This 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:
- AR phoned the sales rep to learn more about the situation. The sales rep was asked to check with the prospect about which analyst firms the healthcare company had subscriptions to, if any.
- The sales rep reported back to AR that the IT manager had an inquiry seat with Gartner. Subsequent chatting with the IT manager revealed that she did not realize that she could receive assistance about the ROI issue from Gartner.
- The AR manager became the point person for scheduling an inquiry with the appropriate Gartner analyst. The AR manager also provided the analyst with background on the situation. Because the inquiry was discussing a management issue and not vendors, the analyst approved for the AR manager, but not the sales rep, to listen in on the inquiry. (Note: Strong relationship building over time enabled that possibility.)
- The analyst came to the inquiry well prepared and was able to learn more details about the situation – AR passed on these insights to his sales colleague. The analyst was able to walk the IT manager through the decision process for a server refresh and provided suggestions on how to craft a business case to present to the Board of Directors. The tone of the inquiry was very positive. The analyst never mentioned the vendor who set up the inquiry or any vendors.
- The AR manager updated the sales rep about what was learned about the prospect during the inquiry. AR recommended that the sales rep diplomatically push the IT manager to work with the analyst using regular inquiry to build a strong business case.
Resolution: During the inquiry, the IT manager had “ah, ha!” moment about how to handle the requirement from the Board of Directors. She rapidly moved forward to make a decision and put together a draft business case that she worked with the analyst to strengthen. It was helpful to know Gartner can assist with the project through inquiry. The IT manager successfully sold both her management and the Board of Directors on the need to refresh the server base.
The vendor was invited to bid on project and later won a deal for $1.2m in hardware and services. Once this deal was completed, the vendor picked up subsequent purchases on an ad hoc basis.
Lessons Learned: There are multiple insights for AR and vendor sales organizations from this case study.
Advisory analysts do not just comment on the market and vendors (e.g., Forrester Wave and Gartner Magic Quadrant). Many advisory analysts are quite adept at helping end users (usually IT managers) make important strategic and tactical IT decisions. In addition, advisory analysts can provide IT managers with advice and supporting content for making business cases stronger.
End users do not always know how to use the analysts with which they have advisory contracts. Vendors should be alert to opportunities to educate end users on how to use the analysts and even assist in making arrangements for inquiries and other interactions.
Sales representatives will give AR credit for assistance provided. After this particular deal was won, the sales representative sent an email to the company management that included the following quote:
“… The objective of my team is to add more value to our customers than our competitors. Being able to leverage Industry Analysts like Gartner in this way has contributed significantly toward our ability to do so. …”
SageCircle Technique for AR Teams:
- Create at least a pilot AR-Sales Partnership program
- Be alert to opportunities to assist sales colleagues even if an active deal is not on the table
- Harvest positive comments from sales colleagues about AR’s contribution to a deal or customer relationships
- Use the outcomes of successful AR-Sales collaboration to educate management about the value of AR
Bottom Line: AR teams can collaborate with their sales colleagues to create opportunities to be exploited at a later time.
Question: AR – Have you helped a sales colleague with leveraging analyst research or advice to push an end user into making a decision about IT issue? If yes, how did you go about working the analyst firm?