Analysts can be excellent guest speakers at Sales training sessions

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAn interesting service that analyst relations can provide the company’s sales organization is arranging for an industry analyst to be a guest speaker at an internal sales training event. This could span the range from a main stage speech at the annual sales kickoff to a 15-minute discussion as part of a regular weekly sales team call. Topics can cover a broad range from changes in the competitive landscape, to what the analyst is hearing from end users, to why enterprise technology buyers use the analysts. We have yet to hear of a situation where the analyst session was not one of the highest rated sessions at a major sales event. Of course, the analyst has to have great content and snappy presentation skills. But in general feet-on-street sales representatives love to hear what the analysts have to say and to grill them with tough questions. 

There are a number of benefits for all constituencies in having an analyst guest speaker:

  • Your Sales representatives – valuable information and insights to help them close business
  • Sales training department – a special guest that will “perk up the audience,” especially after lunch at a multi-day sales kickoff
  • Sales managers
    • An agenda item on a regular team call that will get the sales staff to either a) attend and/or b) stop doing email with the mute button on and pay attention
    • Competitive market insights that will help them fine tune their plans and Continue reading

Take a retail approach early in an AR Sales-Partnership to drive adoption

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAR teams that are early in an AR-Sales Partnership Program launch logically take a “wholesale” approach to getting the word out about how Sales can take advantage of AR’s expertise to handle the influence of the analysts on sales deals. This wholesale approach typically includes sending out mass emails both directly or through field communications, participating in regular all hands teleconferences, and posting information on an internal portal. These are all worthy activities. Unfortunately they might not be sufficient steps because sales teams are bombarded with similar messages from other parts of the company and AR’s news gets lost. To cut through the noise, AR should incorporate some retail selling to complement the wholesale outreach.

By “retail” we mean working with an individual sales representative or small team in a pilot project (see AR–Sales Partnership [part 4]: Take baby steps by rolling out a small pilot phase). This affords AR the opportunity to work with Sales on a consistent basis to identify opportunities to help in a deal and try to inculcate new habits. While significantly more time consuming than the typical wholesale approach, adopting retail techniques can help AR develop credibility, generate testimonials to be used in wholesale outreach, and potentially start word-of-mouth buzz. The last is especially useful because nothing works better than one sales rep telling another “You have to work with AR because they can turn that Magic Quadrant situation around for you!”

SageCircle Technique:

  • Incorporate a pilot project into the AR-Sales Partnership launch plan
  • Select a pilot group who will let AR Continue reading

Support sales managers as well as feet-on-the-street sales representatives

icon-dollar-euro.jpgTypically when it comes to supporting the sales organization the primary focus of AR is helping quota carrying sales representatives mitigate negative analyst commentary and leverage positive analyst research. This is extremely valuable, both to AR and the vendor, but there is another group inside sales that can benefit from AR’s support: sales management.

AR should consider investing in supporting sales managers because building relationships with this key constituency will increase the understanding about how the AR-Sales Partnership program leads to greater cooperation. Remember the AR-Sales Partnership is not just about AR providing value to Sales, but also Sales providing value (e.g., sales impact data, political support and resources) to the AR team.

Supporting sales managers should be done, as in all new initiatives, in phases so that AR can learn the basics before going to advanced activities. Nor does adding this support require any budget in the beginning. Some example activities include: 

  • AR should conduct a short strategic briefing for the sales managers on how key analysts influence markets and customers
    • Level: Basic
    • Budget: None
    • Effort: Low
  • AR can arrange for an analyst to participant on a short phone call as part of the sales executive’s regular team call to answer Continue reading

Asking analysts about sales impact [Practitioner Question]

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAt last week’s workshop “Launching an AR-Sales Partnership Program” we had a number of insightful questions.  We posted one item already about getting feedback from recorded sales training but here is another that came from a participant. 

We were suggesting the use of inquiry as a way of asking analysts about the influence they have in your market space.  Questions such as “how many short lists did you review in the past week (month)?” are examples of ways that a short inquiry can be used to approximate the impact on sales.  However, what if you don’t have a contract and cannot do an inquiry?

We always suggest that inquiry access with your key (tier one) analysts is a requirement for AR teams.  But with the current economy and associated tight AR budgets we are hearing of some teams that wind up without all the desired contracts.  So how do you pose these questions without inquiry?

