Scan Your Ticket to the Revolution: Buyer Personas
Corporate Executive Board research tells us that B2B prospects move as much as 70 percent through the buying process before they ever contact a sales rep.
Gartner and Forrester’s research goes so far as to suggest that by 2020─a mere 3.5 years from now─up to 80 percent of the buying process will occur online without any direct human-human interaction.
Companies invested in large sales teams today may not require any face or phone sales engagement with prospects going forward. Could that mean the sales professional as we know it is dead? Read on:
“Forrester forecasts 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by 2020, accounting for 20% of the B2B sales force.
B2B buyers are living in a 2015 digital-first world, but B2B sellers are still living in a 1965 salesman-first world. New Forrester data shows that nearly 75% of B2B buyers prefer to buy online when purchasing products for work, yet just 25% of B2B companies actively sell online.”
This situation is deadly serious, folks. If B2B sellers fail to adapt, move away from traditional selling, and towards digital channels, the digital tsunami will do it for us.
These changes whipsaw B2B sellers. With buyers at the helm, seizing controls, and piloting the buyer’s journey, sellers will keep breathing their dust and losing millions in sales opportunities. Consider Forrester’s thinking again:
“Firms must adapt by building digitally enabled selling models that put self-serve eCommerce on equal footing with commissioned salespeople, writes Forrester. The effects will be felt most significantly by sales reps who are considered order takers — those serving customers who purchase self-explanatory products in a simple selling environment.”
Okay. You can say “that’s not me.” And if you believe the contradictory data from Sales Benchmark Index that claims nearly 60 percent of all qualified sales pipeline opportunities end up in no decision with the buyer remaining status quo─then you may be right.
What’s more, 67 percent of salespeople don’t make quota. There’s a serious disconnect. But it’s ripe with sales opportunity. To understand how to begin to adapt, download CSO Insights’ Guide to Transforming Sales. Then take our latest Sales Transformation Assessment Survey and we’ll provide you with the results, plus an ongoing series of high-value case studies to continue your learning process.
The TV’s Not Working!
Now I buy CEB’s 70 percent theory with some products, but not all.
I found myself recently looking to upgrade my flat screen TV. I shopped on the internet, downloaded product comparisons and even compared pricing before I stepped foot into the store. After this whole experience, I simply went back online order the TV and had it shipped for free.
Now that was my buying journey for flat screen TVs. We could just as easily discussed why to change in the first place─information that should inform the TV salesperson via my buyer persona. If he’d done one, which he had not, he could’ve kept me in the store.
Why should you care about creating buyer’s personas? Because they’re your ticket to the revolution. They’re your first step to understanding how to adapt to the way people buy today.
Defining the Buyer’s Persona
From digital market leaders, Hubspot, we get this definition:
“Buyer’s personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better, and make it easier for you to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.
The strongest buyer personas are based on market research, as well as on insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.) Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20.”
A buyer persona tells you what prospective customers/clients are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company can resolve. Much more than a simple profile of the people you need to influence, or a map of their journey, actionable buyer personas reveal insights about buyers’ decisions─the specific attitudes, concerns and criteria that drive prospective customers/clients to choose you, your competitor, or hold to status quo.
A buyer persona is not simply a wishful description of your ideal prospect or buyer.
A buyer persona gives you insight into what buyers think about doing business with you, including actual quotes from decision makers who recently made decisions to solve similar problems. With it, you have the knowledge you need to align your marketing decisions─from positioning and messaging through content marketing and sales enablement─with your buyer’s expectations. Buyer personas answer such questions as:
What causes certain buyers to invest in solutions like yours, and what is different about buyers who are satisfied with the status quo?
What operational or personal results does your buyer expect to achieve by purchasing this solution?
What concerns cause your buyer to believe that your solution or company is not their best option?
- Which aspects of the competing products, services, solutions or company does your buyer perceive as most critical, and what are their expectations for each?
I can’t claim this effort is easy. You must do a great deal of critical research and be motivated to get at the nucleus of the sales opportunity. But it’s essential to do, especially for complex sales.
How Do You Catch an Exotic Fish?
I am not much of a fisherman, even though I spend my summers in Maine. However, if my objective was to catch a fish, an exotic fish, I suppose I could just find a random spot, fit my line with whatever was on special or recommended at the bait shop and simply hope for the best. Is it possible for me to catch fish this way? Maybe a Mackerel. Not a Moorish Idol (pictured).
If I put my line in the ocean long enough, I could get lucky. But, maybe this is not the best strategy.
A much more effective approach would be for me to determine what type of fish there are off the Maine coast, and then determine which ones I would like to catch. I could even think about fishing the many lakes and not fish in the ocean at all. There’s a gulf of difference between deep sea fishing in warm tropical waters or fly fishing in an icy-cold river. Both need different types of equipment and skill sets.
As I discussed this analogy with my fishing friend, he started to explain that I need to also consider when the fish will be breeding, determine the right bait to use, right rig, and even the right time of the day. Like building a buyer persona, you need to do your homework as the same principles apply.
If you want to attract and sell the ideal long-term clients, you can’t rely on luck. Instead, you need to know everything you can about your target prospect. That’s your buyer persona.
Buyer Persona Benefit
Personas allow you to personalize or target your marketing for different segments of your audience. This effort goes far beyond basic coding of a customer list into A, B, C prospects. For example, instead of approaching every prospect with the same message, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to each buyer’s interests.
You can also create negative personas where you segment out those types of buyers you don’t want, that aren’t a good fit for your company or your products and services. With buyer personas, you wield a tool that helps you win fast or lose fast.
When combined with lifecycle stage; that is, how far along someone is in your sales cycle, buyer personas also allow you to map out and create highly targeted content or tools to help in the sales process. Instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can tailor your emails to the real interests of a potential buyer.
How To Build a Buyer Persona
When we at PleinAire Strategies work with a prospect to create a buyer persona we use research, surveys, and interviews of our targeted audience. That includes a combination of prospects, customers, and influencers outside our database that could line up with our target audience.
Try some of these traditional research methods to gather the information needed to build personas:
Interview customer/clients. Do interviews either in person or by phone to discover what they value about products or services you sell, and what issues they face where you could make a match. Use secondary research sources to determine basic demographics like income or age.
Determine how people have contacted you. Comb through your database, go back to successful opportunities and determine how people made contact with you. Referred by trusted advisors? Found you in an internet search? Downloaded a white paper? Responded to an outbound marketing campaign? Look for behavior trends. Know what works and replicate it.
Get feedback from your sales team. What type of sales cycle does your sales team work with? What content, if any, do they use to open up new opportunities? To advance prospects through the sales funnel? What do they use to educate the buyer during the process? Which pieces work best to inspire engagement?
To help, we’ve embedded a sample template below (courtesy of Hubspot) to give a tool to build your persona:
Use buyer personas consistently in your sales process. Not only will you close more business, but you’ll also remain über-relevant, with a steady grip on your board, as you ride the next wave in the digital revolution.
See you on the upside,
For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700