A few years ago, when working as a research executive at Gartner, I attended a meeting to discuss initiatives to improve the quality of research written deliverables. As we discussed the issue, to my astonishment, one of the people at the table said that he didn’t think we needed to consider any research writing training for analysts; after all “don’t we hire people that can already write?” I didn’t see that one coming. So today, when I went for my daily Dilbert fix, I was struck with a sense of déjà vu all over again.

Training isn’t a front burner issue, is it?
If clients and customers aren’t complaining, then in this economy, training isn’t a front burner issue, is it?  And, if clients aren’t complaining, then it means that everything is all right, right? Well, consider the following email message we received from a client (by way of a very happy analyst) “I just wanted to pass along that I thought your presentations were very well done this year. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but in past years sometimes you seemed a little less comfortable presenting to the large group, but this year you did a great job. I heard the same observation from several people.”

No training can be more expensive than some training
Companies wouldn’t consider not training salespeople. There is always money for training salespeople. There’s money for new hire training, periodic product training, various sales skills training including selling to VITO, team selling, business acumen, sales methodology, solution selling, questioning techniques, etc. Everyone intuitively understands that it’s easy to justify training salespeople. That’s because sales people are your front line in acquiring, growing and retaining clients. So, the ROI is obvious. But, what about the ROI for analysts? (or marketing staff, or consultants)

ROI for analyst training
While it might not be so “in your face,” the ROI for analyst training in reality is certainly no less compelling than that for sales staff. At the end of the day, who truly wins you clients and who has to deliver the necessary perceived value to keep them? Analyst training ROI exists at several levels.

  • Impact on new business win rates and retention rates – Research needs to be audience relevant, timely, clearly presented and well communicated. This is what impresses people enough to make them buy…  and this is what makes them stay.
  • Brand performance –  Your analysts are ultimately your brand and create your perceived brand value. Brand, of course, sells – just ask Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Porsche….
  • Staff engagement  – Especially in times such as these, management tends to forget that research is 100% a people business. When IP is your business, the level of engagement of your IP creators is everything. Engaged staff create sales and growth, disengaged staff lose customers and kill business.
  • Efficiency –  Ask any analyst what their biggest problem is and they will tell you it’s not enough time to do everything required. When everything is a top priority the only answer here is to help people become more efficient with their time. As one of our course delegates noted “It literally takes me half the time to write a piece.” What is the impact of this type of efficiency to the bottom line of the business?
  • Sales performance –  Frequently we find that the research firms we are speaking with struggle to express their value sufficiently well to clients. Analysts either disengage from any part of the sales process, or when they are supposed to be supporting the process instead they give away the ”crown jewels.” Selling the value of a soft product like advisory services requires a blend of skills between sales and research. Ignore the analyst role in this process at your peril.

There are alternatives
Training is clearly an expense; and, not all training needs to be in a formal classroom setting. Indeed, much valuable training is conducted by peers or managers. And, training can be delivered in e-learning, by webinar and other formats. If you don’t have the resources to develop suitable training, outsource it – it’s generally going to be cheaper anyway (and if you outsource with us – also the best quality :-) ). Can you really afford to ignore your most crucial business winning resources?