client of Gartner or Forrester, because s/he would have received cost cutting, job saving advice over the last quarter century in good economic times or bad. Obviously, analystsanalyst has never been in a technology vendor’s AR or sales department (like SageCircle’s clients) and had to struggle with fixing a sales situation where an analyst has given a prospect totally unrealistic discount advice.

Geez.

Ok, enough venting. (The preceding rant represents the personal opinion of the commentator and does not necessarily represent the opinion of SageCircle, its clients or sponsors. Now back to our regulat AR best practices discussion.)

The above rant is quite serious in that every AR manager should be very aware that advisory analysts, especially Gartner, are constantly giving advice to vendor’s prospects on cost cutting. This “cost optimization” advice is especially impactful during Continue reading

Gartner Consulting could be lurking in the background of active sales opportunities

icon-dollar-euro.jpgIn last week’s Gartner Q4 and FY08 earnings call there was a very interesting point that CEO Gene Hall made:

“… In consulting, fourth quarter results were stronger than expected and this was driven by robust demand for our contract optimization and benchmarking services. These unique services directly help our clients lower costs and their outperformance continued the positive trends from the second and third quarters. …”

This statement should make IT and telecommunications vendors sit up and take notice. Gartner’s Cost Optimization Services consultants could be working on enterprise IT purchasing projects that directly impact sales opportunities – and not always positively for any particular vendor. 

Unfortunately for vendors, the information you give to a Gartner analyst does not always flow over to their consulting colleagues. Thus, the Gartner consultant could be relying on published research notes, which only tell part of the story and have none of the nuance or most current vendor information that is inside the analyst’s head. As a consequence, uninformed consultants might be leaving vendors off a vendor bid list or short changing their capabilities.

It is important that vendor sales representatives determine when Gartner Consulting is part of an IT organization’s procurement team for a project. While the end user might mention that Continue reading

AR’s evolution from a cost center to something more akin to a strategic profit center

icon-dollar-euro.jpgIn the past few months, SageCircle has seen increased interest in how AR can support sales and set up an effective measurement program that focuses on outcomes (e.g., impact on revenues) rather than activities (e.g., number of briefings in a month). The convergence of interest in measurement and in supporting sales makes sense given that AR programs that have accomplished their first strategic AR objective – “Shape Market Perception to Generate Leads” – are now focusing on “Arming Sales to Close Business.”  Supporting sales and tracking analyst revenue impact is the process that elevates AR from a cost center to something approaching a profit center.

How can AR best support sales in a practical fashion given constrained resources and also measure its impact on the company’s revenues? While there are no easy answers to these Continue reading

Quantifying the Impact of the Analysts on Sales

icon-dollar-euro.jpgI was speaking with a client at a small vendor who was not having any problems getting her executives’ attention and support for AR. Why? Her executives understand that the analysts’ impact a minimum of US$6-7MM sales per quarter. They know the dollar impact on sales because this AR manager diligently captures information about deal size when sales representatives call her for assistance. 

Another client asked me to review a PowerPoint chart he had created. It was a very powerful chart because, again, it showed the millions in revenues that started as analyst-related leads – in this case, over 20% of the company’s annual revenues. Similarly, this second client also has no problem getting executive attention and support.

Showing the dollars, euros, yen or pounds the analysts have their fingerprints on presents a very powerful business case to top-line focused executives – and these days, which executives are not revenue focused? Yet, when presented with this approach, many AR managers simply shrug and say that they could never get their sales force to provide them with this information. However, when we ask whether they get calls from upset sales reps or managers about deals negatively impacted by analysts, invariably they say “yes.” Bam! The light goes on that Continue reading

Tool for Sales – The Prospect Profile Form

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThe analysts possess a wealth of information that can help vendor sales organizations better understand their prospects. The question is how to get the information from the analysts. SageCircle has put together a simple process and checklist that AR can use to conduct a structured inquiry with key analysts to collect and organize important information about your prospects. The process is simple. Schedule an inquiry with one or two of your Tier 1 analysts (with whom you have Inquiry privileges). Use the questions on the Prospect Profile checklist to gather information from the analyst and enter the responses into the form. After finishing the inquiry, complete the form and forward it to sales.

There are two main categories of input that you are looking for: “Analyst’s Perceptions about the Prospect or its Peer Group” and “Analyst’s Perceptions about Your Differentiation in this Situation.” Within each main category there are sub questions like market, prospect and business challenges. 

Besides obtaining valuable information and insights for your sales teams, using this technique is also a great way to improve your relationships with key analysts. As we mentioned Continue reading

How closely does AR, PR and Sales have to coordinate?

Here is an interesting comment (click to enlarge) that might portend a problem for technology vendors in the near future:

This reminds me of the discussions in the mid-90′s around the then nascent market category of customer relattionship management (CRM). One of the perceived benefits of CRM was that it would provide companies a single view of the customer that would make life easier for the customer and provide business value to the company. But there was also huge disagreements over who would “own” the customer: customer service, marketing or sales.

Today, people are starting to play multiple roles as customers, influencers, collaborators and Continue reading

Why AR Matters – Analysts can get your company on short lists that you were excluded from

icon-dollar-euro.jpgMost analyst relations (AR) professionals are in an environment where they have to continually justify the relevance of the industry analysts and AR. One of the best arguments for justifying the investment in AR is the impact analysts have on the company’s sales opportunities. Usually the easiest to find examples are negative, such as when an analyst’s commentary has caused a vendor to be removed or excluded from a short list, because a sales rep will be howling in anger. However, with some investigation AR can turn up positive impacts of the analysts, e.g., when an analyst has been your advocate by getting your company onto a short list.

In Reality Check: Sales reps matter more than product on the Software Insider blog, former Forrester analyst and current VP of Research at SSPA John Ragsdale illustrates how an analyst with a simple question can help a vendor get placement on a vendor short list. 

“…Over the last year I have become increasingly aware of something and wanted to share it with a larger audience. When I have conversations with companies about a pending software purchase (usually CRM or eService), they tell me the core business problems they are trying to solve, then give me the list of vendors they are considering. And almost every time, I hear a little jingle from Sesame Street in my head:

     “One of these things is not like the other
     One of these things just doesn’t belong
     Can you guess which thing is not like the other
     By the time I finish this song?

“Why? Because the obvious vendor(s) who are specialists in their problem are not on the list, and they are selecting from a group of vendors who all do something else. So I ask, “Um, why isn’t Vendor X on the list?” And here is the universal reply. ‘Oh, we started with them, but Continue reading

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