A lot of importance has been placed on the development of “buyer personas” over the last 10 or so years. For those unfamiliar with buyer personas, they are fictionalized representations of ideal customers based on marketing research and customer insight. More simply, they represent your desired customers. Personas have worked great for content marketers and have become common practice in marketing automation. However, it wasn’t marketing professionals that initially embraced personas, it was salespeople. “A myth has been proliferating during the past two years, which implies marketing should do buyer personas and sales needs to stay out. The argument is based on the premise buyers will not talk to sales,” writes Tony Zambito in his article Who should build buyer personas? Marketing or Sales? In our last post we discussed possible reasons why the sales cycle is extended. In order to decrease the length sales cycle, We feel sales needs to embrace personas more. In this article we will give you an overview on developing buyer personas for buying committees and how you can leverage them to shorten your sales cycle.
Why everyone should use a buyer persona:
Salespeople have extensive 1-on-1 interactions with their prospects and often instinctually discern the quality of the customer. Developing personas may seem unnecessary but it can help nail down your typical buyer's behavior. It allows you to share the knowledge of your customer profile and your instincts with the rest of your sales team.
Marketers create buyer personas because they need to know how to tailor their message to fit broad archetypes of buyers. Each type of customer sees different benefits to your product so marketing assets and advertising need to be segmented to appeal to those different groups. Typically, marketers use information from sales teams and interviews to get information to help formulate their personas. The sales team is full of information but leaves the rest to marketing. So where does the buyer persona come into play for a salesperson? With buying panels and committees! Salespeople may not have access to the entire extended buying panel but need a way to communicate and deliver materials to them. Additionally, the ability to discover and handle objections would become much more simple. Sales assets can be distributed more appropriately (instead of to the entire group), so that individuals get the most relevant information to their needs. It all leads to a more personalized sales experience.
The traditional committee:
Traditionally, Buying committees have consisted of the following people:
The Initiator: Recognizes the pain point and makes the request to make a purchase. These people begin the buying process.
The Influencer: Formulates the requirements for the product.
The Decision Maker: Makes the final purchase decision.
The Buyer: Manages the buying process to ensure that all necessary products are purchased.
The End User: The actual user of the product.
The Gatekeeper: Controls information and access to the buyer panel.
These personas were developed to help sales people find and influence the decision maker. While these profiles are helpful, they aren’t as informative or in depth as one would like. They outline the organizational structure and who the salesperson should talk to, but they don’t contain information relevant to developing your sales messaging (wouldn’t it be great to know exactly what to say before making the sales call?)
What makes a good buyer persona?
Buyer Personas capture the demographic and psycographic information of your prospects. Focus on the goals and challenges of your prospects. Think about the pain points they are experiencing and what triggers cause them to make a purchase decision. In fact, think about what causes them to investigate solutions to their needs. Really think about what their daily routine is, what their characteristics are, etc. For more information on buyer personas, we recommend the buyer persona institute. In order to start building your persona or to add some muscle to the personas of the traditional committee, you need to start with some research.
Document your sales conversations
As a salesperson, consider collecting all of the notes from your sales calls and putting them in a spreadsheet. What are the goals, challenges, pain points, priorities of your prospects? Try to think through these objectively before applying your product or solution. Ask great questions. Do you hear specific questions from the same type of customers? Do you hear objections from the same types of customers? What trends are you noticing from certain types of buyers? What types of roles do they have on the committee? Are they the gatekeeper, decision maker, influencer, etc? Keep track of the job positions and industries that these prospects are from. Also keep in mind those initial 6 roles in the committee. Try to identify the characteristics of each one so you can more effectively navigate through the buyers journey.
Use your data and analytics software
After gathering and analyzing your conversations with customers, it’s important to get some hard numbers to back up your initial analysis. Using a sales automation tool like Salesforce allows you to segment your prospects into various stages of the buying process. You can find trends of which customers are converting to the next stage and which ones aren’t to focus down on your ideal customer and add triggers to reengage them. Using a marketing automation platform such as Marketo or Hubspot allows you to test the effectiveness of marketing messages through lead capture forms and click rates of call to action buttons. Here at CONSENSUS™ we use our demolytics tool to analyze how customers interact with product demos, giving us insight into their needs and interests so we can later tailor our sales messaging. We also can see who is in the extended buying committee and who watches and shares the demo. Other helpful tools such as lead scoring help narrow down what ideal customers look like.
Develop your personas
Now that you have all of your information, its time to develop them into buyer personas. Aggregate the information you have into a document. Obviously, its unproductive to have lots and lots of personas and the end goal is to gain insight into your committees. Use a ven diagram to outline commonalities. Chances are that a majority of the people you speak with will have similar needs. Group core values and concerns together and simplify. Look for universal truths in your data and avoid the outliers. If one customer has a unique concern that nobody else has, it definitely doesn’t warrant making another persona. It’s a good practice to develop a persona for each member of the buyer panel. The Content Marketing Institute recommends looking into your typical buying panel to identify the average size. If buying panels are small, say 4 members for example, look for overlapping roles and fill your personas out from there.
When done well, personas can help shorten your sales cycle and identify real customers better. Conisdering lengthy appointments, product demos, and the stress of complex sales, the last thing you want to do is try to sell to a panel that will never close. We hope you find this insightful. What other tips do you have for working with buying panels?
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