How to use buyer personas to drive sales
Sales personas, usually described as representations of your customer or prospect segments, are typically mentioned in the marketing context. However, they can be used to improve every business area, from product development, customer service, human resources, and especially sales. Sales personas help in every aspect of your sales process from creating and defining the overall sales strategy, choosing sales reps, educating them about your customer base, evaluating the proper channels of communication to tailoring your messaging to the exact needs, preferences, and motivations of your target audiences.
How to create sales personas
We will just touch on this since we wrote a comprehensive guide on creating the perfect buyer persona. We want to point out that sales personas should always be 100% data-driven rather than based on gut feeling, assumptions, or the seniority level of the organization.
Therefore the words “fictional representation” is kinda misleading. Fiction is something you make up in your head, describing imaginary events or people which does not fit the concept of personas. Especially nowadays, we have access to so many data sources, that there is no need for fiction anymore. By analyzing data sources from social media, reviews, interviews, blogs, or surveys, personas will represent the actual customer rather than something imaginary. Of course, a persona profile is not a real person but combines common facts of a customer segment in one profile.
In general, acknowledge that there is more than one persona with different needs, perceptions etc., for your product or service. Moreover, there are already different personas for the customer journey. The information required in the awareness stage might differ drastically from the one needed in the purchase stage.
Collaboration requirements between departments for sales persona creation and usage
As mentioned above, personas are useful for many departments, and in reverse, they provide helpful information to create or enrich the personas over time.
Accordingly, it is critical to see sales persona creation as a holistic process within the organization. When putting the personas to work, the departments must communicate.
Sales need to understand the marketing messages and offers used for the different personas to create a smooth customer experience and journey. Nothing is more frustrating than falling in love with a product and then realizing it was not more than cheap bait, which has nothing to do with reality.
The same applies to the collaboration between sales and customer service (after sales), where the departments need to find common ground between offers and actual possibilities.
How sales personas provide valuable information
The key to closing a sale is to provide the correct information at the right time. Customers have different drivers and purchase intentions, and understanding them is fundamental. The personas should provide a clear understanding on the needs, intentions, pain points, drivers, emotions, personalities to allow the sales representatives to create a tailored, personalized sales strategy.
Here is an overview of what information the different persona sections provide.
Customer cluster sizes
Resources are limited, so it is critical to identify the customer segments with the highest potential. To create personalization, segmentation is vital.
How you segment your leads depends highly on the sales department structure and overall business setup. However, there is always room for improvement, and challenging existing systems and concepts is always a good idea. More information on customer development can be found in our article The four steps of customer development!
The customer segments choose products for different reasons or features. Specific attributes may be fundamental to one segment, whereas others find it irrelevant.
Therefore, feature preferences are often one of the most logical ways to segment your customers. Content creation for marketing or email segmentation focusing on the different feature requests is often highly successful and shows high click-through or conversion rates. Simply, you provide information that the persona is actually interested in.
Highlighting these so-called Go-to features in your sales pitch, in the beginning, hook the prospect and grab their attention. The concept of “The best comes last” is outdated. On average, we all get bombarded with over 3000 marketing messages daily, so getting to the point as soon as possible in a sales pitch is vital.
Not only are proprietary features critical, but also those of your competitors. Salespeople should collect information about missing requested features during the sales dialogue and pass that information on to build product development personas. Conversely, creating and using competitor personas for your sales strategy could be extremely powerful. You can highlight features the competition is missing and make the prospect aware of the negative aspects of the competitors’ products.
Another critical piece of information in the sales persona profile is the purchase barriers. They are the final hurdle to overcome when selling the product since they prevent the prospect from purchasing it. The goal is to decrease or, ideally break down these barriers entirely.
Different personas have different barriers and highlighting them helps the respective teams to prepare for each scenario. We will only scratch the surface of purchase barriers here since there will be an entire article on this topic separately. In summary, soft, medium, hard, and psychological barriers exist.
Soft purchasing barriers include:
- Physical availability barriers (“It is hard to find product X from brand Y on the website or location Z!”)
- Mental availability barriers (“I never thought about brand X when I purchased category Y!”)
- Product education barriers (“I tried to understand but I have no idea what brand X or product Y does!”)
- Doubt barriers (“I am uncertain if brand X is the right fit for me!”)
Medium purchasing barriers (could also sometimes be soft or hard, depending on the context)
- Price Barriers ( “I really like brand X but it is out of my budget at the moment!”). An example where price could be only a soft barrier could be a statement like: (“I sorely shop my category X on sale. Unfortunately, brand Y never offers sale discounts”). The barrier could easily be overcome when a sales period or discount is introduced.
- Habitual Barrier: (“I have had the same habit for years that I buying brand X!”)
