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Important: How to Impress / Annoy an Analyst During a Vendor Briefing? Best / Worst Tips Here!

by Anton Chuvakin  |  December 22, 2017  |  17 Comments

About a year ago, I crowdsourced a collection of best/worst tips for Vendor Briefings (a one hour presentations from a technology vendor to a Gartner analyst) from other analysts, and now I finally found time to blog it, thanks for some motivation from the Twitterverse. The list is organized as DOs and DON’Ts for the vendors, listed in semi-logical order.

DO NOT:

  • Do not present a disorganized slide deck, full of typos and outdated information
  • Do not (NOT!) go to a VB without any materials such as slides; this negatively affects the retention of the shared information by the analyst
  • But also, do not bring a 110 slide deck and then fly through it, see the above point re: analyst retention of the material
  • Do not spend time talking about your team – in fact, don’t tell me anything I can read on your ”about us” page [we are analysts, NOT investors, a brief “who we are” slide is OK]
  • Do not go so fast that an analyst cannot ask questions, but also do not stop every 3 minutes to ask whether an analyst have any questions
  • Do not be vague about what your product/service actually does in real life [this, as you can easily guess, is a biggie!]
  • Do not focus excessively on marketing and “the story you tell” at a cost of product functionality, specific problems you solve and precise reasons why your approach is superior to alternatives
  • Do not spend too much time [or: any time] on industry statistics about how bad the threat is. We see this every time. Do focus on explaining the specific problem your product/service tackles
  • Generally, do not ask for feedback on Vendor Briefings, we are not allowed to provide it – please schedule a client call if you are client for that
  • Do not allude to having many customers and then say “but they are so secretive we cannot share anything about them”
  • Do not assign somebody who is unqualified, disorganized and arrogant to the task of doing a Vendor Briefing
  • Similarly, do not bring “a CTO” who cannot answer technical questions; because if your CTO is fake, perhaps your entire product is?
  • Do not name drop other analysts’ names and then imply that they really liked your product
  • Do not lie to an analyst such as by saying that you are fascinated by their brilliant research while it becomes clear you actually never read it
  • Do not ask for a briefing under NDA, unless you have some really, really, really good reasons for it [A.C. – this is very rare!]
  • Do not focus on bashing your competition [such as with rumors and innuendo], but do provide a crisp, fact-based comparison to the competition you fight in the field.

DO:

  • Do read the official Vendor Briefing instructions first!
  • Do bring a well-organized slide deck that you actually plan to follow (please no “let’s skip to slide 48”). Some analysts recommend 10-20 slides, I think a bit more is acceptable, as long as they tell a coherent story.
  • Provide a copy of your presentation in advance [we all prefer it, but some of us feel much strongly about this one!]
  • Do use a good quality phone line, and seek to minimize airport, dog, kid, pet hyena noises [A.C. – I do tell people “you sound like VOIP” sometimes, but I would never complain about the dog barking…]
  • You should make sure you tell the problem you solve and what makes you different in the first 10 minutes of the briefing. Be sure to describe this as a unique value for end users, not a unique marketing story.
  • Do ask an analyst what he wants to hear the most, but don’t be shocked if he says “I just want to know what you do and how” [this is true if this a new product space for them]
  • Do express your views on the market history, evolution, trends and your role in all this – but do not give us the market basics.
  • Ideally, share why we need yet another vendor, in this market, to do this [if you are a player in a very competitive market]. A free tip: if you cannot explain this to an analyst, you definitely will not explain it to a prospect….
  • If you are going to do a demo, please make sure it works. Include a realistic demo, i.e. with data, a scenario that represents how your customers use your product,
  • For a product new to the analyst, show how the product addresses specific problems and customer use cases.
  • If you are going to focus on your product strategy, please understand what the word means: a real strategy defines the actions you are taking to grow, help clients and beat the competition.
  • Do provide a fact-based slide comparing your approach to alternatives, direct competitors or even the old way of solving the same problem [all told, is your tool really better than doing it manually]
  • Do remember what you presented to this analyst in the past [we don’t like an introductory briefing 2 months after your introductory briefing…]
  • If an analyst asks a question, please ask concisely, and take no more than 30-60 seconds doing so.
  • Do be clear about what your product strategy is and try to actually articulate this in a Briefing
  • Do follow-up if you promised to send the materials later, share whitepapers, customer references, etc
  • Do cover the exact problems you solve, broad product architecture, top competitors you see (and, please don’t say THERE ARE NONE!), customer use cases, your largest deployments, roadmap [that you plan to actually follow!], etc.
  • Some of us care about your pricing and your pricing strategy, but some [typically us GTP analysts] don’t. Ask an analyst whether they want to know your pricing mechanics.
  • Most of us care at least somewhat about your number of production customer and/or revenue. Please share at least something on this even if you are very secretive
  • If you want to really impress, perhaps even shed some light on what lessons you learned selling, deploying and helping customer operate your product.

