Trusted Advisors Outsell Merchants of Fear

The discussions around how analysts spend their time remind me of just how big of a percentage of time analysts spend supporting new client and renewal sales cycles, and further, how some sales people waste analysts’ time trying to sell using fear versus promoting insight.

For example, AMR Research still has a very entrepreneurial intensity where literally any analyst, often the more senior the better, is called up to assist in sales cycles. This concentration of efforts on prospects and winning renewals could drain hours, even days, out of any analysts’ schedule yet at the same time you’d get the satisfaction of seeing one of your clients renew or share in the recognition of winning a new client.

On reflecting back on these interruptions and the sales rep or manager leading the efforts several key take-aways emerge:

Sales reps that sold by fear took on average seven times longer to progress a sales cycle and often lost to competitors. There is a very specific situation with a content management vendor who was not a client at the time yet had competitive applications to other vendor clients and most importantly, had solutions that our user clients were looking for. It took seven face-to-face sales calls where the sales rep pushed every fear button there was. After that meeting the prospect did not return calls or e-mails and said they were going with a competitor.

Sales reps who joked about their lack of technological expertise and stressed relationships outsold the merchants of fear by 10X. This was surprising to me as well, but I recall one rep in particular who made it clear to clients that she was not a technologist, she handled relationships with clients and went after every opportunity to promote this vendor client in all research opportunities. She knew selling very well and positioned herself as a sales professional first, and analyst last.

Trusted advisors have the connections to get vendor clients into reports. In any research firm the ability of a sales rep to get a vendor client included in a report is impressive. This is not saying the vendor gets glowing reviews; it merely means the sales reps who are trusted advisors with external vendor and user clients have enough clout and credibility inside to get things done for their client. The influence stops there however.

Gartner goes after Oracle in a bid to underscore trusted advisor status. Gartner’s blog entry defining how Oracle misquoted them is just a glimpse of what happens all the time between major software vendors and advisory firms, there’s always a tension around what’s being written and how it can be “spun” to the vendors’ advantage. Credit Gartner for calling Oracle on misrepresenting research in a Wall Street Journal article.

Bottom line: In your 2006 renewal cycles, if fear gets used by your rep it’s a sure sign they are in danger of not making their sales quota and they’re panicking. Trusted advisors are the reps who will bring the total value of the analysts and their insights forward first. Tying this all back to analyst’s time management, trusted advisors have the credibility to get analysts into sales cycles at the right time. Fear mongers, after a few lengthy and often unsuccessful sales cycles, eventually leave advisory firms because no analyst has the time for that much pre-sales support on a single account.

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