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

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