Industry Analyst Relations

Wendy Nather: What do analysts want?

What do analysts really want? While every analyst will have their own preferences, some strong points of agreement came up in a recent twitter thread by Cisco’s Wendy Nather (@WendyNather), who previously led 451 Research’s team of security analysts.

Wendy’s thoughts on the needs of industry analysts were added to by some of the most experienced analysts around. In this post, and with her permission, I’ve gathered her thoughts and added in some of the most notable comments.

Many thanks to Wendy for giving me permission to reproduce these comments. All the credit goes to the original authors.

  1. Briefing an analyst is different from selling to a customer.Don’t use the same deck. Jedi sales mind tricks won’t work and will simply be annoying.
  • Greg Bell (@ferrix) adds: I conduct sales calls using almost the same strategy (plus listening to what the customer needs and seeing if my thing can help or not). It works great every time and they’re always so pleasantly surprised there’s no PowerPoint 🙂
  1. Remember, an analyst has maybe half an hour(or an hour if you’re lucky) to figure out and understand something you may have been working on for months or years. Ask how they want to learn it (maybe it’s not PowerPoint). I myself prefer to use a hands-on demo.
  • 451 alum Fernando Montenegro (@fsmontenegro) exemplifies this; “When taking a briefing, I tell vendors to speak to me as if I’m two people: VC interested in your business and as technical buyer interested in your product. Answers in both domains should be comprehensive.”
  1. Don’t waste time setting up the problem.The analyst already knows what the problem/threat/risk/concept is. Go straight to how you address it. Don’t assume the analyst isn’t technical; let her have as many details as she wants.
  • Joe Franscella adds: “This is key & often overlooked. When possible, I try and do an inquiry ahead of a briefing, to understand what the analyst needs to know to inform his enterprise clients, that way we get to the punch line, fast. I often hear, “Don’t bother setting up the problem, I already know it.”
  1. Because time is so short, the analyst can’t spend time proving or refuting your claims;she can only report them. It’s no use pointing out that your competitor is lying unless you can prove it unequivocally. Otherwise you’re just in “yuh-huh!” “nuh-uh!” territory.
  2. Don’t say you’re the “first”or “only” company to do something. That just made me want to prove you wrong, and 9 times out of 10, I could do it. In fact, get rid of adjectives and adverbs altogether. Just give facts. I’ll make the judgment as to whether it’s fast or unique.
  • Nick Selby (@fuzztech) invoked Nick Patience, a co-founder of 451, reminding us of: his early rule that, if you are the only one in a category, it’s not a category.
  • Eirik Bakke (@eirikbakke) muses: “This might be a tendency from academic CS research, where publications are required to define “novel” contributions. (In business, of course, “first” does not imply “better”, nor does it matter if a now-defunct competitor did the same thing in 1995.)”
  1. Just because the analyst has a different opinion doesn’t mean she doesn’t “get it.”Don’t threaten to keep briefing her until she sees it your way. Make sure she has the facts, then step back and let her analyse them.
  • George Hamilton (@EGHamilton), also a recovering analyst, adds to this: great advice. One more thing: don’t be defensive. If you’re briefing for validation you’re doing it wrong. Welcome the criticism and the holes they poke in your story. Learn and work to be better
  1. Extravagant swag, parties, etc. don’t make a difference.I’ve had dinner at Michael Dell’s house; it didn’t change how I analysed Dell’s offerings. Just be friendly, respectful, and honest.

Wendy concludes:

I am so glad I never had to stack-rank vendor offerings (as in a quadrant or a wave). It would have made me crazy to try to determine one as “better” or “worse” than the other, and then hear the vendor complain about it to my bosses.
And as an analyst, I always reserved the right to be wrong. Yes, we get it wrong sometimes, and if it’s with your company’s offering, I’m sorry. We do our best, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses and bad days.


Written by Duncan Chapple


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