What Analyst Relations Pros can Learn from Sales
Coverage and Contracts
In many ways, the analyst relations process is similar to the strategic account development activities that your top sales reps engage in. While you aren’t trying to sell anything to an analyst firm, you are trying to get something out of them. Getting a favorable mention in analyst research isn’t all that different from getting a signed sales contract from a customer. It certainly can be just as time-consuming!
The big difference is that a signed sales contract has a definitive dollar value associated with it and positive analyst coverage doesn’t. It is always hard to quantify the ROI from analyst relations, but experienced software leaders will tell you that leadership placement in a prestigious analyst ranking such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant, Forrester Wave, or IDC Marketscape can be worth its weight in gold. It gives you instant credibility with buyers. Your odds of getting on the shortlist for big deals will increase exponentially. Assuming your GTM team is doing its job, you should be able to close a percentage of the deals.
So what can analyst relations professionals learn from the sales team? If your top performing AE was trying to win a $1M deal with JPMorganChase how would they approach it? Part of the strategy would be focusing on the primary decision maker and trying to establish a relationship with him/her. That requires getting the decision-maker to spend time with you. Demonstrating the product and its use cases is a common, formal way interaction that most vendors will pursue. But you don’t want to be like all the other vendors. You want to get a competitive edge. You want to build a stronger relationship. You want to win and to do so, you will need to do more. How can you get more face time with the decision-maker? You need to come up with reasons to get in front of them. Send an email with a link to a thought leadership article your team produced. Schedule a Zoom call to ask for their point of view or guidance on an issue. Sales teams are good at finding creative ways to get on their prospect’s calendars.
Analyst relations professionals need to do the same thing with the primary analyst you are targeting.
More Face Time with the Primary Analyst
Schedule regular interactions with the primary analyst covering your market. At least, once per month find a reason to get in front of the analyst. Think of a question you want to ask. Get their perspective on an emerging market trend. Ask about a recent competitor announcement or product launch. You will have to invest time preparing so you can engage in a thoughtful discussion. Analysts are intellectuals and enjoy a thought-provoking conversation about the future of the market, new customer use cases, and the competitive landscape.
There is a practical limit on the amount of face time you will get with any one analyst. For example, at tier 1 firms, the vendors are only allowed one official vendor briefing per year with each analyst. Also, be aware that the analyst does not have to accept inquiry requests you submit. They can decline or pass the question onto another team, which could result in an awkward situation of you spending 30 minutes chatting with a less relevant analyst about a topic you may only have a casual interest in.
There are ways to get around the constraints placed on briefings and inquiries. However, you will have to be creative, and you will have to put in more time and money to get more face time. Many of the firms will allow you to purchase hours of consulting time that you can use to engage at greater depth with individual analysts. You can buy credits that are redeemed for hours of live engagement with an individual analyst. One approach is to request feedback on messaging, go-to-market strategy, or potential acquisition targets. If you have more budget to spend and want greater access, consider funding a formal project that enables you to work more closely with the analyst. Project examples might include having the analyst speak on a webinar, filming a video, or pursuing a custom research project.
More Face Time with the Extended Research Team
Chart a Political Map
A good sales rep would never limit their selling efforts to just the primary decision maker. The best AEs draw a political map of all the key stakeholders in the account and attempt to influence everyone on the buying team. Similarly, you as a marketing leader shouldn’t limit your efforts to just the primary analyst covering your market. You need an account plan that outlines who are the key decision-makers in the analyst organization that you need to influence and how you will go about shaping their views.
So how do you draw the political map of key stakeholders within an analyst firm? One simple way to is to look at the authors of research reports your primary analyst’s name is on. If you look closely, you will see that there are typically not just one, but multiple authors involved in every research note. Behind the scenes at analyst firms, there is a team of junior analysts, quants, graphic designers, and copywriters that produce the actual report. Often those who made a meaningful contribution will have their name appear on the reports.
Find Hidden Influencers
Also, note that there may be others who are not listed on the report that is highly influential. The top tier analyst firms often require a peer review of major research before being published to ensure that is objective and accurate. Typically, analysts in adjacent markets as well as more senior research directors and vice presidents will be called upon to perform the peer review. You will want to get in front of these other analysts as well as they can be highly influential.
To be sure you’ve identified and mapped everyone who is involved in research production, ask your account manager to do a little homework. As your advocate that is incentivized to retain and grow your business, they will usually provide some coaching.
Getting Upper (Management) Right
Once you have filled out the key names on the political map, you will need to find ways to navigate the org chart to get access to these additional stakeholders. This is where analyst relations differ significantly from sales. In sales, it is usually permissible to go up the food chain and seek out an audience with the department head to whom your primary decision-maker reports up to. But it doesn’t work that way with analysts. You cannot simply go to the Research Director/VP to pitch your company/product. S/he will simply pass on the inquiry and kick it back down to your primary analyst. Instead, you will need to get creative.
To reach the extended research team, you can use many of the same plays outlined above for engaging the primary analyst. Suppose you wanted to get facetime with the VP that your primary analyst reports to. What market does s/he cover? Schedule an inquiry call to get their perspective on an issue related to the market they cover. You will need to invest time to get smart in that market so you can speak intelligently about it. At the beginning of the call, you will have a few minutes to explain your company and why you are interested in the topic. Come with thoughtful questions that create a strong brand impression for your firm and leave a memorable imprint. If it makes sense, you could even hire the Research Director or VP to do a webinar, video, or custom research project on that market.
Take a similar approach to junior analysts. Most vendors make the mistake of catering to the VPs, Directors, and primary analysts. However, the junior analyst is often the one doing most of the legwork to support the research. The extended team members with lower titles may be a lot more influential over your placement in a vendor ranking than a VP. Also, keep in mind that today’s research associates are tomorrow’s senior analysts. There is a considerable amount of upward mobility at analyst firms. Someone in a junior role today can get quickly promoted into a more significant, leading role in just a few years.