Analysts don’t think it’s their job to help failing spokespeople. Rather than speak up, analysts will often let executives hang themselves with their own rope. That’s the sad story emerging this month, as my colleague Christian and I speak with analysts who look part in the recent Analyst Attitude Survey. Roughly half of the 150 participants in the survey have volunteered for follow-up calls, and they are especially forthcoming in telling us what’s going wrong in those stressful pitch meetings when providers come in to update analysts on solutions.
Trustworthiness, market knowledge and transparency are three of the most important things that analysts are looking for. Sadly, they are often lacking.
It might be self-evident that spokespeople should be honest and true when they meet analysts. Analysts are telling us that it’s often not the case. They are able to recognise honesty in many ways, and responsiveness is the clue that the most analysts look for first. Spokespeople often use the classic media relations techniques (control – bridge – sell) to block the analysts’ interests and divert the conversation back to a prepared recital. This actually harms vendors. On the other hand, discussing analysts’ interests shows more than knowledge that providers are respectful, open to questioning and criticism, and prioritise market realities rather than corporate dogma.
Many analysts find that spokespeople come with a presentation that has been reused to the point of boredom. Rolling out a well-worn deck is often seen as an attempt to control the conversation and avoid the serious effort involved in understanding individual analysts’ needs. Rather than inform analysts with valuable market insight, they sell the solution to the analyst as if they were a potential buyer or reseller. Rather than specify how customers benefit from solutions to particular business problems, spokespeople bring slides with customer logos and technical diagrams that look anything but unique. One analyst told us that it seems almost taboo to prepare briefings seriously by checking to make sure spokespeople understand the analysts’ information needs. Frustratingly, it’s clear that there is preparation: Many reported how vendors mine analysts’ resumes in order to find commonalities or points for small talk. Very few, however, reported the same effort has been put into anticipating their information needs.
Sadly when some spokespeople do review analysts’ work, they might not get the balance right between either accepting or challenging research findings. Not all analysts think the same way. Some want challenge, and others done. Some want focus, and others want breadth. The key to all of this is to understand the analysts. To get a better idea of how to do that, check out Efrem Mallach’s book, Win Them Over.