Equipping Sales for the MQ Effect: the Magic Quadrant & Tech Vendors [part 7]

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant can have a powerful impact on IT vendor sales cycles – anointing some vendors as a prime candidate for a sales opportunity while denying other vendors even a chance to bid. In order to exploit positive placement on a Magic Quadrant and mitigate negative placement, vendor sales executives need to work with AR to prepare and train their sales teams on certain basics about the Magic Quadrant.

To a large extent the Magic Quadrant is just another form of analyst research that can sales reps have to take into account when working with customers and prospects. However, the MQ does have some unique aspects that have to be addressed including: 

  • Multiple MQs – A vendor can be on any number of MQs, which increases the chances that a prospect will be using wrong research
  • Out-of-date MQs – Earlier versions of a MQ can be available for a long time, which can put a vendor with an improved position at a disadvantage
  • Four boxes, four responses – How a sales responds to or uses a MQ is different depending Continue reading

AR-Sales Partnership case study – Using a teleconference to raise Sale’s awareness of the analysts and improve AR’s strategic standing

icon-dollar-euro.jpgWho: Director of Analyst Relations at a mid-sized enterprise software vendor

Situation: The vendor’s previous CMO would not permit AR to interact with Sales so there was no outreach to the field on analyst impact and how to leverage positive analyst commentary. After a change in both the CMO and AR director positions the situation changed. The new AR director proactively sought permission from the new CMO to start interacting with Sales, which was granted with enthusiasm.

Process: The AR director teamed with the VP of field sales support to determine the best venue and outline for an initial presentation about the impact of the industry analysts. It was determined that Continue reading

AR-Sales Partnership [part 6]: Action items to launch a project

icon-dollar-euro.jpgIn the past several posts we have discussed key ideas of building a bridge to sales and how to start a pilot program.  Now that you have decided to launch your own AR-Sales Partnership program, you need a plan that lists the action items you need to complete.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Educate yourself so you know all your options and have a solid background to explain to others
  • Obtain buy-in from your manager or Continue reading

AR-Sales Partnership [part 5]: Use edu-marketing to drive participation

icon-dollar-euro.jpgOk, you have successfully launched your AR-Sales Partnership Pilot Program. Now you sit and stare at the phone waiting for these selected sales reps to call you asking for help. And you wait. And you wait. And you…

A fact of corporate life is that sales representatives are completely interrupt driven and often will not remember all the tools that are available to them. As a consequence, AR needs to drive participation until the sales reps get into the habit of using AR’s support services. This will be critical to the success of your pilot program and will require resources when you extend the program to the entire sales force.  A technique we suggest is an edu-marketing campaign that uses marketing techniques to educate the Sales team about Continue reading

AR–Sales Partnership [part 4]: Take baby steps by rolling out a small pilot phase

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAR teams can impact company revenues directly through assisting sales representatives, either to overcome negative – or leverage positive – analyst commentary and research to close deals. However, AR managers often shy away from supporting Sales because they fear it will ‘open the floodgates’ to hundreds or thousands of requests. To prevent this deluge, AR can take a phased approach, rolling out a pilot project as the first step.

AR can gather needed expertise and information working with a pilot group of sales representatives (10-20), either as part of a larger AR-Sales Partnership initiative (if has Sales leadership support) or as a skunkworks project (to build the business case for AR Sales support).

Operational Objectives of a Pilot Sales Support Program

AR team members can leverage the skills and processes they use to assist analysts with information requests as a way to support Sales. To effectively Continue reading

AR-Sales Partnership [part 3]: Creating the plan

icon-dollar-euro.jpgWorking with Sales to leverage the analysts’ position in the marketplace to drive sales takes both processes and time. Therefore AR departments should generate a plan that looks at both the long term issues and day-to-day activities. The plan should clearly define goals and outline the programs and execution steps that will be taken to achieve those goals.

The AR-Sales Partnership Program plan will likely be four to 25 pages long. The amount of work required to create it will vary depending on how complex your AR and Sales situations are, what goals are to be achieved by AR-Sales Partnership, the expectations of your executives for this type of planning document, and the impact the IT analysts have on your market.

Your mileage may vary. As with all SageCircle templates and outlines, it is important to apply this Continue reading

AR-Sales Partnership [part 2]: Building the bridge to Sales

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThe first order of business for an analyst relations (AR) team launching an AR-Sales Partnership Program is to sell Sales on the idea. Without buy-in from sales management, AR will not be able to execute a successful partnership and merely waste time. Getting Sales management buy-in will not assure success, but it will certainly provide AR with the required backing needed to get started and overcome certain hurdles.

The first person to approach is to a certain extent determined by the size of your company. If you work for a large tech vendor the person you approach will not be the head of Global Sales. This individual is always under pressure to produce the numbers and often has the CEO, CFO, COO and others breathing down his or her neck. The head of Global Sales is so manically focused on execution that they will not be receptive to a discussion about innovative techniques with somebody they and their direct reports do not know. In addition, the head of sales for a large vendor will have been out of the field so long that they might have forgotten what it was like having a deal squashed by industry analyst commentary. Tech companies that are smaller do open up the opportunity to go directly to the top, but even in this situation we recommend that AR seek out a different individual.

What AR needs is a savvy sales rep or local sales manager who can coach the AR team on Continue reading

Training the sales reps: keep it simple, short, small words [Vendor Sales]

icon-dollar-euro.jpgOK, that title was not fair to the sales team, but it makes a good point about how to do training.  Often AR teams try to teach sales so much about analysts that they overwhelm them and miss the real point.

The sales team needs basic information about who the analysts really are, which ones you believe influence your revenues, and how to deal with both positive and negative commentary.  They should also understand how to feed information back to the AR team.  They don’t need extensive information, but material that is brief, understandable, and relevant.  Establishing a communications channel with sales is more important than Continue reading

AR–Sales Partnership [part 1]: It’s not about pushing out reports

icon-dollar-euro.jpgI think that most, if not all, of us in analyst relations (AR) have been on the receiving end of a phone call from a desperate/angry sales rep who is confronted with salvaging a deal squashed by analyst commentary. Often these calls are unpleasant as the sales rep takes out his or her frustration on AR. Worse yet is when it is the VP of sales who is on the other end of the phone line screaming at you.   Sales VPs have political clout and the ear of your top executives.

The research and recommendations of the IT advisory analysts like AMR, Forrester and Gartner can have a powerful impact on enterprise IT vendor sales cycles, whether hardware, software, telecomm or services. This impact can result in a sales cycle being lengthened or shortened, a vendor being included or excluded from a short list, or most dramatically a vendor that had won a deal finding it evaporate during contract negotiations when an analyst at the last minute gives a thumbs down.

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, sales reps experience high levels of frustration as deals go to competitors, sales cycles lengthen and contract negotiations go in favor of the buyer.

Equally unfortunate is that most AR teams do not have formal programs set up to help their sales colleagues. Typically the most that AR does is to push a positive research note out to the sales force. However, even this can be counterproductive if the research is not presented to the sales teams with the proper context and they don’t have the education to make it an effective tool.

What to do? Continue reading

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