Thanks to those Gartner analysts who contributed [sorry, the list of names would be too long to list here, but extra thanks go to Lawrence Pingree for his help organizing the list]

An obligatory cryptic reference: my ROTC instructor once told me that in PSYOPS, we do not lie when we talk about easily verifiable things… perhaps vendors need to take notice of this tip as well…

Other useful materials on briefing analysts can be found at the links below [note that not all of the below agree on all the details, since analysts have different focus areas] – please add your favorite resources on this to comments and I will update the post [UPDATED below]:

 

Category: 

Anton Chuvakin
Research VP and Distinguished Analyst
5+ years with Gartner
17 years IT industry

Anton Chuvakin is a Research VP and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner's GTP Security and Risk Management group. Before Mr. Chuvakin joined Gartner, his job responsibilities included security product management, evangelist… Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Important: How to Impress / Annoy an Analyst During a Vendor Briefing? Best / Worst Tips Here!


  1. Andre Gironda says:

    it’s funny. vendors are idiots

    • some of these may be funny, but please keep two things in mind: I remain a firm believe in a/ capitalism and b/ evolution.

      Vendors make money and their practices evolve to better make money. So, some of the blame re: the directions of their evolution sit with the environment where they evolve and play….

    • I disagree! Firstly vendors are not people and cannot be idiots. Secondly, many vendors solve genuine problems that need to be solved. While some people that work at vendors can be challenging, this guidance (which I contributed one or more bullets to) will help both us and the vendors get the most out of the interaction. The reality is that very technical people at vendors – especially early stage vendors – don’t necessarily know how best to interact with research firms, and ultimately, marketing people and PR people do what they know how to do.

  2. Erik T Heidt says:

    Two more tips:

    1. Do not assume you can screen share – the WebEx for Vendor Briefings doesn’t allow it.

    2. If you do screen share, please (really) turn off IM/notifications so your buddy or coworker who wants to complain about either (a) Garter,(b) their ex, (c) tell inappropriate jokes, etc… does not share that with the briefing.

    Multi-monitor setups can cause problems to. Fee advice: Run demos in a virtual machine that is devoid of personal apps, IM, etc. It solves the desktop sharing problem!

  3. James McGovern says:

    Some vendors bring an entourage to the briefing as if it were an MC Hammer concert. In this scenario, they also need to brief their internal teams on what they know about the analyst and their background, what the analyst might specifically look for in the briefing and most importantly, if you are going to say something that challenges current published research, that every participant do a little homework and read some of it.

    • Thanks James, that is a good point. A VB where the vendor side has ~10 people are not common (IMHO), but they do happen and this calls for its own set of tips and best practices….

  4. Jonathan Care says:

    I take the opposite view on pricing and financials. If a vendor doesn’t provide this information when requested I gained little information.
    Plus, please provide a fluent English speaker or an interpreter unless you are sure your analyst(s) can support an alternative language.
    I understand the desire for VB feedback – I have had occasions where there has been nothing to feedback, usually because of a poor briefing.

    • What do you mean “an opposite view”? I don’t see any view in my original list above. For sure, if we ask about it and they don’t say anything, this provides little info – so I agree.

      Re: an English speaker – this sounds painfully obvious. But I think you are right, this tip is needed for some regional vendors.

  5. Not surprising that Anton’s blog contained lots of valuable information

    For those that want more on this topic, we offer valuable content regarding the care and feeding of analysts (http://theskillsconnection.com/). For those that are interested, our Knowledge Bank (http://theskillsconnection.com/knowledge-bank/), is a great resource, offering links to webinars and other useful pieces, on a whole range of relevant topics.

  6. […] Important: How to Impress / Annoy an Analyst During a Vendor Briefing? Best / Worst Tips Here! (advice to vendors briefing analysts!) […]

  7. craig kensek says:

    Don’t waste cycles talking about which other analyst groups you make use of. No jokes about wearing gartner belts.

  8. DJ Whitehair says:

    Great advice in a great format. Great Ar professionals coach executives and product marketing on these points, but sometimes they are ignored.

  9. […] A little bird has swooped in and dropped a package into a super-secret drop box in my backyard. My dog has found the package and the following was sealed inside. Clearly, the bird has delivered this in response to my post here. […]



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