Which Influencers Are Most Relevant?

One of the more common inquiries that Kea Company handles is “How can I know which analysts are most relevant? Should I focus on traditional influencers or put some effort toward these new style influencers?”

With many more players on the influencer landscape it is hard for vendors and analyst relations (AR) teams to determine who to focus on when it comes to planning and resource allocation.

A technique that very few vendors and AR teams use is asking customers and prospects about where they turn for advice about IT strategy and hardware/software/services purchasing decisions. Why do so few use this technique? First, this technique is rarely used because it is not top of mind with most AR professionals. Second and most important, this is a non-trivial exercise that requires political capital, best practices, labor, and potentially budget.

Whenever a Kea Company strategist suggests that AR should ask customers and prospects about their sources of advice we typically see the proverbial light bulb go on over the AR manager’s head. This light bulb burns bright for a few seconds and then flickers finally going dark as the AR manager focuses on the work required. While on the surface asking customers might seem like too much work, we think that AR needs to seriously consider adding this technique to its portfolio.

The business value of asking customers is very high including:

  • Selling effectiveness: Knowing who prospects turn to for advice can help sales professionals be better prepared to deal with that influence
  • Planning: Knowing who customers actually turn to for advice can reprioritize – sometimes radically – which analysts and other influencers AR should consider most relevant and most important
  • Enhancing executive sponsorship: The insights from customers and prospects can help executives and other stakeholders understand the impact of analysts on sales and lead to active sponsorship instead of passive support

There are four basic ways AR can ask customers about their sources of information and advice:

  1. AR itself does a survey of the company’s customers and (potentially) prospects
  2. AR hires a third-party firm to conduct the survey of the company’s customers and (potentially) prospects
  3. Participate in a third-party multi-vendor survey of buyers
  4. AR teams requests that their sales colleagues ask customers and pass that information to AR

Each of these approaches has pluses and minuses that will make them more or less attractive depending on the situation. Kea Company can advise clients on this technique, provide sample surveys, train sales reps how to ask customers about influencers and such.

Kea Company Advice:
The AR strategic and tactical plan should have an initiative for asking customers about their sources of information and advice
Surveys should look at both information and advice separately and within the context of the entire sales cycle
Working with sales representatives to gain customer intelligence should be done within the framework of an AR-Sales Partnership program

Bottom Line: Gaining intelligence from customers about their sources of information and advice is a great addition to AR planning and execution. While this technique does require some effort and expense, the information and insights are extremely valuable.

More questions? Let us know!

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