Did Gartner Copy Its Sales Strategy from Scientology?

Last Updated on January 7, 2022 by Shaun Snapp

Executive Summary

  • Scientology uses the dissatisfaction from customers to upsell them where they will receive the “real benefits.”
  • This article covers how Gartner copied this strategy.

Introduction

If one thinks of these two entities, on the surface, one would think there is nothing in common between the two. I wrote a book on Gartner and have spent a decent amount of time studying how Scientology works. This is part of a longstanding interest in the techniques used for mind control or persuasion (depending on your perspective). This study leads to reviewing wartime propaganda posters to other topics.

Our References for This Article

If you want to see our references for this article and other related Brightwork articles, see this link.

Lack of Financial Bias Notice: The vast majority of content available on the Internet about Gartner is marketing fiddle-faddle published by vendors who republish reports they paid Gartner to publish, or Magic Quadrants they paid Gartner to score well. The IT industry is petrified of Gartner and only publishes complementary information about them. The article below is very different.

  • First, it is published by a research entity.
  • Second, no one paid for this article to be written, and it is not pretending to inform you while being rigged to sell you software or consulting services as a vendor or consulting firm that shares their ranking in some Gartner report. Unlike nearly every other article you will find from Google on this topic, it has had no input from any company's marketing or sales department. 

The Overlap Between the Study of Sales and Mind Control

Studying rather extreme forms of mind control is proper training to understand lesser forms of mind control or persuasion. All power structures engage in mind control to influence them to engage in the behaviors they deem preferable. And from the military to private businesses, almost no one admits to doing it.

A Series of Echelons

Both Gartner and Scientology have a defined set of echelons that one must go through. With Scientology, these are well-known levels and are called Operating Thetan levels. The concepts behind these levels are pretty whacky. But the essential features of these levels are:

  1. How structured they are.
  2. They create the incentive to move up through the levels, much like attaining different belts in the martial arts.
  3. Scientology puts something the prospect desires and values ahead of them and then charges for this. These levels are achieved by paying for various courses and auditing (this is where a person connects a device to you and engages in the form of psychoanalysis).
  4. With Gartner, some levels offer more access to analysts and more “inside information.” Gartner positions its analysts as all-knowing, increasing their value, but that access to them will always cost. What Gartner does not emphasize is that the analysts learn as much from the vendors and that Gartner then resells this information to buyers. Either way, Gartner is always getting paid.

Moving Up the Hierarchy

As one moves upward in the hierarchy, the costs increase in each case. In both cases, the predicted benefits are promoted by the salesperson. In most cases (in the case of Scientology, many of the promises are impossible to realize, so in Scientology, it is in all cases) are not matched by the outcomes observed by the customer. In the case of Scientology, the customer is the convert, and in the case of Gartner, the software vendor. I have never met a Scientologist that I know of. But I have met Gartner salespeople, and Gartner hires very persuasive individuals. I assume Scientology has some quota system and bonus system that also attracts the most compelling people to work in sales.

The Similar Reliance on Secrecy

Both Scientology and Gartner rely upon secrecy. Those Scientologists at the lower echelons cannot be told what awaits them in the later training, and you must pay quite a lot of money for that. Similarly, Gartner commonly states that only about 15% of the research is actually in the Gartner publications. Those that want to see more need to pay for higher levels to access these accurate insights.

There are several reasons for not including the insights in the publications. One is that Gartner has a lot of entities to please. Each software vendor wants to score well in the Magic Quadrant and published materials, and Gartner cannot please them all. But by keeping much of the information private, they can tell one thing to one group of buyers and vendors and something else to another group. Like Scientology, none of this is what the research shows, but about profit maximization. An entity that can tell different stories to different groups can charge more from these groups than if everything was laid out on the table. This contradicts the academic method where one publishes the complete method. Although to be accurate, many academic papers circumvent transparency by using overly complicated mathematics, which very few people can understand. This is most likely the reason for the preponderance of mathematics in academic papers, as it hides the actual core of the research from the vast majority of those who could critique it if it were laid bare.

The Declaration of Hidden or Revealed Truth

Like Gartner, Scientology does not publish the highest order of information to sell as the revealed truth. We only have the details of this information from those who converted from the church and published the documents. When reading these documents, another reason why Scientology keeps it secret emerges. Most of the highest order information is insane. Scientology was founded by a former science fiction writer with mental health problems, and these highest order documents are simply another science fiction story.

Both Gartner and Scientology do a very effective job creating value through scarcity. This stake raising is continual in the relationship between Gartner and the software vendors. At one point, Scientology topped out at Operating Thetan 8. Of course, the Scientologists that paid to get at this level did not see the benefits. Then all of a sudden new books by the founder L Ron Hubbard were “discovered” (after his death) by the Church. Immediately, those that had previously been at the top level (called crossing the bridge to clear) had to re-enroll and pay a tremendous amount of money to do so.

Increasing the Stakes

Both Gartner and Scientology respond to a lack of progress towards goals by requesting more investment on the software or vendor, and each is promising a different thing, of course. So for Scientology, extraordinary claims are made. In addition to “total freedom,” Scientologists are told that when they reach the upper levels of Scientology (so-called Operating Thetan level 8 or 9), they will be able to be “clear.” When they reach this state, they can do things like:

  • Be in total control of their emotional states
  • Move objects with their mind
  • Engaging in interstellar travel (with their consciousness, not their body).

Yet, before you reach that level, they will attain other intermediate capabilities. Of course, Scientologists don’t achieve these, and they sometimes push back on the Church. They are told to spend more money and take more courses. That is, any shortcoming in attaining goals is externalized to the participant. This is exactly how Gartner’s sales strategy works.

