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

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

If analysts do not get their impact, do your executives?

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAwhile back, I heard an interesting comment from a former advisory analyst who is now the director of AR at a software company. She said that when she was an analyst it was her opinion that vendors were crazy to think that analysts have a large impact on sales. However, now that she is at a vendor, she is experiencing first-hand the dramatic impact the analysts have on vendor sales opportunities.

This got me thinking that if analysts do not understand or appreciate their impact on vendor sales, do vendor executives really understand how the analysts have their fingerprints all over corporate sales opportunities? The reality is that many executives do not fully comprehend the true impact of the analysts on revenues. Thus, they are less likely to support AR by making time to meet and speak with analysts. 

SageCircle Technique:

Ask your customers about their use of the analysts when they are guest speakers at the annual sales kickoff

icon-dollar-euro.jpgFrequently vendors will have customers participate in their annual sales kick off meetings in a panel or interview format. These are great opportunities to ask the customers how they use the analysts. Sometimes the customer will say something that will provide sales reps – and your executives – with an “ah ha!” moment like here.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Inquire with the team putting together the agenda for the annual sales kickoff to identify customer speaking sessions
  • Talk to the sales representatives whose customers are guest speakers about the customers’ known utilization of the analysts,
  • Gather the customer’s perception of the analysts, firms used, impact on 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

Why analysts matter – “I get asked daily in one medium or another who to buy”

Some analyst relations (AR) managers are lucky in that their executives really get the analysts and their impact on the vendor’s leads and sales deals. Alas, not all AR professionals are so lucky. However, there is a resource to use to educate* executives about the impact of the analysts – the analysts’ own words. For example, here is a throwaway line by Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang in Starting the Forrester Wave: White Label Social Networks and Community Platforms:

          “I get asked daily in one medium or another who to buy”

Jeremiah is very good about keeping vendors and end-user clients alike up-to-date on what he is working on via his blog posts. This particular line was not bragging, but explaining one purpose of the Forrester Wave, which is to help technology buyers develop their short list of vendors to invite to a bid. Because it was not the main purpose of the post, I think that makes it even more powerful education tool as it Continue reading

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

Have you noticed any change in Forrester’s direct influence in IT purchases

icon-dollar-euro.jpgSageCircle has received several reports lately from AR managers who perceive that Forrester’s direct influence on IT purchasing decisions seems to be going down. These perceptions are based on reports from their sales organizations that Forrester is not being referenced as often — or at all — as a source of information or advice by IT managers. This seems to be especially true in the IT infrastructure 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

Call for case study volunteers – How the analysts impacted a sales deal

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One of the most powerful tools that analyst relations teams have to convince their companies’ executives about the business value of AR is a case study on an impact that an industry analyst had on a specific deal. For example, when we published “SageNoteTM AR107 — Case Study: Rapid Response by AR saves a $35 Million Deal” (call if you would like a copy), our client used this case study about her situation to obtain two more headcount because executives got that AR was not expense but an investment to drive sales.

Unfortunately, most AR teams do not feel like they have the writing skills or bandwidth to create case studies.  SageCircle strategists have both. Give us a call and we will work with you to create a killer case study that you can use with your executives. There will be no cost for this service as our “payment” will be permission to publish the case study as a SageNote. You will have the option to be anonymous (e.g., “a management software company”) or named.

Call SageCircle at 650-274-8309 to volunteer to be a case study subject or to obtain a copy of SageNote AR107.

Why technology buyers use the IT industry analysts

Sometimes IT and telecommunications vendors express frustration at the very existence of IT advisory analysts and their influence with the technology buyers (aka end users or IT managers). Often the vendors accuse the IT buyers of being lazy or stupid because they use the analysts instead of doing the research themselves. Bloggers are equally amazed at why end users would spend money on analyst contracts when there is so much information available for free on the Internet.

The reality is that the advisory analysts provide valuable services to technology buyers and have earned the trust of those buyers over the years. When they don’t understand the true reasons why the advisory analysts are widely used, vendor executives will miss opportunities to invest in analyst relations efforts.  This is also true for the sales force who need to understand the motivations for using the analysts,  Training is critical for preparing sales reps to handle lucrative deals that are impacted by IT analysts.

There are a number of reasons why IT advisory analysts exist and Continue reading

Top Five Ways Analyst Relations can Help Sales [Vendor Sales]

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThe ultimate goal of Analyst Relations is to drive revenues for your company.  Analysts influence revenues in a variety of ways that may impact your sales team and how they interact with current or prospective customers.  An effective AR program recognizes that there needs to be a high level of cooperation between Sales and AR. The basis of this cooperation is mutual assistance, collaboration, and communication.  This does not happen by accident, and should be part of your overall AR plan.

Obviously you have to develop your program in conjunction with the needs of your particular sales team needs, but some basic concepts apply to all AR teams.

#5 – Feed analyst research to Sales that can be used as collateral.

How you distribute analyst research will depend on the analyst firm and your contracts.  However, summary reports, abstracts, and public information can always be passed to the sales team.  This is often done well by creating a “silver bullet” memo that puts the research in context and positions it clearly for Continue reading

Using the analysts to educate IT buyers beyond praising your products [Vendor Sales]

icon-dollar-euro.jpgMore often than not, communications or IT vendor sales reps never think about using a tech industry analyst to advance a sales deal. On those infrequent occasions when a sales rep does thinks about leveraging analyst commentary, it is almost always in the context of e-mailing an analyst research note that says wonderful things about the product the rep is selling. This is very much like restaurant owners who tape positive newspaper reviews to their windows. However, a product centric approach misses the chance to use the analysts to educate IT managers about a broad range of issues that can generate future sales opportunities.

Often tech buyers get stuck on what direction to go in for a particular situation, which frequently leads to the buyer doing nothing. Sometimes it is a case of “analysis paralysis” about a strategy or tactic. In other cases, the buyer cannot convince management to 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

Do your customers assume that Gartner or other analysts have done all the due diligence? [for Vendor Sales]

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAn analyst relations (AR) manager gave me a call this week with an interesting tid-bit that completely reinforces the recent postings about vendor sales reps asking about analyst usage, analyst myth #1  and how IT managers should use Waves and Magic Quadrants.
 
The AR manager was recently at their software company’s annual sales kick off meeting. There was a customer panel taking questions from a moderator and the sales reps in the audience. One question was “How or do you use the analyst firms to make decisions?” One customer said that Continue reading

Now that is not the way to exploit an expensive Magic Quadrant reprint

socialtext-open-link-to-a-gartner-mq.jpgI accidently came across an unsecured link to a PDF of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Team Collaboration and Social Software, 2007 courtesy of (vendor). This was a nice little treat because I was about ready to chat with one of (vendor)’s competitors and it good to see what Gartner had to say.

For (vendor), it is a classic mistake to not require someone who wants a copy to register so that the company can capture the potential prospect’s contact information for later use. Furthermore, Socialtext could be giving their competitors’ a free ride off their expensive reprint, because Continue reading

Vendor sales reps should ask which analysts are advisors on deals [Vendor Sales]

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThe IT advisory analysts (e.g., AMR, Forrester and Ovum) have their fingerprints all over the IT and telecommunications acquisition projects of large and some mid-size enterprises. While the participation of the analysts is not meant to be a secret, sales representatives of tech vendors are often unaware of their influence behind the scenes. This can be a fatal flaw in a sales process, since an analyst can eliminate a vendor from a sales opportunity with a single comment. To bypass this problem, vendor sales representatives need to ask prospects a few simple questions during the qualification phase as well as throughout the sales cycle. Continue reading

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