By Rishi Ghai (LinkedIn, @rishi_ghai)
It’s universal––the bittersweet relationship between sales and delivery functions. Industry analyst firms are no exception. The subject of bringing in more business for analyst firms is perhaps the biggest cause of friction between account managers and industry analysts, especially where senior analysts have P&L responsibility.
A typical scenario plays out something like this: analysts, in their capacity as advisors, tend to enjoy greater proximity to technology/service providers and buyers––and assert to know more about business leads for the firm than account managers do. Account managers, on the other hand, tend to disagree and think that analysts aren’t willing to stretch beyond their comfort zones to bring in more dollars…and on the argument continues. Yet, once this friction is transmuted into collaboration, engagements with clients and prospects become richer and more consistent, and untapped business opportunities start to open up.
I can’t write this article without courting some controversy, so here’s a heartfelt disclaimer: to all account managers with whom I have worked as an industry analyst, or as an analyst relations manager––your enthusiasm, imagination, and drive to succeed are truly contagious, and have inspired me to do more and better (you know who you are!). The collaboration tips shared here come from the mistakes I have made and observed, and the lessons I have learned over the years.
Let’s get started:
1. Exchange Insights About Clients/Prospects
Despite industry analysts and account managers being active networkers, both may interact with different sets of stakeholders, and have different perspectives and updates to share. Bouncing client insights with each other goes a long way towards understanding a range of attributes, such as the following, which influence sales:
- General health and direction of a client’s business
- Current phase in the buying journey
- Key decision makers and influencers
- Changes in the key points of contact
- Core and emerging areas of interest (across different business units)
- New queries (and opportunities for business)
- Satisfaction with and/or opinion about analyst firm’s services
- Experience with services of competing analyst firms
- Cyclicality of analyst engagement
- Timelines for renewal of any contracts
- Budget for market intelligence and analyst relations
- ….and more
Treat exchanging client insights as a weekly lead generation and qualification exercise (also great for building better rapport with each other). It is critical that both analysts and account managers make time for these discussions. I recommend one-to-one interactions, however, digital collaboration tools, such as Salesforce, are just as effective, especially for large analyst firms with geographically dispersed teams of analysts and account managers.
2. Leverage Analysts’ Insights About the Market Segments That You Sell To
Domain knowledge is a prized asset in the world of selling. Account managers who understand industry-specific dynamics and the unique challenges their clients face, connect better with them and can sell more relevant services.
Industry analysts right within a firm are account managers’ best resource for developing domain knowledge and gaining insights into target markets. As an account manager, even if you have a good knowledge of the markets segments you cover, it might be a good idea to request an analyst relevant to you portfolio to brief you on the key industry trends every few months, considering the notorious pace at which technology and service markets are changing. It will keep you current with the industry and enable you to initiate new conversations with clients and prospects.
3. Learn More About Your Firm’s Products and Services
This may sound very basic, but you’ll be surprised at how many analyst firms miss this vital point. Examples abound wherein, responding to a client’s query, an analyst or an account manager has declined that their firm offers a particular service/expertise, whereas another person within the same analyst firm has then introduced the client to a specialist in that area. There’s nothing more embarrassing than not knowing enough about your company. It’s an awareness issue that’s easy to fix, and will avoid diversion of business to competitors.
If a query doesn’t pertain to your coverage area, ensure that it is passed on to the client service team, so that they may investigate all possible options and revert to the client appropriately.
Furthermore, analysts and account managers must not only know about the various off-the-shelf offerings relevant to their respective portfolios, but also be in agreement about the broad nature of customisation and consulting options that may be proposed to clients.
4. Discuss the Feasibility of Customised Engagements Before Committing to Clients
This is partly an extension of Point 3 above. I lose the count of how many times I have seen analysts and account managers cross swords on this subject. Here’s a scenario: It’s end of the quarter, and as an account manager you need just one more booking worth $30K to meet your target. You go ahead and sell an analyst workshop to a client, except that the theme of the engagement lies slightly outside the lead analyst’s scope of research, or conflicts with his/her bandwidth and availability. Sticky situations like this can be avoided by checking the feasibility of the deliverables and the deadlines with the relevant analyst before getting a client to sign up.
Most analyst firms these days have calendar management tools in place, which make analysts’ availability quite transparent. In the absence of such tools, checking directly with the relevant analyst is an absolute must to manage analyst and client expectations better.
5. Be Specific About Contract Inclusions, and Track Deliverables Proactively
There are no implied deliverables in a formal contract. Period. Analysts must be clear about the deliverables expected from them, while account managers must acquaint clients with the full scope of their entitlements and privileges right from the start of the contract, not when it is due for renewal. For instance, it helps a client to know from the outset of engagement if any inquiry hours and presentations accompany the services that they have subscribed to.
Make it easier for clients to utilise the contract better by removing ambiguity. If your firm uses or internal codes or broad service names in a contract, spell out the exact deliverables—what they will be, by when they will be delivered, who will deliver them, in what format, and what will constitute completion of the deliverables.
6. Be Responsive
Responsiveness is paramount to winning more business. Consider all client-initiated queries––whether they are about interacting with analysts, or about new services––as time sensitive. Don’t let these precious queries go into a black hole. Even if it looks like a query presents a low-value opportunity, never underestimate a client’s future purchasing power. Service all queries within the shortest possible turnaround time.
And, of course, responsive extends to analysts and account managers also being super-responsive to each other’s queries.
7. Communicate With Each Other Frequently and Clearly
Communication is everything.
If I were forced to pick JUST ONE suggestion to facilitate richer collaboration between account managers and analysts, it would be to communicate better.
Healthy communication is all-inclusive. It builds rapport, keeps both parties informed about the client and market developments, and sharpens judgment of what to sell, to whom, and when. More importantly, communication ensures consistency in how analysts and account managers represent the firm and its capabilities to clients and prospects.
Between industry analysts and account managers, analyst firms have a veritable goldmine of client insights. Effective collaboration is the key to unlocking it and growing business.
Have an opinion? Feel free to share a comment below.
About the Author: Rishi Ghai is a marketing problem solver. His cross-discipline experience spans 13+ years across Australia, India, and the broader Asia-Pacific region––including a decade as an industry analyst at IDC. He currently heads Analyst Relations, Corporate Communications, and Digital Marketing at Cyient.
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