AR-Sales partnering – comments from AR managers at the Coffee Talk

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThere was a great turn out at the two February Coffee Talks on the topic of AR and Sales partnering to drive revenues. The best part of the Coffee Talks is when AR managers share their experiences and ask questions. Here are some of the comments from the past two Coffee Talks. 

Comment: Dana Stiffler (AMR analyst, Twitter handle) tracks the value of the deals she is influencing…

SageCircle: Not many analysts are savvy enough to formally track that kind of information like Dana. However, most analysts can give you a top-of-mind feel for the number of deals they are advising technology buyers on in a typical week or month and a rough average of size per deal. Not scientific, but this info can provide useful anecdotal points for AR teams to use with their executive sponsors.

Comment: I had a panel at a sales kickoff where sales folks told their success stories of working with analysts and AR… it was the best way to instantly gain credibility.

SageCircle: Sales reps want to know what techniques work so this type of “customer panel” is incredibility effective. To make it even more effective, AR can follow with tips-and-tricks and lessons learned from these sales reps to be posted on the internal sales portal/blog, included in regular sales newsletters, and during regular sales team conference calls. Repetition is a critical success factor to making sure that the training about the analyst impact on sales deals sticks.

Comment: Most good sales people understand the value of relationships and once you’ve helped them, they “pay you back” by keeping you informed… when they remember.  Best thing is to keep a tickler file and check back with them regularly for a status.

SageCircle: One of the common questions we get when talking about AR-Sales Partnerships is whether the sale reps will give anything back or share credit with AR. The answer is absolutely because smart sales reps will want […]

Do I place my bets on AR-Sales partnering or adopting social media?

icon-dollar-euro.jpgQuestion: If I had to choose between starting an AR-Sales partnership or launching a social media initiative, which way should I go? If I did both, but with limited resources, how should I divide my efforts?

 During the happy hour after the first session of our STRATEGIC ISSUES advanced AR seminar, one of the attendees asked these great questions. Both Dave and Carter answered immediately and in unison:

     “AR-Sales!”

Why? Even a simple AR-Sales partnership pilot will give the AR team an opportunity to gather real world examples of the analysts impacting sales opportunities. These types of hard sales numbers, even in anecdotal form, are powerful tools for illustrating the strategic value of AR. In addition, a pilot project can […]

What are the pluses and minuses of former analysts taking on vendor AR roles? [Practitioner Question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgComment/Question: Re: your point below about jobs for senior analysts, here’s an idea for a blog entry – the pluses and minuses of former analysts taking on vendor analyst relations roles. That ought to stimulate some discussion on the comments section.

Rob Curran, wicked smart AR professional at Waggener Edstrom, sent along that comment after this week’s newsletter where we wrote in light of the recent spate of layoffs at analyst firms: 

Do you know of a job appropriate for a senior analyst? – Now is the time to grab talent. The job could be at a firm you know is hiring or maybe your company has a position open in product management, strategy or market research. If so, notify the analysts you know that are “in transit” between positions. Not just former Forrester analysts, but the others as well.”

It looked like Rob noticed we did not include analyst relations (AR) as a possible job for former analysts. Hopefully that was a simple oversight on my part (this is Carter, a former Gartner analyst, writing) and not a Freudian slip. Obviously there can be real value to having a former analyst in the AR role. On the other hand, I have seen some former analysts really botch the job of AR.

This is a topic that really does […]

AR & recession – Ruthlessly revisiting analyst lists and service level frameworks

Analyst Relations PlanningDuring a recession AR managers are confronted with the need to cut back work either due to headcount constraints or the need to refocus their priorities (e.g., providing more support to their company’s sales force and increasing lead generation via analysts placing the company on purchasing short lists). Two areas of low hanging fruit for saving time that can then be reallocated to other activities are the normally important analyst lists and the level of service provided to each tier of analyst. 

One of the biggest ongoing mistakes that AR professionals make is not using a rigorous methodology for managing their analyst lists. This often leads to too many analysts on their lists and too many analysts designated “Tier 1.” This state of affairs leads to inefficiency and ineffectiveness as AR teams are spread too thin over too many analysts to effectively influence the most relevant analysts. While bad enough in good economic times this mistake can be fatal in recessions when all corporate functions are being scrutinized for efficiency as well as contribution to revenues and corporate/business unit objectives.

Another major problem is that many AR programs have not revised their service level frameworks – or do not have formal service levels in the first place. These plans to allocate effort must be adjusted to reflect recession driven resource constraints. This results in AR teams being too generous in the amount effort they give to lower ranked analysts’ information/briefing requests which in turn siphons away precious AR bandwidth for higher priority activities. A related problem is not having the discipline to follow established service levels.