Most analysts will reply to well-placed and appropriate questions during a briefing (note: this has been a problem with Gartner analysts – we suggested a workaround in the SageInsight sent to client “Schedule inquiries the day after briefing Gartner analysts to deal with the ‘no questions during briefings’ issue”).  We always suggest that you have prepared a sequence of general questions to go with every interaction of any type.  These of course include such things as “what research are you working on next?” or “what interesting thing did you learn at the XXX conference”.  Placed in context you could also ask about the kinds of questions that IT buyer clients are asking or places where the market might be changing.  This gives you the rationale to ask questions that would give you insights into the influence this analyst has in a particular market.

While having inquiry privilege is the best approach you can be creative and still get some information.

Another potential resource is the analyst firms’ account representatives. They Continue reading

Getting started with an AR-Sales Partnership is as simple as 1-2-3

icon-dollar-euro.jpgany analyst relations (AR) managers perceive that an AR-Sales Partnership is a complex and time consuming endeavor which they simply do not have time to initiate. While a full scale AR-Sales program for a large vendor does take significant resources, getting started does not have to require a lot of work. Rather, AR can conduct a feasibility pilot for a modest investment.

SageCircle Technique:

  1. Understand your options
    1. Educate yourself about the concept and the issues
    2. Involve stakeholders, both your management and Sales
    3. Make a Go/No Go decision on whether it is practical to proceed to step 2
  2. Determine required investments
    1. Develop a plan
    2. Identify investments required to for a pilot project and estimated requirements for a full rollout
    3. Make a Go/No Go decision on whether to launch a pilot project
  3. Launch a pilot project
    1. Train pilot sales team
    2. Deliver information and tools
    3. Assist on sales deals
    4. Collect data and insights
    5. Make a Go/No decision on whether to move to the next phase of limited production

Bottom Line: Getting started with an AR-Sales Continue reading

Does your Sales Force Hunger for Information about the IT Analysts?

icon-dollar-euro.jpg At a multi-day all-hands sales meeting, one SageCircle client gave a short 15-minute talk to his company’s sales force on the IT analysts. After the meeting, the VP of sales brought to the AR manager’s attention that on the written evaluations of the all-hands meeting almost every sales representative mentioned the information about the analysts as one of the top three take-aways. In addition, getting more information about the analysts was considered one of the top areas for follow up.  Impressive! What makes this story even more powerful is that the AR talk was totally unscheduled and impromptu. The AR manager happened to be sitting in the audience during a marketing communications one-hour session when he was asked if he would like to make a few comments about AR and sales. With no formal presentation, the AR manager provided a succinct description of the issue and fielded some questions. Even though the presentation was ad hoc and not on the evaluation form to be formally scored, the topic was of such intense interest to the average sales representative that they consistently ranked it as one of the top talks.

This is not an aberration. 

When SageCircle strategists have done sales force training sessions – whether face-to-face, via webinar, or on a teleconference – the interest is always very high with lots of questions from the sales team. This is because the average sales rep is the one bearing the brunt of the analyst impact on their sales cycles. It is his or her ability to make quota and go to President’s Club that is on the line when an IT analyst is talking to a prospect. As a consequence, when offered information about the analysts and how to use them, or how to recover from negative comments, the sales reps welcome the opportunity.

Many AR departments assume that it will be a struggle to get the attention of their sales force in order to Continue reading

Encouraging your Sales Force to ask Questions

icon-dollar-euro.jpgne of the strategic initiatives AR should be focusing on is “Arm Sales – Close Business” which means creating training and tools for the sales organization to deal with analyst impact on sales opportunities. While this is an excellent idea, there is the not-so-small matter of getting Sale’s to cooperate.

Most sales organizations are manically focused on closing business. A common complaint from Sales is that they are bombarded with “junk” from other parts of the company which wastes time and interferes with their single-minded pursuit of making quota. 

One of the very easy tasks that sales representatives can do is ask their prospects and customers about their use of the analysts. This can be done during their initial qualification activities or at any other point in the sales cycle. Why ask questions?  Doing so can:

  • Prevent sales cycles from being derailed
  • Identify situations where a potential lever is available that could accelerate a sales cycle

IT vendor sales representatives are often blind-sided by specific analyst comments late Continue reading