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Sales Glossary: What Is a Buyer Persona for Sales?

Sales for Life Admin
Sales for Life Admin
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Know your buyer.

Whether you’re in marketing or sales, it’s important to keep this in mind when targeting customers and crafting messages. Emails, phone calls, and even face-to-face interactions become infinitely more valuable when you consider the needs, fears, and goals of each customer.

But your buyers aren’t cut using the same cookie cutter. The priorities of a VP for marketing, for example, would be different from those of an operations manager—even if they’re both from the same company. In fact, according to advisory firm Corporate Executive Board, a buying decision requires, on average, the input of 5.4 decision-makers, champions, and influencers. That’s a lot of different ideas, perspectives, and knowledge to consider.

This is why a buyer persona (also called prospect persona) are so important in sales. They help sellers better understand their customers, allowing them to book more meetings, generate more pipeline, and increase revenue. The number of personas your company has depends on how many different personalities or roles you sell to.

So what exactly is a buyer persona?

HubSpot’s definition of a buyer persona applies to both marketing and sales:

“A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. While it helps inbound marketers like you define their target audience, it can also help sales reps qualify leads.”

But though both sales and marketing follow the same definition—the process of building a profile for your ideal customer—each department’s goals vary.

  • Marketing wants to craft resonating messages, increase traffic, and improve conversion rates.
  • Sales wants to book more meetings, grow pipeline, and generate revenue.

An effective buyer persona will allow your team to achieve these three objectives:

  • Identify commercial insights that will create an impact by driving behavioral change
  • Save time and effort by only creating content tailored to your customers’ needs
  • Generate useful customer information in a more efficient manner
buyer persona creation

Planning Your Buyer Persona

The first thing you need to do is to identify the information you need in order to create a buyer persona template. In “The Sales Development Playbook” by Trish Bertuzzi, she outlines sections to address for prospect personas.

  • Target Title: What role does your prospect currently hold? Is your prospect a VP of Sales? A Chief Marketing Officer? A Sales Enablement Manager?
  • Role and Responsibility: What does the job entail for each of these positions?
  • Challenges and Obstacles: What are some of the major challenges specific to each role?
  • Professional Success Metrics: What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) relevant to each position? For the sales team, performance is usually measured by meetings, revenue, and year-over-year growth, margins, and P&L. On the other hand, marketing measures success according to impressions and views, as well as the number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) that were created, converted and have subscribed. 
  • Risks and Fears: On a more psychological level, what are some risks and fears that relate to each person’s position? For example, a VP of Sales might worry because others in his position only last 18 months, so he feels like he has very little time to make an impact on the bottom line.
  • Consequences of the Status Quo: To make a difference, you first need to know what needs to be changed. What are the old tactics that aren’t working? Are the sales and marketing team encountering recurring issues?
  • The Big Win We Deliver: How does each position contribute to the success of the company? Do they generate pipeline and revenue? Do they facilitate alignment? This helps you objectively determine if it’s worth it to invest in regular training for your team.

Putting It Into Practice

Different companies have different ways of creating a buyer persona. We’ll show one way of doing so in the situation below.

The Scenario:

Company X wants to target the heads of human resources (director or above) of companies with 250 or more employees.

Step 1: Identify your target prospects’ titles and roles. Map out everyone that sits in the buyer committee—you need to form relationships with as many of them, not just the main decision-makers. This sets the stage for the kind of content your team will create—your outreach efforts should appeal to as many of the buyers as possible.

Step 2: Gather demographic and firmographic information about your prospects. Determine what each prospect wants to accomplish at the company, and how you can help them achieve their goals. Generating great commercial insights will debunk myths and paint a clearer picture of the opportunity cost, so it’s critical to understand what your buyers need.

Step 3: Strategize how you’re going to help your prospects. Remember to speak the language of your buyer, and to craft messaging that addresses their pain points.

Step 4: christen your buyer persona with a name like “Marketing Mary” or “Fred, VP of Sales.” Include a photo to further humanize this abstract persona. As trivial as it may seem, this gives your sellers a more complete picture of who you’re targeting.

sample buyer persona for sellers
A sample buyer persona.

Salespeople, like marketers, can use buyer personas to better understand both current and prospective customers. The best personas are based on market research, but they can also be built from interviews and trends based on their own database.

As Bertuzzi maps out in her book, creating a grid of your ideal buyers’ thoughts, fears and values will help you to not only better understand them, but to also leverage insights accurately, efficiently, and consistently to book meetings and close deals. Good luck!

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