Hard purchasing barriers
- Brand perception barrier (“I would never use brand X since they support X!” or “I would never want to be associated with someone using brand Y”)
- Brand loyalty barrier (“I am 100% loyal to brand X and would never switch to brand Y, no matter what they offer!”)
We will just name them here. If you want to learn more, check out our full article on purchase barriers. Psychological barriers include skepticism barriers, cynicism barriers, procrastination barriers and the price barrier in this context as well.
Including these barriers in the sales persona helps identify target audiences that are likely to convert because they only hold back due to soft barriers.
They also help structure the sales teams. The more experienced sales representatives should tackle medium and hard barriers, whereas junior sales professionals will likely overcome soft barriers. Motivation and a sense of achievement are essential for aspiring salespeople. Allocation is critical.
Understanding customers’ personalities and emotions to influence subconscious decision-making
According to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman, 95% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. Understanding prospective buyers’ emotions and personality traits is critical for closing the sale. Read our article covering the importance of psychographics in marketing and sales. We will touch on the different aspects of personalities and emotions when selling.
Personality traits are hardwired in our brains. They define how we perceive other humans, offers, sales and marketing messages. The personality insights help to structure the entire sales process, from choosing the right team members to tailoring the outreach and messaging to the right segments at the right time. Nowadays, personality traits can be defined by analyzing a short message or email by a prospective customer, so it is easier than you think. Learn more about using AI to describe personality traits here.
We are being directed by our emotions most of the time. Therefore, they also play an essential role in the decision-making process. Understanding the context of customers’ emotions regarding your industry or product will positively influence how you position yourself and the sales pitch. It will allow you to sympathize with the customer segment and grab them on a subliminal level. More on emotions in marketing and sales can be found in the article Emotions in Marketing and Sales.
How sales personas improve sales processes
Above, we outlined what information sales personas should contain to be helpful.
Creating personas based on actual data and facts allows salespeople to align messages and approaches with audiences’ needs, interests, preferences, and personalities. Ultimately, this alignment will improve the overall sales process and might make the difference between a successful company and one that fails. Here are a few examples of how the information will help create a better sales strategy and process.
Choosing the right staff and building strong teams
We already highlighted the power of personality alignment in the psychological barrier section, but having a clear customer understanding and building matching teams around them means true customer centricity.
Imagine one of your target segments is between 25 and 35. It makes sense to create a sales team that speaks their language, shares the same lifestyle, and ideally has matching personality traits to connect with the leads on every level.
One last word to the power of personality alignment. Yes, including personality traits in the sales persona profiles is powerful. However, using personality assessment and alignment on an individual level is the highest level of personalization. Once you analyze your lead’s personality, your organization can match it with a sales representative with fitting personality traits and understand precisely what to say, how to present your solution, and what to avoid when communicating.
Lowering customer churn rates
Surely, you heard before that finding new customers is way more expensive than maintaining existing ones. Customer journey personas, which reflect the needs, pain points, preferences, etc., within an individual journey, help the salesperson provide the exact information at the right time. Accordingly, when clients consider contract terminations, these insights are crucial to preventing them from canceling. It could be simply the right words or incentives like additional features, discounts, or benefits.
Choosing sales channels
Implementing a customer-centric approach means a precise alignment between marketing and sales communications. Personas will help pick the suitable marketing medium and guide how to communicate further down the journey. Personality traits especially contain crucial information on communicating with the respective sales personas.Some customer segments appreciate a direct call wheres others would feel harassed.
Understanding your target audience’s background, needs and triggers
We already demonstrated how sales personas provide a granular understanding of the customer base – this is their entire purpose. 90% of organizations claim that they created a better understanding of their customers through personas. 82% of organizations claim they improved their value proposition by implementing personas.
Tailor messaging and outreach to the right people at the right time
The most valuable part of sales personas is the “Go-to section,” which contains the critical product specifications and features. No matter how good you write, if the content is irrelevant to the target audience, they will not convert. Well-defined persona profiles will tell you how to communicate with the audience (are they more likely to convert when receiving transformational ads or informational ads) and what information they need at what stage in the sales cycle. These adjustments could range from targeted demos, to product guides, infographics, and much more.
Elaborate on the USPs compared to your competitors’
Prospects usually always consider different options during the sales cycle. The personas dissect the different USPs for the different target audiences in a consumable way. Hence, marketers and sales professionals understand exactly what and when to highlight during the customer journey.
As mentioned previously, competitor personas are vital to compare your USPs to missing features of the competition.
Sales becomes more challenging by the day due to rising competition and the vast amount of marketing and sales messages we get bombarded with daily. The only way we can often distinguish ourselves from the competition is to put the customer at the organization’s center. To do so, a clear understanding of the customer segments is the critical foundation. This is why sales personas or customer personas, in general, are such a great tool to transport this information throughout the company.