I just survived Gartner Symposium in Orlando and as part of my regular post mortem, I analyze what went well and what I can do to improve the experience next year. A critical player for me this week is my Gartner salesperson, which got me thinking about how many AR managers neglect this key participant in their program.
Analyst firm salespeople are unsung heroes in the AR world because AR managers tend to overly focus on our analysts and overlook these useful resources. I remember one year when I was at Oracle OpenWorld, I took out my account execs for dinner one evening – no analysts, only my key salespeople from the major firms to a fun dinner as a thank you and hosted them, as usually it’s the salesperson hosting us. This was years ago so hopefully things have gotten better out there, but I was saddened when one of my account execs said it was the first time he saw an AR manager do something special for sales rather than for an analyst.
AR managers are abused all the time, it’s part of the job description in any service role. We expect and swallow it as needed and it’s tempting to turn around and abuse someone else who is also in a service role. Don’t do it. Abusing your salesperson because your analyst abused you is not only a reflection of how you were raised by wolves, but will inevitably get back to your analyst too. All it does is tarnish your personal brand and reflect badly on your company in general.
So at the risk of giving away trade secrets, if you are not partnering well with your salesperson, you’re missing a key opportunity to advance your own cause. A good salesperson:
Has pull with your key analysts so that when you ask for extras such as dinner or drinks after a consulting day, he delivers your analyst so that you get the extra face time
Will react quickly when you have a question so you in turn can look responsive and smart when your constituents ask you a question and you don’t know the answer
Will be proactive about letting you know about changes at their firm so you in turn can look smart and proactive to your company
Has business acumen, poise and is someone you would not be embarrassed to do a meeting privately with one of your senior execs without your supervision
Is a strong client advocate internally for your company in general, and will be creative in working with you to solve problems and help navigate his own company on your behalf
Their interests will naturally align with yours. If the relationship is going well between your two companies, of course there will be natural commercial upside for them. And you should actively help them try to sell more within your company if there is a real need for more research services. If you make introductions, broker meetings, help them get in front of the correct decision makers with real needs and real budget, then you’re helping them do their jobs. In return they will help you do yours.
Do respect the Chinese wall between editorial and sales. It’s not like your salesperson is able to read drafts ahead of time or is in research calls. But if your salesperson has a good relationship with the analyst, the analyst may give the salesperson an informal heads up about reports that you really care about. Your salesperson will definitely understand the equation of more positive reports = more money for reprints and will want to help that along.
Do have rational expectations – if your company is not a big account, or the future opportunity isn’t there, and from a business standpoint you’re small potatoes, know your place. Demanding a bunch of special favors, deep discounts, etc. is not reasonable and will only frustrate both of you. On the other hand, if your company is a substantial account, you should be expecting all sorts of goodies from your account executive and a weak one is not helpful. It’s fine to push for more and even ask for a personnel switch if you’re unhappy with performance.
Finally, do make a point of being cordial with other non-analysts at your research firms. The team that approves vendor citation requests; the guys and gals who schedule briefings and inquiries; the events folks who book your 1:1s; they’re all people who can help you do your job. When someone goes above and beyond, make a point of recognizing them to their supervisor, for example. Send chocolates or flowers if you have been exceptionally high maintenance lately.
We AR managers are in the relationship business. We should actively collude with other professionals who are in the relationship business.
This blog is dedicated to Kenny Duebelbeis, my long-suffering Gartner account exec who just survived Symposium with me; and other superstars including Roland Ellingsen, Sharon O’Neill, Chris Jarmul, Cheryl Davidson, just to name a few special salespeople who have taught me loads about working with analysts.
See also this related post on the IIAR blog: