How Prioritizing Analyst Relations Can Build Credibility And Boost Sales

Bram Weerts, advisor and co-founder of Kea Company, an analyst relations advisory firm.

When talking to technology vendors eager to grow their business, I usually encounter several common challenges. One of the most significant issues from outside the company is that, once they are moving out of their comfort zone, they are facing prospects that are much more skeptical than those in their home markets.

It seems to be a typical pattern: vendors manage to grow to a specific size (depending on the size of their home market, I find this is often somewhere between $5 and $20 million) and then start thinking about ways to expand further. This often is when they are confronted with the “real outside world” for the first time. Before this, they managed to leverage their network successfully or they were the vendor with an office location closest to the customer.

This kind of home advantage usually works up to a certain point. You might be able to successfully sell to new clients based on recommendations from your network, even second-degree connections, but that’s about where it stops. When you deal with prospects who have never heard of you and don’t have any other obvious connection path (be it geographically or personal) to your company, the selling gets much more challenging.

Any vendor will first bring their unique selling points to the potential buyer’s attention. But be honest: How many competitors are out there making similar claims regarding their solution’s capabilities? At this stage, it doesn’t matter if their (or your) claims are valid; the only thing that matters is who is going to get the chance to prove their claims either by further demonstrations, proof of concept, trials or, ideally, by closing the deal.

Another challenge vendors face is connected to the deal size. New customers are usually willing to risk a limited amount of money on a new technology provider or a new solution in the market. With increasing deal size, this inclination to take the risk quickly declines, so smaller or new vendors often fail to win the more important deals in the market. This is also true regarding the business criticality of a solution. Buying something small and nice from a new vendor is much easier than buying a business-critical or security-relevant solution from an unproven source.

Credibility Wins Business

With markets in which there are typically multiple vendors offering multiple solutions for a similar problem, the buyer needs to significantly narrow down the potential suppliers. So being on the shortlist for further evaluation must be the primary goal in the early stages of the sales process. This is where the topic of credibility comes into play.

When competing in their home markets, a vendor is virtually guaranteed to get a place on the shortlist. Once competing outside, it’s not as likely. Credibility means that a potential customer has enough trust in the claims you make about your company and your solution to give you the chance to prove yourself.

Having credible salespeople goes a long way toward reaching that goal, but they are not always easy to find and hire. In addition, some customers will never accept anything coming directly from a vendor at face value. References can help to generate trust. But it’s important to know that the effectiveness of a reference quickly declines if they do not meet the same criteria — the same vertical, of similar size, etc. — a specific customer is looking for.

So what’s the best way to handle the credibility issue?

Influencers Create Credibility

This is where influencer relations have their place in the marketing mix. Many journalists and industry analysts make their living by evaluating technologies, vendors and solutions. Industry analysts, in particular, are heavily involved in advising technology buyers on their vendor selection and shortlist creation. This is why it’s industry analysts my company helps to build relationships with on behalf of our clients. 

Industry analyst groups like Gartner, Forrester and IDC often influence commercial technology sales, and their market reach is much more extensive than anything a midsize vendor can hope to achieve on its own. This means that being mentioned by analysts — either in written research or in one-to-one inquiries — will open up indirect access to many potential customers. Further, based on my perspective, coverage in official research publications is the most powerful tool for your salespeople and your marketing materials. It demonstrates that your technology, company, products, service offerings and methods are highly recognized and credible.

Analysts are writing about your market, whether you like it or not. Being proactive in reaching out to analysts gives you a strategic advantage. You’re able to influence their research by providing them with the insight they need when they need it. Ongoing efforts to inform analysts of your company’s products, services and strategy can keep your company top of mind. Especially if your company is new to the market, engage with analysts early to build credibility, secure your place on the shortlist and boost sales.

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