personas

personaAs sales leaders, we coach our sales team to follow a strict and disciplined data-driven sales process (e.g. call/email activity levels, lead qualification, stage progression, etc.)  Are we setting our team up for success? Do we spend enough time helping them understand the buying process and digging into the buying signals harvested from digital data?

By leveraging digital data available from the buying process, we can help our sales team more effectively approach our prospects. The data are available to determine when we should focus on prospect education, or when we can kick into “sales mode.” This is the true value of sales and marketing alignment and how content marketing drives sales productivity.

A Powerful Sales Toolkit

To better understand when we should teach and when we should sell, we can head over to the marketing department for the data. Marketing has volumes of prospect and customer insights tagged by persona and organized by the buying process. When you combine an understanding of buyer personas coupled with the data from the buyer’s journey you have a powerful toolkit to drive sales productivity.

Personas: Shorthand for Prospect Identification

You may have heard marketing talk about personas. A persona is like a character sketch of a set of your ideal clients. Unlike a fictional character sketch developed by the imagination, a well-developed persona is based on historical data. Personas are a way to identify typical pain points and motivations of a category of prospects. Marketers often use personas to guide them when they develop content so the content will resonate with a certain type of buyer. But personas do not just benefit your marketing department. Personas can also be used effectively by the sales team.

Personas are great shorthand for use in a heavy prospecting environment that requires tight collaboration between appointment setters (SDRs) and sales account executives. Having a few “buyer types” to refer to can help the SDR more effectively communicate the approach and tone the sales account executive should take on the appointment with the new prospect.

Right Pitch, Right Person

For example, as a meeting is set and the lead is transferred to an account executive (in Salesforce of course), a CIO might be labeled with a “Stephanie Stingy” or “Victor Visionary” persona. Your account executive can know how to adjust their approach and style to accommodate the type of person they are pitching. Even the content they present can be pre-scripted to resonate with Stephanie or Victor.

Effective sales teams can use those same personas to prioritize their prospect list, making a more efficient use of their time and energy to achieve sales goals. Then, when meeting with those prospects, you can jump-start the conversation based on data-driven assumptions.

Let’s take a closer look at 3 ways the sales team can benefit by adopting a marketing-minded sales approach.

1.) Focus On the Right Prospects

When your sales team views prospects through the persona lens, a cold prospecting list warms up and becomes more familiar and approachable. Your sales reps can now anticipate your prospect’s motivations and behaviors based on their persona coupled with firmographic (industry and organizational needs and behavior) understanding. While personas cannot replace research into a specific buyer, they can help to prioritize which buyers your reps need to focus on at any given moment.

Personas also give you insight into social platforms in which your sales team should be focusing your sales efforts. Persona profiles often include the likely social media platform and types of keywords that resonate on that platform. Knowing this allows a sales rep to adjust participation and responses accordingly.

2.) Integrate Personas with the Buyer’s Journey

The use of personas, when matched up with their current phase on the buyer’s journey, lead to higher degrees of productivity and less wasted time for all concerned.

Your sales team can utilize marketing’s buyer’s journey, and the data collected on those personas to understand a prospects’ interests, intent and where they most likely fall in the buying process. Using historical data, and looking at insights from your marketing automation platform, you can make an educated guess as to where a type of prospect is in the decision-making process and anticipate their next step.

We love to talk about the sales funnel, but in reality the buyer’s journey does not always take a pre-defined path. A potential buyer may slip into that funnel through a side door or even enter at the stem.

Inside sales reps who understand personas and the buyer’s journey will recognize at what point an inquiry becomes a legitimate lead. Field sales will be better able to identify when a warm lead is about to become a hot opportunity.

3.) Function as a Teacher or Curator of Information

We believe sales account executives can play a valuable role in educating their prospects and customers. Instead of starting conversations with features where the focus is on the product’s value to the prospect’s organization, sales professionals can act as a teacher or curator of information, putting the focus on the needs of the customer. When your sales team understands the buyer’s journey, they can start the conversation with “some of our customers in similar situations often ask us for help with…”

Imagine for a moment 2 leads come to your team. One has downloaded a white paper and another has downloaded a spec sheet. Based on marketing’s data on the buyer’s journey, your AE will know that the prospect who’s downloaded the white paper is looking for a solution to their problem. The prospect is still trying to understand how to solve a problem, and they are looking for guidance – teaching mode. The customer who has downloaded the spec sheet may be about to ask for pricing or information on custom options – sales mode. Your sales rep can walk into that meeting prepared for the most likely possibility and ready to offer helpful information.

With only 5 months left before year’s end, you want ensure your sales team is spending their time with the right prospects and closing more deals effectively. If you would like assistance in training your sales team to be more effective and productive, Fathom has on-site workshops we’d like to share with you. Contact Jeff Leo Herrmann today @JeffLHerrmann or jherrmann@fathomdelivers.com to ready your team for success.

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Image courtesy of Jisc infoNet via Flickr.

Jeff Leo Herrmann

About Jeff Leo Herrmann

With a commitment to constant learning, leadership development, and teaching, I am fortunate to have a live laboratory to experiment in every day as the Chief Strategy Officer of Fathom and Show Runner for our content platform, Creating Your Unfair Advantage.Living at the intersection of Content Marketing and Social Selling enables me to be a resource to both Sales Executives and CMOs alike because I understand the dynamics of their relationship.You won't find a bigger content marketing zealot with an intense belief that brands are better off engaging their audiences with educational and entertaining content instead of blasting them with massive traditional advertising campaigns. This perspective is well informed after a 15-year career at The Nielsen Company spent in audience measurement and advertising effectiveness.As a Boomerang back to NE Ohio after 15 years split between Chicago and New York, and my time on the speaker-circut presenting in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Barcelona, Munich and Milan, I have an intense appreciation for work-life synergy and the power of virtual work environments. I am also thankful for the analytical rigor of my MBA program at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.

One Comment

  • Jason Wise says:

    Jeff – We actually use personas to align our entire product team (Sales, Marketing & Engineering). Sales & Marketing pros are usually quicker to get up to speed, but when Engineers can leverage them the team really starts to gel.

    Cheers from Seattle!

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