More 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 approve a plan that includes purchasing products or services. In either case, a formal project to buy something is never launched.
Vendor sales reps can help customers or prospects make important strategic or tactical decisions or validate business cases by using the analysts. This technique leverages the role of the analyst as an advisor on strategy and business decisions, not just product choices. In two surveys of technology buyers that SageCircle conducted we asked the question “In the past year, I have cited published analyst research in my business case for a technology purchase decision.” In both surveys, respondents said “yes” about 60% of the time. Here are two examples of vendors who used analysts to help IT managers make decisions that later led to a sales opportunity:
Example 1: The IT manager was having trouble coming up with a decision framework that justified an upgrade the company’s server farm. This problem translated into the IT manager having trouble establishing an approach to persuade management in investing millions in a potential upgrade.
Solution 1: A server vendor’s AR and Sales teams worked together to set up a phone inquiry between the IT manager and a respected advisory analyst. At no point during the phone inquiry was the vendor or any other vendors’ products discussed. Rather, the entire discussion was around how to make a server refresh decision and how to make a business case for the decision. Very quickly the IT manager had an “ah ha” moment that permitted him to quickly make a decision and convince management to invest the capital. The vendor that arranged the analyst phone inquiry was invited to bid on the project and later won the deal.
Example 2: An IT manager was having trouble deciding which approach to use for the next round of hardware purchases for the data center. Should she use the traditional box rack mounted or the then leading-edge blade configurations? She was clearly stuck in analysis paralysis.
Solution 2: A systems vendor’s AR and Sales teams collaborated on using a well known market research analyst to educate the IT manager about the trends in this hardware market. During the course of a phone call, the market researcher helped clarify for the IT manager the various options and the pros and cons for each path. As with Solution 1, the IT manager had an “ah ha” moment that permitted her to get off the fence make a decision. The vendor that arranged the analyst phone inquiry was invited to bid on the project and later won the deal.
- AR teams should raise their sales forces’ awareness of the roles of analysts and how to the analysts can be leveraged to help IT managers make a business case
- AR teams should investigate which analysts would be appropriate to use in situations where IT managers need help with tactical or strategic directions or in making business cases
- Processes need to be established that permit the sales reps to request analyst assistance, where appropriate, to move a deal forward
- AR should capture the economic impact of its assistance to prove the return on investment (ROI) of AR to improve its standing as a strategic and tactical function within the vendor
Bottom Line: While the most visible impacts of industry analysts on vendor sales deals are mostly negative, the analysts can also play a very positive role in helping vendors advance sales deals. While analysts can be leveraged to support sales in one-off situations, it is better to do this within the context of a formal AR-Sales Partnership program.
Question: Analysts – Under what circumstances are you comfortable participating in a vendor-arranged conversation with an IT buyer on a non-product related issue?
How SageCircle can Help – We can help AR and sales teams develop an effective and practical AR-Sales Partnership program. 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. Call 650-274-8309 or e-mail info (at) sagecircle dot com for more information.
Since 2000, SageCircle has helped analyst relations teams to focus on business value by encouraging innovative thinking that leverages insights and drives revenue.