The buying process is rarely linear. It’s hard enough to gauge market trends or supply and demand, much less the personalities of the individual prospects being sold to. Many of today’s companies that sell to enterprises have even launched Account-Based Marketing (ABM) programs to build relationships with buying organizations’ multiple influencers and decision makers, in an attempt to streamline the process.
However, according to SiriusDecisions, 71% of sales representatives polled stated that their inability to close deals is due to a lack of knowledge. To help inform and fuel the personalized, one-to-one buyer/seller relationships today’s connected and empowered buyers expect, persona development is becoming increasingly sophisticated as more organizations are making it a standard procedure.
Not only is the development of buyer personas a crucial and effective component in successful selling, overall it helps organizations provide not just an improved customer experience but a better buyer experience.
The Benefit Of Getting To Know The Buyer
Buyer personas are composites of actual buyers that bring the abstract nature of potential customers into sharper focus and serve as handy reference tools for marketers and sellers. These profiles include attributes like demographics, education, organizational role and job responsibilities.
Buyers may purchase a product or service to achieve a clear business goal, such as saving $1,500,000 per quarter by reducing distribution inefficiencies. But they also make purchases based on something messier and altogether human — emotion. While it may seem in a company’s best interest to invest in software to automate certain process, saving the organization both time and money, it might also benefit the employees who are able to leave work to attend their child’s play or basketball game.
The best way to gain a deeper understanding of what motivates someone to make a purchase is to talk with the buyers — not the paying customers. These are prospects who may be thinking about buying from your company (or who you think should be buying from your company) and those who are considering a purchase through your competitors. Through the creation of well-composed personas, sales reps, distributors and channel partners can prepare more thoroughly for meetings by choosing and customizing content for each presentation based on each individual need.
How To Put Yourself In Your Customer’s Shoes
Composing personas is a creative, collaborative endeavor that requires engagement from both the sales and marketing teams. Both teams gain greater insight into buyers from analyses of data collected by their marketing automation and CRM systems and from the sales funnel’s shorthand portrayal of the stages of the buyer’s journey. While the data provided through these methods does help establish general customer profiles, qualitative data through interviews or conversations with customers will provide access to a treasure trove of insights, and give the sales team a better idea of what resonates with potential buyers the most.
When interviewing buyers, it’s important to ask open-ended questions, which will set the table for them to give detailed and often surprising responses. A good start is to ask buyers about their media consumption habits — which news sites, trade pubs and other media they consume and the thought leaders they follow. Then determine what devices they use and how often, and at what time of day.
Additional information needed to flesh out character profiles into bona fide buyer personas includes establishing what the buyer is trying to accomplish through the purchase, identifying the success factors — whether that’s saving money or maintenance time or becoming more efficient. It is also important to understand what the anticipated challenges might be and whether there are already steps they may have encountered in the process or barriers along the way. Most importantly, it is critical to discover what will ultimately drive them to make a decision.
Once these questions are answered, teams create the composite profile that most accurately represents the key traits for a potential buyer and can add a picture (often a stock photo) and invent a name — first and last — to breathe life into these characters. The objective is to paint portraits of the buyer that accurately represent a real, flesh-and-blood customer instead of generic examples. The exercise of developing personas allows sales teams to truly walk a mile in the buyers’ shoes. From there, the sales team can leverage this intel to create highly relevant content and target it to buyers on the right device, at the right time and place.
To truly deepen the understanding of your buyers, it’s becoming an imperative to add buyer personas to every sales team’s toolkit. With buyer personas at your command, your content program will increase its ability to deliver superior content marketing, with content in context, to close deals. But remember, this is an ongoing process because everything changes, including people.
Patrick Welch is the President and CMO of Bigtincan. In this role he’s responsible for sales, marketing, support and service. He has been instrumental in the rapid growth of Bigtincan from a startup to IPO, and market leader in AI Sales Enablement. In previous roles Welch served as the Vice President of Worldwide Sales at Apperian, a Kleiner Perkins backed startup in the mobile application management space. Prior to Apperian, Welch played a key role in facilitating the growth and success of Netegrity, the maker of network identity and access software, from startup to $100 million+ in annual sales and $20 million to $3 billion in value as a public company. He was also a key to the success of identity and access management Leader Aveksa, where he was responsible for approximately 5000% growth and eventual exit to RSA for $250 million.