Imagine a job where good work is rarely praised and people can only complain that you somehow messed up?
Imagine a job where you had to spend all your time ensuring industry analysts (whom are all, of course, very nice humble people) had their facts straight and you hoped liked your firm enough to say good things?
Imagine a job where you had to constantly be nice to your executives, to make sure they showed up on time to all these analyst meetings, and didn't say anything stupid?
Welcome to the world of vendor analyst relations (or simply known as "AR" in the biz). If I do some really bad things in my life (which, of course, I haven't yet, but may do so in the future), I will be brought back to this planet as an "AR pro". This is a no-win profession - you have to be nice to absolutely everyone and pray you won't get fired because your firm somehow didn't make it far enough onto the right hand-side of some analyst's chart.
So we asked one truly unsung hero from this much-beleaguered profession to share with us how they actually succeed (avoid messing up). Bring forth Wendy Shlensky, one of Infosys' lead AR folks, who somehow found a few stolen moments away from her 120-hour a week job to share her secrets with us. Normally, at this stage, I introduce some hobby or past-time to add some color to our guest, but I've never assumed the poor girl has time to do anything beyond staring aghast at her email inbox...
I am an AR (Industry Analyst Relations) professional. I succeed and fail based on my ability to maintain and leverage relationships between many different parties –
- Myself & the analysts
- The analysts & our executives & marketers
- Our executives, the marketers and me
One way I illustrate the importance of relationships to non-AR practitioners is to look at your email inbox. Which emails do you open first? The ones from that whiney person in the ether, who’s always bugging you to do things that you don’t want to do or the ones from your boss, or the ones from that person who is always overly complimentary to you about the job you do? Or somewhere in between? If your inbox is anything like mine, you rarely open the mail from people you don’t know – mostly because you’re too busy looking at the emails from people you do know. So, whose emails get opened first? I end up opening the mails from people whose names I recognize or people I have relationships with. One quite funny anecdote is I tend to open mails from Phil Fersht faster than mails from Philip Fersht. While these 2 names denote the same person, with the exact same email address, they enter my mailbox as two separate names and I’m more familiar with Phil Fersht than Philip. Full disclosure: I do try to open all emails, this is just a colorful example of the power of relationships.
The other key to understanding the power of relationships is that they are two-way affairs. Ideally all parties in the relationships are getting something valuable from each other. One of the reasons I value some of my analyst relationships more than others is because of the care & figurative feeding they put into our relationship. They are working to help me become a better AR Manager because the better I get at my job, the more enjoyable our working relationship should ideally become. What do analysts want? Bottom line they want a direct connect into the organization, someone who is going to find out the information they need and get it to them when they need it. I need to be a good connection-point for them, otherwise they’ll find other ways to get the information they want.
Ideally there is a win-win-win going on within analyst relationships – The analyst gets something they are looking for – information, the chance to assist a vendor with their strategy, the chance to help solve a business need for an end user client. The vendor gets something they need – validation for their offerings or exposure of their offerings to their prospects. The AR Manager has happy executives and analysts on both sides of the relationship, hence signaling they are doing a swell job.
When I mentioned to a colleague that I was writing this guest blog, they told me a story that someone had told them, that instantly resonated with me and why I consider myself so successful in my role. A young girl had to care for her grandmother and always wanted her care to be perfect. Her brothers, played cards, watched movies and enjoyed their grandmother’s company all while she took care of her. One day while the grandmother was clearly enjoying the grandson’s time, and the granddaughter was slaving away on her caretaking tasks, the granddaughter became particularly disturbed. Her grandmother noticed and asked her “Do you ‘enjoy’ me, Juliana, or do you care for me only out of a sense of duty?”
That question, made me stop and think “how do I relate to people? Out of enjoyment or because it’s my duty?” For me, life and my job is much more enjoyable when I am relating to people out of pure desire to assist, rather than because it’s my duty.
Bottom line – remember relationships need to be earned. You can’t buy a relationship; you can buy access, but not a relationship.
How you choose to behave in every interaction affects your capacity for building relationships.
Sources: Alan Stern, Stage Right Organizational Development; Juliana Lesher, Chief Chaplain, Fargo, North Dakota VA Medical Center
Wendy Shlensky (pictured) is Analyst Relations Director at Infosys Technologies. You can add to her email inbox at Wendy_Shlensky at Infosys dot com