Over $100 million is wasted annually by IT vendors buying the wrong services at the wrong price from IT analyst firms. Buying the right IT industry analyst services is easier said than done. With the right process, you can ensure the best value for your money, and avoid costly mistakes. In this SageNote we outline a step-by-step process to follow when buying IT analyst services.
Analyst firms offer a dizzying array of consulting and subscription services. Some are a la carte, and others are packaged deals. The large firms have over 40+ different products, with multiple add-ons, extensions, and capabilities. We find that a simple best practice process takes the confusion out of the effort, and ensures that you are connected to the right services. By doing this, you can engender tremendous support from the analyst firms’ account execs. Their objective is to find and close qualified leads as quickly as possible. A professional, rapid decision maker is what they want. The more you can help them shorten the sales cycle, the more you make their life better. And by finding the right services the first time, you should be a more satisfied client. Everyone wins.
In this SageNote we provide an overview of the best practices for the acquisition process for IT industry analyst services. Drill-down details on noteworthy topics are explored in separate SageNotes, referenced at each step.
Step One: Preparation
Get a game plan
Most companies don’t have a strategy for dealing with analysts. Why are you engaging the analysts? Is it to get more visibility with them? Is it to use their research and advisory capabilities? Before engaging the analysts, lay out a plan for how you will use the information, how it will be disseminated inside the organization, and how best to leverage your position as a client of the analyst firm. Furthermore, target the analysts that you plan to engage – both the firms and the individual analysts. Commitment is an important element of your game plan – you need to plan on going to the key conferences and seminars, and integrating the analyst information into all aspects of your business. Finally, develop a plan for contracting the services. Define a timeline, identify the firms, and stay focused. The analysts will appreciate the effort, and you’ll save time and money.
Prepare a Request for Information (RFI) Document
Too many vendors approach IT analyst firms with little organized information. A tool for communicating requirements succinctly and consistently to the analyst firm is the RFI. In terms of scope, the RFI should ideally be five or six pages in length and no more than 10 pages. The emphasis for the RFI should be on the business problem and not any specific service or product. The requirements should be structured so that the firm can be flexible in suggesting solutions.
Step Two: Selection
Selecting Which IT Analyst Firms to Deal With
Deciding which firms to invite to the dance can be daunting. Some firms have very similar research approaches, overlapping coverage and comparable client bases (e.g., Gartner, Forrester and IDC). Other firms might look similar on the surface, but are in reality quite different (e.g., The 451 Group and NelsonHall). When developing a long list of analyst firms to send the RFI to, ensure that there is a sufficient mix of firms, not only to obtain the coverage your company needs but also to let the analyst firms’ account executives know they have competition for your budget dollars.
Invite them to present
Set up a call with the various sales reps, have them present their respective firms, and most importantly, describe what you do, who your company is, and what your expectations are. Observe how the sales representative has prepared for the briefing; if they don’t know about your business or haven’t done at least minimal research on your industry, then you can probably expect just as much service from them during the time of the contract fulfillment.
Have them play it back
At the end of the first call, ask them to send you an e-mail that plays back to you the basics: what you do, what your critical business issues are, what your company and products do, and what your expectations are from services. This process ensures that you get the right sales rep (was he or she listening, and do they “get it”?), and that you have a match in terms of mutual expectations.
Ask for a proposal
Request a simple sales proposal with some basic information: 1) what services they would recommend; 2) have them link your specific requirements to the recommended services; 3) who the key analysts are for your company/products around the world; 4) a short summary of their services; and 5) pricing options.
Step Three: Evaluation
Get proof points
Ask the rep to set up a few test inquiries. This enables you to actually test drive the product, and you’ll quickly discover how much or how little the analysts know about your company, your competitors, the technology, and the future. Ask to attend a seminar or briefing if possible. Ask for a reference or two. From your company’s side, make sure you have the decision-makers/users of the services on the test inquiries.
Get it in writing
Request a formal proposal, in writing. Make sure you both have a match in terms of business requirements, technology issues, and boundaries of coverage. Get all promises in writing. Finally, get multiple options (this gives you more scope for negotiation and a better feel for their flexibility/depth of services).
Step Four: Negotiation
Your customers are tough negotiators. Don’t hesitate to push your sales rep hard. Keep in mind, most analyst firms are public companies, and subject to the quarterly march. As we all know, the deals get sweeter on the last day of a tough quarter.
Step Five: Put it into Action
Close the deal – set up a kick-off meeting/plan
After you evaluate the different offerings, and select the appropriate firm(s), don’t stop. Sign the deal(s) and set up the first round of inquiries and meetings to ensure that the relationship starts to grow. Too often the deal gets done, both sides move on, and two months later the client wonders why they are paying for analysts’ services, and the analyst firms wonder why the client never calls. If you get the other steps right, then step five should come naturally.
Five steps ensure you get the right services at the right price and are off to the right start with the analyst firms. You save time, money, and have the respect and support of a sales rep who wants to do business with you. Most importantly, this is a fundamental step in building a successful AR organization.
By the way, the job is not done once the contract is inked. AR departments should always be reviewing their usage and service with the account executives to ensure that the full measure of value is being obtained.