To correct this situation, AR managers need to ruthlessly revisit their analyst lists, aligning them more tightly with today’s business objectives and cutting back on the number of Tier 1 and Tier 2 analysts in order to focus more intensely on the most relevant analysts. Second, AR programs have to reduce, perhaps significantly, the amount of service they provide to […]

AR & Recession: Top Five Tips for Communicating AR’s Value

Analyst Relations PlanningAt all times, but especially during a recession, analyst relations (AR) programs need to effectively communicate to executive sponsors and other internal stakeholders the business value delivered by AR. Unfortunately, too many AR teams are so focused on interacting with the analysts that they do not do a good job telling their stories to their colleagues and the people that hold the purse strings. This can be a fatal mistake as AR is competing for resources – executive bandwidth for briefings, budget and headcount.   Not communicating about business value means being at a disadvantage during budget discussions. 

While there are many aspects to an edu-marketing (educating colleagues using marketing techniques) campaign, here are our Top Five Tips for effectively communicating AR’s business value:

(5) Develop a compelling “elevator pitch” for analyst relations

(4) Gather examples of analyst impact on actual and recent sales deals

(3) Constantly communicate, monitor, and adapt AR’s message

(2) Focus on the business impact of analyst relations

And the #1 tip for communicating AR’s value is… […]

AR & recession – Reconsidering analyst contract priorities

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgControlling spending is a high priority for most vendors during a recession. For analyst relations (AR) teams this mandate causes angst because it means cutting spending with analyst firms, usually a big part of AR’s budget. Discussing this issue has become an increasingly common inquiry for SageCircle strategists as clients work through budget cutting scenarios. 

One of the main sources of anxiety is the perception that analysts will start bad mouthing the vendor to prospects, making negative comments in the press, and cutting off AR’s ability to brief the analysts. This is usually an overblown concern as reputable firms will not damage their standing with vendors – a significant source of information and market insights – over short term contract spending changes. Analysts at the largest firms often do not know the size of a vendor’s contract with the firm and will not notice if the vendor cuts the contract by some percentage.

Unfortunately, there will be individuals who do resort to threats and making overtly negative comments about vendors in the press as pressure tactics to get contracts. Typically these individuals are […]

AR & recession – briefings need to focus on customers and fast business results

Analyst Relations PlanningBesides refocusing their priorities and activities during a recession, analyst relations (AR) professionals also need to think about what they are telling the analysts. Ordinarily briefings can cover any of a number of topics with even more numerous proof points to support their key messages. However, during a recession AR teams should be rethinking what they communicate to the analysts. 

SageCircle research of how IT managers use industry analysts, reveals that helping them make the business case for a technology product or service purchase is high on their list of activities. This insight provides AR with the direction they should taking their briefings during a recession. Because enterprise executives become cautious during a recession, they demand a more detailed justification for technology purchases. By giving industry analysts customer success stories and hard return on investment (ROI) numbers, AR can provide the analysts with fodder that they can in turn give to IT managers that will help shorten the sales cycles.

While customer success stories have always been considered a high priority topic for vendors to provide analysts, because they are difficult to obtain they frequently get pushed to the back burner.  During a recession AR needs to make finding and communicating customer success stories a much higher, if not the highest, priority. This becomes part of AR’s strategy of refocusing its priorities during a recession.

A critical success factor is to focus attention on examples of […]

AR & recession – it’s about refocusing priorities and activities

Analyst Relations PlanningRecessions typically change technology and telecommunications vendors’ priorities and activities. One of the most common changes is to cut back on marketing, especially brand building and other “fluffy” activities, to reduce expenses. At the same time, there is more emphasis on selling, especially for those vendors that sell direct to large enterprises. Another change is to focus on core markets and reduce effort in secondary markets. There are several dangers for analyst relations (AR) programs in economic downturns: 

  1. AR is associated with “fluffy” marketing and subject to headcount and budget cuts
  2. AR is not closely associated with driving revenues
  3. AR’s priorities become out-of-sync with new corporate or business unit priorities
  4. AR is executing its original plan (or typical activities if there was no plan)
  5. AR is reporting metrics that do not seem relevant to executives

If AR is to avoid been the target of budget and headcount cuts is it critical to ensure that it is aligned with corporate priorities and demonstrating positive economic contributions. While this seems obvious, too many AR programs are so caught up in reactive mode or simply doing normal day-to-day tasks that they don’t see the danger forming. As a consequence, these programs have a greater likelihood of getting cut than those AR managers and teams that proactively or preemptively move to change their focus.

When AR programs are considering what has to change during a recession they should remember to work and spend differently. Only doing one is not […]