Forrester continues to warn AR away from alignment with sales

Our concerns about the evenness of role-based research are deepened by Forrester’s latest AR research AR’s Graveyard: Unmet Sales Commitments. Forrester’s guidance is that, because most AR teams struggle to show how they contribute to their firm’s bottom line, they should focus on marketing and not attempt to support the sales function.

Our view is that this is deeply mistaken guidance. Analysts have a massive impact on sales: AR teams can influence their recommendations. Dr Efrem Mallach will explain that impact, and how to influence it, in our October 3 webinar: it’s a very important training session for you if you are not 100 percent sure on the hows and why of influencing sales.

Developing the ability to support sales, and to show the results, is a key element in the potential value of analyst relations. In addition to its marketing value, AR can generate value by helping ICT solutions suppliers to leverage strategy, opinion and sales benefits from the analyst community. We call this leverage. If AR does not maximise its leverage then the value of AR will be limited. That will stunt the development of analyst relations programmes.

The Forrester paper argues that:
More than half of the industry analyst relations (AR) teams that we surveyed in April 2007 say that they commit to objectives that help the sales function. But poor sales results threaten to undermine AR’s corporate contribution and its reputation. AR teams — especially new ones — should familiarize themselves with the full extent of the failure risks and their ability to overcome them before deciding whether to focus on sales. It will be their toughest assignment.

Don’t rush to read it if you’re already read their July paper, Tech Marketers Should Focus AR On Marketing, Not Sales, which seems to start from the same survey and reach the same conclusions:
Over half the industry analyst relations (AR) teams we surveyed in April 2007 say they commit to sales objectives even though two-thirds of them report to marketing and corporate communications departments. Poor sales results suggest this sales focus is diluting AR’s marketing contribution without corresponding benefits. Given the control it has over AR, marketing should rein in sales aspirations unless AR can prove it is delivering on its toughest assignment.

In a nushell, Forrester is saying that AR people who cannot currently show how the contribute to sales should give up on. It’s easier to focus on the marketing/media value of analysts, so focus on that, they say.

Of course, there’s an alternative: if your struggle to show how far you’re supporting sales, then there could be two reasons: either you are not measuring it or you are not supporting sales. Either way, these are problems that need to be recognised as problems with those AR programmes. Forrester is not helping its clients by reassuring them that their weaknesses are common, so they should put off recognising them. In fact, Forrester’s guidance goes further, by suggesting that favourable sales outcomes, aided through influencing analysts, are not goals AR teams should aspire to. Following Forrester’s advise will prevent AR teams from maximising solid, maintainable internal support.

If you cannot show how far you are supporting sales, then it’s easy to start. Lighthouse can help you, either through our webinar or through other services, but you can do a lot by yourselves: get some colleagues together draw up a list of ways you can do support sales, and then identify which of those you can measure. Start on that road, even if you start with modest and simple activities. It will align your AR team to the interests of the business, and give the business a more solid basis on which to maintain and extend the AR function.

Duncan Chapple

Duncan Chapple is the preeminent consultant on optimising international analyst relations and the value created by analyst firms. As the head of CCgroup's analyst relations team, Chapple directs programs that increase the value of relationships with industry analysts and sourcing advisors.