Last month I wrote a blog post about the impact analyst relations can have on a company’s bottom line. This month I am back to discuss how to get the most out of your time with analysts.
Now, before we jump in, I want to draw a line in the sand from the start.
I know this doesn’t need to be said, but I will say it anyway: I am not an analyst. I have never been an analyst. And I was hesitant to write this post since I am not typically in the practice of making blanketing statements about a group of people, especially in a field I have never worked.
With that said, we have tons of experience in analyst relations both as an agency partner to our clients and as in-house executives working directly with analysts. That means we get analyst relations from the company and the analyst side, and we work hard to make sure that both sides get the most value out of the relationship. If managed correctly, your analyst program becomes strategic and can have a big impact on your company’s success. With our collective thousands of hours spent on analyst calls and in-person meetings, we understand when a vendor is not using their valuable briefing time wisely. Every analyst is different, as is every conversation; however, there are certain things that tend to be well received and will ensure everyone gets what they want from the interaction.
If you do not have time to read any further, then read this: The biggest piece of advice we can give you is to prepare, be flexible and open, and don’t make it a monologue
- Go in blind. Do your Homework. Know who you are speaking with. If you don’t have a subscription to the firm’s research, do an Internet search. You can often download papers from other sites. Read recent blogs, check out their social media and watch their talks. This should help you to understand the analyst’s interests and how familiar they are with your topic. Note whether the analyst has a particular viewpoint or perspective on competitors, the industry, your product approach, or the customer need that either agrees or disagrees with your company’s viewpoint. Have that perspective in mind as your think about what you will present and how you will try to shape the conversation. If you do not agree with the analyst, you need to be respectful of their opinion while working to shift their perspective. Use all of this background to shape the presentation, including the topics you spend the most time on.
As your analyst program progresses, be sure to track your interactions with each analyst. Before each subsequent briefing, check your notes to refresh on what you already shared. Do not waste time repeatedly briefing them on the same topic. As you get to know each person better, you should be able to anticipate questions and areas of interest. If you cut a topic short last time or a roadmap item of interest recently GA’ed, start the next conversation there. Alternatively, if they have never been briefed by your company, take a step back and give them a two-minute overview before you jump in.
- Go in without slides, demo and use cases. Prepare and be flexible. Come prepared with polished slides and a comprehensive presentation. It’s okay to ask questions, like “How well do you know our company” and “What are you most interested in hearing about today,” but you should be 100 percent prepared. Beyond wasting everyone’s time, if you aren’t zipped up, it will reflect poorly and make the analyst wonder about the quality of all aspects of the business.
At the same time, you need to be flexible. Technology can be unreliable, so have a plan B in the event that slides will not open, the analyst is in route or the demo environment is down. Be prepared to present without slides or a demo and even if you are annoyed, do not let that show.
- Don’t share every detail of your company. Understand what the analyst cares about. Analysts talk to a lot of companies, so make it easy for them to understand your company and your technology. Many analysts do not care and/or they don’t have the time to sit through your founding story. This is not an investor presentation nor is it a media story where you need an angle. Analysts typically need to know what your technology does, how you beat your competitors, how customers use your technology, how you foresee the market evolving and what is coming down the roadmap. Many will ask revenue, employee count and customer numbers. This is so they can gauge the size of your company and the business you are doing.
- Share customer stories. Stories and real uses cases are easier to remember and show real-world value of your product. Spend time going over how your customers use your product, why you won the deal and how the customer progressed through the sales cycle. This information helps them to better understand when they should recommend your product in the future.
- Breathe, take a break, ask if there are questions. Many firms will only schedule half-hour briefings and the pressure is on to get everything in. This is why as you prepare, you should cut your presentation down to 22 minutes. This will enable you to not rush through. No one likes to be talked at and it would be better to have a short, engaging presentation than a dry 30-minute monologue. Many analysts will share what they are seeing, so leave time at the end for questions — yours and theirs. If your slides are ready before the briefing, send them over. Many analysts will review if they have time and they will come prepared with questions. This will enable you to go deep into the areas they care about.
- Be respectful. No matter what, do not argue with the analyst, even if you disagree. If you do not see eye-to-eye, you should listen respectfully to the analyst’s perspective. When they are through, you may respectfully disagree, but you should never attack an analyst. Have a civil conversation and if you find that you still are not on the same page at the end of the meeting, strategize with your team ways to make your point during the next interaction — customer calls, walking through real-world use cases, etc. An analyst call is not the time for egos, they are for moving minds and shaping markets. Egos get in the way.
- Engage analysts on a regular cadence. For every analyst in your space, you should determine a cadence for updating them. It should be based on your roadmap, how closely they follow your market and their upcoming research. It will be different for each analyst.
One thing to keep in mind as you brief tech analysts is that they are focused on advising their clients on IT approaches. You should think of briefings as a way to help analysts to understand your technology, the pains you solve and who benefits from your product. There is no hidden agenda with analysts, they want to understand your technology so they can make informed recommendations. Leave your ego at the door and work to build a long-term relationship that brings value to the analyst.