Most people nowadays are familiar with the concept of personas. Marketing Director Debs, Brand Manager Brian, HR Manager Meg, HR Director Donald, and so on. Digital & content creation agencies borrowed the concept from software development years ago and they’ve been using them ever since to humanise their website visitors and to help create customer journeys and content that caters for the needs of each visitor.
Should You Create Them?
Developing sales prospect personas for sales teams alone is less common in B2B sales – but it’s hugely valuable to do it. Why? We all know that an average of 5.4 people are involved in today’s B2B purchases. If your business sells products or services to business or government, especially large organisations, then you need to understand the different people you will encounter during the average sale. And the different stakeholders will have very different needs depending on both their function and their seniority. Once you factor in the different industries you could be talking 20 or 30 different buyer types. A challenge for all but your high performing salespeople to remember.
For example – selling a piece of software to an HR team. Juniors are likely to be interested in ease of use, simplicity and efficiency. Middle managers may be interested in reporting & analytics and deployment capabilities. Senior/Director level decision makers are probably interested in strategic considerations, the business case & how much money it can save. And that’s just within the department. Consider IT requirements – security, robustness, scalability, integration. Procurement’s requirements? Compliance, contractual considerations. On-boarding & migration for whoever project manages the implementation. Finance? It quickly becomes complex.
Leaving your sales people to decide off-the-cuff what and how to pitch the different prospects means your sales team will be less effective, and this is the case whether you’re selling a software product or a creative marketing service.
How to Create Sales Prospect Personas
When we create sales prospect personas, we simply create a list of the different potential buyers broken down by industry (those we’re targeting), seniority & function. We then investigate the personal and corporate responsibilities, objectives, challenges and needs of the different functions. Then we clarify which sales messages – features and benefits based on your proposition – are appropriate to which personas.
You can go into more detail if you want. For example some industries have common cultural attributes or attitudes that it helps to understand, or you may want to consider other factors such as business cycles.
How Long Does it Take and How Will It Help?
It usually takes half a day to create personas & it helps to involve everybody who’s involved in selling. After that the next step is to train/drill/test your sales people so that they can switch between pitches on demand.
This helps your sales people in 3 ways:
- Removing uncertainty. This gives them confidence & confident sales people perform better.
- It means everybody is working off the same set of sales propositions, which facilitates better selling & shortens the feedback & learning loop.
- It creates a detailed common understanding of your proposition.
This will also help your business by highlighting your weaknesses.
One Final Point
Sales prospect personas are not the same as buyer personas for your web content, although they are related. The interaction between your sales people and your prospects is deeper, therefore sales buyer personas need to be written with a person to person conversation in mind. The mindset is different and the nature of your messaging is different.
It’s worth the time putting sales prospect personas together. Once you’ve developed them, refine them every 3 months using feedback from your sales team. If you want to know more about sales personas, drop us a email on firstname.lastname@example.org.