I 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?
SageCircle has long advocated the creation of an AR-Sales Partnership whose goal is to drive top line revenue growth by helping sales reps leverage positive analyst commentary or mitigate negative research or comments. However, setting up a partnership with sales can be difficult for AR as there is a potentially limitless demand for support from a sales force that can be hundreds or thousands of times larger than the AR team. Rather than throw up your hands in defeat and ignore the opportunity to be a strategic partner of sales as Forrester would suggest, we recommend that AR set up a practical program that helps the sales force without opening itself up to a tidal wave of work.
This is one of a series of posts that will talk about the AR-Sales Partnership. There will be other posts written for sales reps (see Vendor sales reps should ask which analysts are advisors on deals) or can be used by sales reps to overcome an analyst-related sales hurdle (see IT managers, it’s never, ever only about the upper right dot when it comes to Forrester Waves or Gartner Magic Quadrants).
SageCircle Technique: To set the context for future posts here is high level overview of what the CIT vendor sales team does and does not need.
What sales needs
- Insight into external influencers, how they affect deals and where in the buy cycle they are used by customers and prospects
- Ability to leverage analysts to shorten sales cycles, increase deal size, establish credibility, identify new opportunities, deepen relationships or change the game with existing customers
- Information that wows the customer or makes the customer smarter
- Advance notice of impending company-specific research reports-positive or negative
What sales does not need
- Nice-to-know information
- “Raw” research reports forwarded without a “sales-wrapper”
- To become full-time industry analysts experts
Bottom Line: In order to exploit positive placement on a piece of analyst research or to mitigate negative analyst comments, vendor sales executives need to work with analyst relations (AR) to prepare tools and train their sales teams on certain basics about the analysts and their 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. Most important of all is the understanding that the goal is not to turn the sales representatives into experts on the analysts and analyst relations.
AR teams – Do you actively seek to help your sales teams when analysts impact deals? If not, why? Is it a resource or knowledgebase issue?
Vendor sales teams – What do you do when an industry analyst impact one of your sales deals?
This post is part of a series about building the AR-Sales Partnership Program. In addition to this series, there are a number of posts with tips and tricks about preparing Sales for dealing with analyst influence on deals.
- AR-Sales Partnership [part 1]: It’s not about pushing out reports
- AR-Sales Partnership [part 2]: Building the bridge to Sales
- AR-Sales Partnership [part 3]: Creating the plan
- AR-Sales Partnership [part 4]: Rolling out a pilot program for a small group
- AR-Sales Partnership [part 5]: Edu-marketing to executives and sales reps
- AR-Sales Partnership [part 6]: Action items to launch a project
- Assist AR and sales teams develop an effective and practical AR-Sales Partnership program
- Conduct targeted and succinct training for sales teams that provides only the critical skills and knowledge needed – not “nice to know” info that is not relevant to busy sales reps
- Act as a “life line” when on-demand advice is needed on a critical sales deal that is being negatively impacted
Leveraging our research and experience as AR managers working with sales, we have a library of content, training and services that help vendor sales teams use positive commentary or mitigate negative commentary
To learn more contact us at info [at] sagecircle dot com or 650-274-8309.