As a reader of the SBI blog you likely use buyer persona tools. Once the hottest thing in B2B marketing, buyer personas are now a commonplace sales enablement tool. I mean, why not? Buyer personas drive sales. In 2016, 93% of companies who exceed lead and revenue goals report segmenting their database by persona.


Like most sales and marketing tools it can be hard to identify the true value buyer personas bring to your organization. I regularly discuss this with Marketing and Sales leaders and they struggle with this issue all the time. Below are a few of the biggest questions I hear and how you can bring more value to your organization.


Are my buyer personas too old/outdated?


The majority of industries are evolving or changing in some way. In fact, there are very few industries anymore that are in a steady static state… and they don’t need buyer personas. Markets and industries are affected by new competitors or channels, or complimentary products and services. New/expanded markets and the “google” effect, or the “amazon” effect… or the “whatever” effect can and will impact your industry. When you are looking at your buyer personas it’s best to assume that they were outdated the minute you hit print or send.


How do I know what needs to be updated?


I get this question all the time. The first question I usually respond with when asked this is, “How often does your sales team use them?”. If the sales team isn’t using your buyer personas, then there’s a strong chance that they need an overhaul. Take a couple of these personas along with you next time you ride along with a sales rep. If they aren’t referencing the buyer personas in their sales call planning, then chances are they need an update. I like to quiz sales team members on the personas and see how well they line up to the personalities they deal with on their assigned accounts. Do they match? Are there gaps? The closer you can perform a sanity check with the field level, the clearer the picture you’ll have on your buyer personas.


How often do I update them?


Do I update my personas every week, month, quarter, year? The answer is yes… buyer personas are the embodiment of an agile sales enablement tool. They should always reflect the majority of your best accounts buyers. Buyer personas need to outline your prospects buying journey and understand the pitfalls, concerns, and emotional drivers behind their decisions. Did you have the same emotional drivers when you made a major purchase, say like a car 10 years ago?… 5 years ago… last year? Probably not, close… but probably not exactly how you feel right now. Buyer personas need to be a tool that evolves at the pace that your business and industry are evolving. They need to anticipate (or at least fast follow) your buyer’s thoughts and concerns.


47% of companies who exceed sales and revenue goals consistently maintain their Personas. The top-notch Sales Enablement or Marketing Leaders I’ve met, set a regular cadence to buyer persona updates. Why? Because buyer personas are key to their business, whether it be campaign planning, key account management, or even budgeting. Buyer personas can drive a large portion of how you spend your resources, and thus should be as accurate as possible.


How do I update them?


Buyer personas, when done well, are a cross of art and science. For your initial buyer personas, you more than likely did some form of qualitative research – maybe customer surveys and interviews. Updates to the buyer persona should include some form of additional (refreshed) survey work. In addition, there needs to be some anecdotal information in the document that helps to paint a picture for the sales team. Customer interviews, sales ride-alongs, and mystery shops all provide very good details that you simply cannot mine from a customer survey. I find these particularly helpful in identifying fears or challenges that the persona could be (or will soon be) facing.


Remember, deep down most of your buyers are normal everyday people with the same fears, hopes, and dreams as anyone else. Capturing those emotional drivers and arming your sales team with the answers/solutions is the goal and brings you a step closer to making your number.


See a sample persona tool at the following link here.


To go deeper into this topic, leverage SBI’s “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook and turn to the Buyers phase section. Also, self-assess your marketing strategy against the market leaders using the Workbook’s new interactive tool.


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