New company, new division, or new product, you must ask that question. This article discusses how Sales Reps define their Buyer as a Persona. I describe how to use LinkedIn as a source to create these Personas. Then I provide a Persona Builder tool to organize your effort.


What are Buyer Personas?

Buyer Personas are documented descriptions of the Buyers of your product. They are profiles of the influencers and decision makers needed to close the sale. Personas outline the objectives, obstacles, and success measures of your target market. To understand the Buyer, every Sales organization needs them.


To put it into perspective, here is a quote from a client. This is a theme we hear on every engagement: “My buyers are changing. Their problems have evolved. What I say to one guy means nothing to the next.  So depending upon who I’m talking to, I have to change my message. This is the only way I can stay relevant.”


Value of Personas



The Value of Personas: Lead the Conversation

You must adapt your message specifically to the needs of the individual Buyers. Personas provide the conversational framework in several ways.


Understand roles.  Every buyer environment has multiple personas. Knowing each provides valuable insight into the decision makers and influencers. Your communication must appeal to the unique needs of the individual.


Connect with decision makers. Lower level employees have needs a well.  Provide those needs in exchange for contact to the decision makers. 


Influence the purchase decision. Once contact is made with the decision makers, you must influence.  A well-developed Persona gives deep knowledge of what the Buyer needs. It leads to the ultimate goal of providing a solution and solving their problem.


Focus on the Buyer. Build your list of Personas only around individuals who influence or make the decisions.  For example, if you sell IT services, don’t research the HR manager.  Focus on the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) down to the low-level programmer.


Keep it simple.  Consolidate multiple similar roles into a single Persona.  Think in terms of responsibilities and levels of influence. When you keep it simple, it is easier to remember and execute your message. 3 or 4 total Personas is a good goal.


Ask your peers. After you have created a simple list of personas, bounce it off your peers.  It is easy to miss critical details. Avoid developing Personas in a vacuum. (Note: Personas should be developed through a comprehensive customer research effort. Ideally, you should be informed directly from the Buyers themselves.)


LinkedIn Search



Select a sample size. Search LinkedIn for 5-10 connections that fit into a Persona category. (Ex. find 10 CTOs at Fortune 500 companies).  Make sure their profiles are current, robust, and full of information.


Read what they share.  Their LinkedIn streams and Twitter feeds will reveal their interests.  Decision makers share information relevant to their pain points. Pay attention to these trends. This provides insight into their needs.


Recommendations. Look for key words that reveal common attributes. When you find a trend among a certain Persona type, write it down.  All CTO recommendations, for example, may talk about system stability and speed of implementation.  Include these key words when you define your Buyer Personas.


Endorsements. Every individual provides a list of skills & expertise in their profile. Their connections endorse the most important ones on the list.  Spot the trends. Record the key words.


LinkedIn Skills



Your research should culminate into one-page Persona documents.  Each Persona will have several sections as itemized below.  Once complete, you will have cheat sheets to guide your conversations.  For an example of what I mean, download the Persona Builder.


  • Role & responsibilities. At a high-level, what is the scope of influence for the specific Persona?
  • Objectives. These are the objectives of the individual and the role.
  • Obstacles.  What are the major roadblocks that prevent good work?
  • Personal Fears. What scares them and keeps them up at night?
  • Success metrics. What does success for them look like?
  • Questions they ask themselves during their buyer’s journey. For advanced Persona development work, I recommend reading this post by Joel McCabe.  He discusses the value of “micro-questions” that your Buyers ask themselves.


Next Steps

Outlined above is what I call “Persona Lite.” This is a quick and easy way for a Sales Rep to develop Personas.  But I highly recommend you do these three things next.


1. Download the Persona Builder tool. Use it yourself to record what you discover about your Buyer.  Forward it to marketing and ask them to do the same.


2. Question the Personas your company may already have.  If the Personas are a few years old, then they’re out of date. Your Buyers are changing rapidly. It’s in your best interest to make sure your message evolves with them.


3. Outsource the Persona development work to Marketing or a third party.  Air-tight, fully-baked personas require direct input from the Buyers.  This involves surveys, direct customer interviews, competitive analysis, and detailed market research.  A third-party firm such as SBI will focus experts on the effort. Forward this article to Marketing or Sales Operations. Ask them how they plan to create or update your Buyer Personas.



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Dan Bernoske

Develops innovative revenue growth solutions and designs the SBI client experience.

Prior to SBI, Dan held business development, sales, and product management leadership positions at several start-up companies, developing Apple iOS platforms and E-Commerce-based social networks. Most notably, Dan was co-founder of Video Lantern, an online video advertising sales and operations firm. He is Six Sigma certified from GE.

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