Over the past year, many organizations have built buyer personas (Read more about buyer personas here and here).  Unfortunately, many of these projects have failed to live up to their hype. They have under delivered and under whelmed. Sales Operations SuperheroMarketing is frustrated because of the time, money and effort exerted to build them. Sales is frustrated because of a lack of proficiency in using the persona. The cold front from marketing and the heat wave from sales has concocted the perfect storm. Are you up for playing the role of Superman?



4 Keys to Making the Persona Project Successful

Note: If your organization has already built personas skip to second key.


1. Facilitate and Observe the Persona Construction

Buyer personas should be built by marketing in collaboration with sales. As a sales operations leader, your role is to facilitate the development of personas. In preparation of developing personas:


  • Educate the development team on the ideal customer profile
  • Obtain all pertinent quantitative data
  • Preliminarily identify customers to be interviewed.


Once the persona project has kicked off, enable the team to conduct interviews and gather data. During project meetings focus your thoughts on how to operationalize the personas. Ask yourself:


  • Does the persona capture behaviors, beliefs and questions at all stages of the sales process?
  • What is the timeline to implement the persona?
  • What kind of training will be required to launch the persona?
  • How do I enable sales managers to reinforce the use of the persona?
  • What changes do I need to make to our CRM or Sales Force Administration Tools?


After marketing and sales have completed the personas, the next step is to build an implementation plan. The persona project has begun!


2. Integrate the Persona into the Sales Process

Every persona project not integrated into the sales process has fallen flat. Sales reps live in sales process so anything outside of it is just noise. This is why we see forecasting and sales performance management baked into the sales process. To integrate personas, audit the sales process:


  • Review all sales activities in each stage of your sales process.
  • Identify activities that include a major customer interactions (i.e., interactions where decisions are made)
  • Ascertain the questions customers are asking at this stage of the sales process


After auditing the sale process, determine which activities should include a persona review. A persona review ensures sales reps are taking into account and dealing with customer feelings, motivations and concerns. It also enables sales reps to customize messaging based upon the buyer’s needs.


Finally, the persona should be used throughout the sales process. The quickest success is using it in early stages. Sales reps find comfort with the persona when they don’t know what to expect from the prospect. Late stage persona usage can be extremely valuable in getting deals across the finish line.


3. Enable Sales Managers to Coach Reps on Personas

New habits and skills require training and coaching. To operational personas, you are going to have to deliver persona training and coaching.  Enabling regional and local sales managers to coach sales reps is on path to success. To coach sales reps on the personas, provide sales managers with the following coaching tools:


  • Detailed persona training
  • Revised Sales Process Training that integrates personas
  • Specific examples of how to use personas


Like anything, the best ways to learn how to use a persona is by practice. As a part of opportunity assessments and deal reviews, sales managers should ask reps: 


  • What personas are you engaged with in this process?
  • How are you packaging your message to the prospect?
  • What are your customer’s personal motivations?


These questions will quickly help managers uncover adoption issues.


4. Incorporate Personas into your Sales Performance Management System

Have you ever run a report based on customer persona? In the world of big data you should. Building persona reporting into your sales performance management will drive buyer insight.


Initially focus on answering some of the following questions:


  • What is the pipeline by persona?
  • Where do deals stall when a specific persona is engaged?
  • Does the average deal size vary by persona?
  • What is the win rate by persona?
  • What persona drives the biggest “no decision” rates?
  • Is the sales cycle longer for certain personas?


After you hit the basic Sales Performance Management questions, keep digging deeper. Look into deal profitability, account potential, forecasting trends, etc.


Call to Action

The Persona Project is the wave of the future. Ask you colleagues what they have done. Determine if your team is capable of delivering on the persona project. Download and use the Persona Optimization Assessment tool.  Finally, subscribe to our blog and continue to learn about Buyer Personas and how they will help your organization meet your 2013 goal.