As a sales enablement leader, you had probably developed buyer personas years ago. There was a big announcement and possibly some training sessions, but then everyone forgot about them, and the sales reps almost certainly stopped using them. Slowly but surely, the pictures you used to represent the personas of your buyers became more and more aged. It’s a shame too because persona-based selling is one of the most effective ways you can gain access, and sell, to key decision-makers. Read on to see if it might be time for you to reinvigorate persona-based selling within your sales organization.
With so many new sales and marketing concepts coming out, it can be tough to keep up with the constant changes. So let’s start by making sure we are all on the same page.
What Is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer is a way to segment your buyers based on their common characteristics.
Some of those characteristics are:
- The way they make purchasing decisions
- Their top objectives/challenges
- How they measure the performance of their business
- The technology they use
- The places they go to consume content
This Sounds Like a Marketing Thing, Why Does the Sales Organization Need Personas?
Purchasing decisions have been trending more and more towards ‘purchase by committee.’ This becomes even more likely as you deal with larger and more sophisticated buyers. Gone are the days of a high ranking executive having millions to spend in discretionary budget without needing any further approval.
Due to this trend in buyer behavior, it is now critical to identify all key decision-makers that will be involved in saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to whatever you are trying to sell them.
You need to be able to win over each and every decision-maker. Your reps need to know how to best position your product and be able to vary their messaging and approach depending on who they are interacting with. Customer-focused, detailed, buyer personas are the tool for ensuring they will be able to do just that.
Take a look at a sample of a buyer persona here:
Use this template to understand your buyers’ top goals and obstacles, capture their emotional drivers, and arm your team with desired solutions.
We’ve Already Developed Buyer Personas, How Do I Know If They’re Still Relevant?
There are a few things you need to consider when determining if your personas need a refresh or not.
Rep Behavior and Adoption
- Are reps using the personas in their daily deal pursuits?
- Are managers coaching their reps by using the personas?
- Does the sales organization understand the reason for persona-based selling?
If your answer is ‘no’ to any of the above, then it is time for a persona refresh.
Changes to Your Business
- Has there been a shift in your go-to-market strategy?
- Has there been a shift in the way you price your products?
- Have you entered new markets?
If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of the above, then it is time for a persona refresh.
How Do I Update Them?
The initial personas were most likely developed through some combination of surveys, market research, and leadership input. These inputs are good starting points, but they don’t go far enough.
It is important to take it to the next level to start to get raw, unfiltered information about your buyer and their behaviors. Third-party customer interviews, sales team ride-alongs, and in-depth mystery shops are all ways you can start to really get inside the mind of your buyer.
Bringing a third-party perspective to customer interviews can lead to the gathering of more accurate customer data. Customer interviews conducted by someone within your organization often become ‘account review’ or ‘support’ calls.
How Often Do I Update Them?
Buyer personas should be considered one of the more iterative documents you have in your sales enablement arsenal. Products, markets, competitors, and decision-maker authority levels are constantly in flux. You need to initiate a continuous feedback process that validates the data you have on your personas against what the reps are experiencing in the field.
How Do I Ensure the Personas Don’t Become Stagnant Again?
As mentioned, the most important thing you can do to ensure continued persona effectiveness is to implement a continuous feedback process with the sales team. Here are a couple of other things you can do to ensure they don’t start collecting dust once again.
- Ensure the front line managers are utilizing personas in their development and deal coaching calls. Adoption begins at the top, and if the sales team sees their managers putting the personas to work for them, they are bound to do the same. Check out The Ultimate Coaching Guide.
- Print out a cardboard cutout of the persona and post them around the office. This works best in an inside sales environment but can be an impactful way to drive adoption.
- Link your personas into your sales process, your customer journey map, and any other aspects of your sales strategy. The personas should not stand alone but rather be linked into your entire go to market strategy. See 10 Ways you can Boost your Sales Process.
By now, you may be realizing you are due to give your personas a refresh. It may seem like a daunting task to go back and rework everything you’ve done when you first developed them, but it doesn’t have to be. Involve the entire sales organization in the development of your new personas, ask for their feedback and observations from the field, leverage a third-party to gather customer information, and then ensure your personas never go stale again by instituting a continuous feedback process.
Get started by referencing SBI’s Sample Buyer Persona Tool.