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. With this information in hand, the sales rep can anticipate problems that need to be mitigated or find positive opportunities to exploit. This is a classic “if it ain’t broken, fix it anyway” situation because trying to recover a sales cycle disrupted by an analyst is much more difficult than initially steering prospects to the “correct” analyst before opinions have formed.
Why Would an IT Buyer Tell the Sales Rep this Information? One of the primary selling points for the advisory analyst firms is that their experienced analysts can provide help to technology buyers. A technology buyer will often gladly tell the sales rep that this or that analyst is acting as an adviser because it is a negotiating ploy to inform the sales rep that the buyer is well prepared and cannot be fooled.
When Should the Questions be Asked?  Analyst “information gathering” should be part of the normal qualification process and the sales cycle as a whole. It is “Sales 101” to ask questions like “Do you have budget?” “What is your timeframe?” and “Are you the decision maker?” during the qualification process. It is very easy to include a few more questions on the role of the analysts in the project such as “Do you work with any of the analyst firms?” or “Have you considered the opinions of any IT industry analysts?” Also remember, even after the sales cycle is moving along it is important to periodically refresh the information because the tech buyers could be exposed to new written research or obtain new recommendations over the phone from analysts.
In a future post, we will provide additional sample questions the sales rep can ask prospects and customers.
BTW, any information gathered regarding the analysts’ impact on sales should be shared with your AR department. Finding out which analyst firms and analysts are valued by prospects and customers is valuable intelligence for sales, AR, and the company as a whole. In addition, AR can be of great assistance by providing sales with the tools (e.g., lists of positive and negative analysts) and services (e.g., assistance when an analyst has negatively impacted a sales opportunity) to help close deals.
Bottom Line: The earlier a vendor sales representative understands which analysts are advising their prospects, the better equipped the sales rep will be to exploit positive situations or put in measures to mitigate potential negative commentary from analysts.
Question:  For IT managers – Would you be willing to share this information with your vendor reps? For vendor sales reps – Are you comfortable asking for this information?  For AR – Do you have an active AR-sales partnership program in place?

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