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Buyer Personas Your Sales Reps Will Actually Use

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Think about the last time you decided to buy something. Whether personal or professional, chances are you either bought the item because you needed it for a specific purpose or wanted it for the potential benefits it could provide. That means that on some level, you understood its value and that value resonated with you.

In sales enablement, your job is to help your sales team land customers and close deals – but that cannot happen if buyers do not understand your value. In order to stand out to buyers as the right solution – and make buyers confident that now is the right time to purchase from you – salespeople need to deliver messaging that not only resonates, but reinforces.

With robust buyer personas, sales enablement can help salespeople target potential customers and further, tailor conversations with those buyers in a way that appeals to their motivations.

Download our Buyer Persona Template at the bottom of the page to start building yours today.

Why You Need Buyer Personas

Think of buyer personas as the prep material for an interview. They’re fictionalized bios—personas—of a person who sits squarely in your target market. They tell you everything you need to know about the average buyer in that market—demographics, challenges and pain points, goals and objectives, and perhaps even dreams and fears.

At many companies, it’s likely that the marketing organization may have created these already to use for things such as targeted email campaigns, increasing web traffic, or improving search engine optimization. But even if some form of buyer personas exists in your organization, optimizing these for sales is an important step to ensure that they not only are utilized by sales but effective in concentrating your efforts.

Buyer personas can help your company:

  • Identify the most profitable buyer types
  • Focus your efforts on the right buyers
  • Create marketing campaigns that make a difference
  • Streamline and/or improve the sales cycle

Personas have been proven to make prospecting and customer conversations more effective, helping to drive more revenue than non-persona-based tactics. That’s because developing personas lets you create content and messaging that resonates with your audience. Instead of communicating the same messages to all of your accounts, you can customize content based on what you know about each persona—in turn, making it more appealing for them to engage with your rep.

“Messaging has to resonate with the buyer and it has to resonate with where we’re guiding our sales reps to go focus,” said Edwin Castillo, global sales and customer enablement at 8×8.

Identifying Buyer Personas

Odds are, there are just a handful of persona types that make up the majority of your company’s revenue. There are a few steps you can take to identify and classify these personas:

  • Talk to your sales team—they know who’s buying and who’s not. Find concrete examples of the types of buyers with whom your messages resonate best and not at all.
  • If you have a CRM or marketing automation system, pull some reports to look for trends in the types of customers (titles, departments) who engage most with your content and salespeople.
  • Use your website data to your advantage. If you have an SEO or SEM team, odds are they can tap your analytics platform to capture basic demographic data about who’s visiting.

Once you’ve done your research and have a pool of “types,” it’s time to learn about them so you can build realistic personas. While it might be tempting to build a persona for every buyer type you’ve identified, it’s best to keep it to 4-5 so that it remains focused and manageable for your sales team to act on.

Interviewing Prospects and Customers

The best buyer personas are built around research, and the only real way to know how and why someone makes a decision to buy is to ask them. Using the information that you gathered in the previous step, select a group of prospects and customers to interview to find out the important details you need to know to flesh out your personas.

“Make sure it is based on fact rather than just guessing,” said Chris Orlob, director of sales at Gong.io. “You want to make sure you’re talking to buyers and every line you put on these [personas] should be from their mouth, not your mind.”

These interviews can be done in person or over the phone, but perhaps the least intrusive and easiest way to gather the information you want to know is to simply send an email with an incentive attached. A gift card for coffee, a free audiobook, or—if your product supports it—a free preview or discounted product, are all excellent incentives to convince someone to spend a few minutes sharing information with you. Make sure you’re clear it’s not a sales call and there is no “catch.” A quick survey can help you gather all the information you need.

Customize the questions to what you really want to know to help build the best personas for your organization. Examples include:

  • Role, responsibilities, and KPIs
  • Company industry, size, and goals
  • Standard demographics like age and education level
  • Challenges, opportunities, and motivations in their role and with their company
  • How they like to research new products and interact with vendors

You may find out that your biggest buyer type consistently visits one industry website to access research or that buyers in certain size organizations only like to communicate via phone. By asking enough questions to enough people to gather a significant sample (5-10 responses per persona), you’ll be able to hone-in on buyer differences and build your actual personas.

Building Your Buyer Personas

Once you’ve done your preliminary research, it’s time to build personas. With your raw data in hand, creating the actual personas becomes a little bit plug-in-play—you’ve done a lot of the hardest work already. Download our free template at the end of this article to help you organize key information into the following framework:

Step 1: Who

Include some general information about who this person is as an individual and the nature of their role in an organization. This can be broken down into three areas:

  • Background:
    • What types of companies would this person work at? Are there specific industries to target?
    • What are some common titles individuals within this persona might have?
    • What is their average level of experience or tenure?
    • Are there any regional parameters that fit this persona?
  • Demographics:
    • Are there any trends in regard to gender, age, income, or other relevant personal information to consider?
  • Preferences:
    • How do these individuals typically prefer to be communicated with? For example, do they prefer phone calls over emails, etc.?

Step 2: What

Highlight some common themes about the factors that drive this persona to seek out a product or solution. Separate these into goals and challenges.

  • Goals:
    • What does success look like for this person in their role?
    • What are 1-3 key goals this person might have for their role that your product or service can address?
  • Challenges:
    • What pain does this person experience in their day-to-day role?
    • Are there any roadblocks this person might be experiencing that are preventing them from reaching key goals?

Step 3: Why

Dig into why this persona would be motivated or hesitant to move forward with a purchase decision in your favor. Capture this in terms of both objections and real quotes:

  • Objections:
    • What are some common concerns about your solution, service, or buying process that were highlighted in your research?
    • Are there any reasons why this persona might hesitate to buy your product or service?
  • Quotes:
    • What are some real quotes or common language that would likely resonate with this persona in regard to challenges, objections, goals, etc.?

Step 4: How

This section is the crux of how your sellers will position your solution to meet the preferences and goals of your buyer and resolve their challenges or concerns. Break this section down into two core components:

  • Solutions/Positioning:
    • How can your product/service alleviate the challenges this person is experiencing?
    • How can your product/service help this person meet their key goals?
    • What features of the product/service might meet their needs?
  • Elevator Pitch:
    • How can you land the value of your product/service in 1-2 sentences to best appeal to this persona?

Buyer personas are your first step to helping your salespeople personalize customer experiences. It’s critical to think about personas beyond just how you sell to someone and rather how you can craft an excellent customer experience that makes a buyer confident that you are the right choice.

“When you’re talking about sales, you have to think about the living, breathing person at the end of that conversation,” said Rebecca Bell, associate director of global sales enablement at IQVIA.

Whether you have existing personas in place that you need to refine or you are building buyer personas from scratch, understanding their purpose, how to identify targets, how to gather data, and how to present all that information in a way that is easy for sales to act on is a crucial foundation.