SageCircle alum Dave Eckert on getting started with Sales Enablement

Dave Eckert, who led the SageCircle analyst relations consultancy, is one of the most experienced veterans of the analyst relations community. His work helped SageCircle stand head and shoulders above other firms on issues of sales enablement. I had the chance to interview him. In the first of three SageTalk posts based on that interview, Dave explains the foundations of sales enablement. Two later posts will focus on the value AR can provide to Sales, and the importance of developing sponsorship.

So in your time at Hewlett-Packard before then and obviously more recently at SageCircle, you’ve been coaching some of the world’s largest organizations and many startups on how to look at questions around sales. Now obviously we have our own perspectives: some have been in communications or sales and others have worked for analyst firms. Now you’ve been on the other side of the fence, as an AR strategist both in-house and as a consultant. I want to just start off on the level of definition. Can I maybe start off with that? How do you see the whole question of a partnership between analyst relations and sales?

ONE OF THE biggest things about partnership with analyst relations and sales is trying to put together something that works for both of them. This is really critical because in the past, many times, these are two completely separate organizations that really don’t converse well. So when we talk about a definition of an AR-sales partnership, we’re talking about a formal program that provides some very basic understanding to the sales force.

The word “basic” is really critical here. I’ll explain more about that as we get into this and it provides the sales team some very easy to use tools. Those tools are to either leverage the positive aspects of the analyst community or to mitigate those places where we perhaps have some negative influence.

The whole goal of this is obviously to drive revenue growth and it’s very important to understand that there is not a goal of making sales reps in any way expert on the analysts themselves or on AR. That’s a different job. So what we’re looking to do here is to provide some very basic basic tools and basic understanding off to the salesforce.

Key Concepts

Let’s take a look at some of the things that we could do with that. There are a couple of key concepts I’d like to kind of point out here and one that is that there’s a big advantage to the AR team because if you have a partnership.

You’re going to elevate the role of AR. AR is going to actually have a much more critical position within the company and that’s, of course, is always valuable when you’re looking at resources and funding and things of that nature. But it also provides a vendor (and I’m referring to you as the AR team and your sales team) a competitive edge in the deals because you’ve got a new ally who can help you. That new ally might be positive analysts. So there’s a really important benefit there and we’ll talk more about benefits and risks as we get further in.

One of the other thing that’s really important is to understand is that comes with the risk. That risk is that AR has to have the ability to do this. We’re going to take a look at how we would go about actually creating the system. Part of that is we have to do some reallocation. We have to find resources.

Do less to impact more

You know, I begin this process sometimes with the team. I’ll say: well here’s what we’re going to do. Their first response is: well, I’m already working more hours than there are in the week. How do you expect me to actually put a whole new program into place and the answer has to be. There’s something that has to go.

So we’re going to have to do some trimming somewhere and reduce those things that are not actually providing you benefit. We will take a look at some of those. Then we need to build an understanding between the sales management and your executive sponsorship.

If you don’t have sponsorship at both ends here then this is going to be fighting upstream the whole way. Finding a sponsor within the sales organization is a key part of that success. So that’s going to be a really really key item.

Common questions

I did get a question: does it matter in which stage of your analyst relations program you start building the relationship with sales? I would say the answer to that is no. It doesn’t make any difference what stage you’re in. But you do need to be in a stage: you need to at least have your basic operations put together. That means that you need to be well organized. You need to have a valid budget. You need to have at least a reasonable staff. You also need to have some good record-keeping. You need to understand who your analysts are. So the basics have to be there. But once you’ve crossed those basics then, you know, it’s quite possible that your stage is far enough along. You can actually begin to create one of these programs

Another question is: how exactly can analysts’ help actually influence specific deals, and what do I do to make this happen? Well, I think we understand mostly how analysts could impact a deal negatively! But how they can impact a deal positively is maybe a little less obvious. So there are places that you can use the analysts to provide influence.

One of them, of course, is if there is positive research you can highlight that with the customer. An example might be a positive Magic Quadrant or perhaps maybe you’ve got another piece of information; some kind of analyst commentary that highlights you as having a particularly strong area.

One other area is to look at the client inquiry. That is: can you get your positive analysts to discuss something with that client? Those are kind of stock things that you should be doing as an AR team anyway, and it really doesn’t directly influence sales. However, I would say these are the things that you couple with a sales enablement program in order to kind of make it more valuable.

Focus of partnership

So what’s the focus of this our sales partnership? What are the goals to raise team awareness? What we want here is for the sales team to be aware of the potential influence that the analysts have. Sometimes the sales team is not fully engaged. They don’t understand that there’s an analyst that has either a positive or a negative outlook. Then we want to equip the sales team with some basic information.

We need to make these tools, this information, available to them when they need it. So it’s got to be an online kind of a situation. If you send them emails, they will get dumped and then never read. So it’s got to be placed somewhere within the sales team’s portal. So this is not something you’re going to build, but something that you’re going to add to something that they’re already doing. And you also need to do some kind of a service hotline for the sales team so that they can call you when they run into a problem. This is going to be a resource issue. We’re going to talk more about that as we go.

The process here has to be that you’re going to work within the context of how Sales works. You cannot get sales to work the way you work because they’re a much larger organization. They’ve already got an infrastructure. They’ve already got processes in place. So it’s really really important for you to work within their framework. Another question here is: how do I know if and how analysts are impacting sales? Well, that’s part of what we want to do here. We want to raise the team awareness so that they’re looking for that influence and that they can provide that contact information back to you. I’m going to come back to that because understanding what the influence of the analysts is, is really really important for analyst relations.

Duncan Chapple

Duncan Chapple is the preeminent consultant on optimising international analyst relations and the value created by analyst firms. As SageCircle research director, Chapple directs programs that assess and increase the business value of relationships with industry analysts and sourcing advisors.

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