2023 has been yet another positive year for our AR services, with many clients seeing tangible business benefits from engaging with key analysts at Gartner, Forrester and IDC (and some smaller firms also). The secret sauce of a successful AR program is forging relationships between senior execs at vendors, with strategically important analysts that cover their solutions and services. If this axis is in place, and working effectively, both the vendor client and analyst firm will benefit; one from getting solid and valuable impact from an analyst’s input, feedback and leverage with buyers, the other by the vendor client being highly motivated to spend with the analyst firm for additional services and support (e.g. workshops, whitepapers and webinars etc).
There is a lot of nuance in how this mutually beneficial relationship needs to be maintained and managed in order for it to flourish, and both parties need to be invested in realizing this, and doing their part to maintain it (this is where good AR professionals can really add value). However, this year we have seen a hardening of the commercial positioning at the two biggest firms, with account managers and sales reps being pushed harder by their commercial senior management to ‘squeeze more juice’ out of their clients by, for example, making extra spend on items such as additional research seats, being conditional on contract renewal, and ‘threatening’ clients that may not follow edicts around who can be on inquiry calls to the letter etc.
Unfortunately, such short-term and ill-informed tactics only serve to alienate most vendor clients, who having previously seen the analyst firm as a partner and friend, may now see them as a commercial adversary they need to battle with. This short-term and ineffective approach also shows a complete ignorance of why most vendors work with analyst firms, and want to use their services; namely to get value from the analysts that these firms employ to help vendors. I would argue that an ‘analyst first’ approach has always been the most effective way for analyst firms to gain sales and revenue from vendors. If the vendor perceives they are getting value from an analyst, the spend will follow, and sales will be pushing at an open door, instead of beating their fist on one that in closing in their face – the successful sales person needs to be the partner and friend of the vendor client.
Most AR people understand this only too well, and, if they see value in the services and access to analysts available, will not hesitate to push their leaders to invest more in these. This is another misconception that sales people at the big analyst firms also seem to have, that AR people are gatekeepers, and that to gain more sales they need to bypass them and go directly to the CXO in a client organization. All this does tactic does is push away clients, and alienate AR teams, who are in fact facilitators and promoters or AR services in their vendor and client organizations.
I know in the AR community these views are widely held, and hopefully this collective feedback will filter back up to senior management, who will realise that their crown jewels are their analyst teams, and that their services cannot be sold as commodity items, but are IP and relationship based, and that a more informed and flexible sales approach will help them not only gain more results for their clients, but also sales from additional services and support to them.