At Gartner, software vendors who don’t develop the leads promised are told to “get in front of” analysts.

  • “Getting in Front of” means purchasing their services.
  • These are the so-called “advisory services.”
  • This is where Gartner analysts are asked to evaluate the vendor.
  • That is, the vendors are coaxed into purchasing services from
  • Gartner that they don’t want.
  • This often takes the form of marketing advice.

To sell these services, the Gartner account reps will continually propose a potential breakthrough in the future, as with Scientology account reps. While the sales promises have not come true “yet,” the customer/Scientologist is told that a breakthrough is just around the corner. Neither Gartner nor Scientology account reps would want to see the customer/Scientologist “throw it all away” before obtaining their breakthrough.

Gartner account reps know they have to use this line to keep vendors re-upping, and this is used on vendors that have not seen any benefits from their Gartner spend. To be an effective Gartner account rep, you must be persuasive enough to continue to obtain subscriptions from vendors that see a marginal value from Gartner.

Gartner proposes that the software vendors freely purchase these services and are unrelated to the vendors’ positioning in their Magic Quadrant. When Gartner salespeople talk to software vendors, they contradict this statement by saying that “getting in front of” the analysts will help the vendor’s cause. However, they may be a bit opaque about the direct relationship between hiring the analyst and improving the Magic Quadrant outcomes. But the term getting in front of is evident from one perspective, and that is, it will always cost money.

Gartner analysts tend to be deluded. They think that the software vendors would want their advice if Gartner did not control their access to sales leads. What the vendors wish to is sales leads and assistance in closing deals. I have interviewed many software vendors, and this is the crux of why they purchase services from Gartner and why they engage Gartner in the first place.

Pay to Play

Neither Gartner, not Scientology is based on all that much research. Those who would dismiss Scientology altogether as it is a cult (or a multi-level marketing scheme). Yet many ex-Scientologists claim benefits, particularly from the lower levels. Essentially, L Ron Hubbard copied his ideas from standard psychology books but claimed them as if they were his through renaming. As one progresses through the echelons on the OT levels, it gets weirder and weirder, but much of Scientology has some foundation.

In this way, it is like Gartner. Gartner has some foundation, but Gartner hides people’s method (or methodology). And very few people take any time to check on this. Instead, they tend to take Gartner’s Magic Quadrants at face value, not considering money’s effect on the ratings. If this type of “research” approach were presented in an academic setting, it would be laughed at (except perhaps in biomedical research, where anything goes).

I don’t have the space to get into all the ways that Gartners’ results are opaque and manufactured, but I have outlined them specifically in the book Gartner and the Magic Quadrant: A Guide for Buyers, Vendors, and Investors. Gartner prefers to keep its method opaque so that it has maximum latitude in moving vendors and applications around in the rankings based upon the “financial contribution” of the software vendors. Gartner does not want people tracking how it comes up with its rankings.

Investigating Gartner

When I investigated Gartner for the book, I compared Gartner’s research versus academic research, Consumer Reports, and the Rand Institute. Here is what I found:

Gartner publishes a “Supply Chain Top 25,” which most people would assume is the twenty-five companies that have the highest-performing supply chains (that is, the highest performance from the metrics normally associated with supply chain management—things like forecast accuracy, inventory turnover, service level, and other similar measures). However, upon reading Gartner’s methodology for creating the Supply Chain Top 25, only one of these criterion are used.
The criterions are instead:
1. Return on Assets (ROA)—Net income / total assets
2. Inventory Turns—Cost of goods sold / inventory
3. Revenue Growth—Change in revenue from prior year
4. Gartner’s Internal Voting
5. Gartner’s Client’s Voting

Two of the criteria that determine the Supply Chain Top 25 do not have anything to do with the supply chain but have to do with financial performance! It is essential to consider that Gartner’s target market is not researchers but rather decision-makers who are buyers, vendors, and investors. Many (but not all) of these groups will be more interested in simply seeing the results. Many people openly question how many of the people who read and rely upon Gartner’s reports read the entire report, much less understand the research methodology. This gets back to the central theme throughout this book—that Gartner’s research is not particularly useful without the context provided by Gartner analysts. However, it is also not auditable because the privately offered information is not part of the public record. Gartner’s most profitable move is not to base their outcomes on actual research but instead to have the vendors bid to be in the Magic Quadrant, claiming that it relies on research. – Gartner and the Magic Quadrant

The Hard Close

Gartner provides far less than it promises for most of the year. However, that changes when the software vendor comes close to renewing their “subscription” with Gartner. At that point, the account executive will bring extra sugar to ask what can be done to ensure the customer re-ups. This is the one time of year when Gartner becomes customer focused.

Conclusion

Scientology and Gartner have nothing to do with one another. Yet upon review, it appears that Scientology and Gartner share some of the same sales techniques. It is just that there are some ways to persuade people to give you money, and so organizations will tend to go back to techniques that work.

The idea for this started when I spoke to a vendor. They explained how their Gartner account rep would always respond to the vendor’s complaint about a lack of value from their Gartner expenditure by proposing that the software vendor just invests more. Therefore, the Gartner account rep is substantially continually upselling the software vendor to more advanced services. This immediately reminded me of material I read about how Scientology sells.

When I speak with vendors, there is a general disrespect for Gartner. They see Gartner as really nothing more than pay to play entity. Many vendors buy services from Gartner because they feel like they cannot afford not to. That is, there is a toll booth quality to Gartner. Therefore a substantial sum of Gartner’s revenues is obtained against the will of the software vendors.

Gartner takes advantage of many software vendors with promises that do not come true. The only real way to do something about this is to publish information about how they do it. If you have a Gartner story you would like to share, contact me to discuss. All sources are kept confidential.