I’ve seen it time and time again…
A company’s marketing team dedicates their already stretched resources to develop strong, accurate buyer personas — but no one actually uses it. Let alone the sales team, where it would do the most good.
As it turns out, buyer persona research is one of — if not THE — most critical foundations for successful sales.
Keep reading to learn how to create a buyer persona that SDRs can actually use, including a template to get you started.
What Is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of the type of person who might buy from your company. You may have one persona or several, depending on your markets. The persona contains information about the potential customers’ business interests, but also demographic information, and data about their likes and dislikes. It’s based on market research and data on people who are most likely to have bought from you before.
Usually, before developing buyer personas, you’ll have developed your ideal customer profile. That’s a picture of the type of company which is most likely to buy your product. Now, you’re taking the next step. You’re identifying the individual at your ideal company who is actually going to be doing the buying.
By identifying who that is, what they’re like, and what they care about, you can tailor your sales message directly to them — and raise the odds you’ll convert them. To do that, you need to do some research.
By interviewing your customers, you’re able to take buyer persona research beyond basic demographics and include all of the intangible little details that really make a person tick.
That serves as a fast-track to knowing how to best engage on any given topic.
Here are the buyer insights you’ll get from a well-written buyer persona:
- The type of content is most likely to generate a response
- How prospects prefer to engage in the sales process
- The specific problems your prospect needs to solve so you can address those problems head-on
Buyer Personas: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
When creating a buyer persona, it’s easy to just document what you already know: the role and market segment of your typical customer. Here’s an example of a bad persona description:
Director of HR for a software company located in North America that has between 100 and 5,000 employees.
While this helps you define the ideal customer profile, it doesn’t give you enough personal information to actually engage with them. So let’s make it a little personal.
First, let’s call her a name, “Hannah,” and add some additional demographic information to the mix:
Hannah is the Director of HR for a software company located in North America that has between 100 and 5000 employees. Hannah is female, age 35-55, and lives in the suburbs with her spouse and two college-aged children.
Better, right? But it’s still not enough. Not by a mile.
What’s missing from this buyer persona description is psychographic data: information about Hannah’s attitude, interests, personality, values, opinions, and lifestyle.
Add that, and you have something that’s actually useful. Here’s what a good buyer persona description might look like for Hannah:
Hannah is the Director of HR for a software company located in North America that has between 100 and 5000 employees. Hannah is continually looking for solutions to keep employees connected and happy because she is partially measured on employee turnover. Hannah is female, age 35-55, and lives in the suburbs with her spouse and two college-aged children. She’s outgoing and personable — the type of person who lights up a room. Hannah goes to the internet to seek solutions for every type of problem she encounters, but she also highly trusts referrals from her peers and professional organizations when it comes to making business decisions. Social media is her go-to resource for news and current trends. Due to her very busy schedule, Hannah tends to use her smartphone more than her laptop, and getting her on a call during business hours is nearly impossible. You’re likely to hear from Hannah via email after 8pm when she’s catching up the day. The later it is, the more emojis you can expect in her communications.
With the addition of some psychographic data, you’ve got a deeper understanding of what Hannah cares most about, and the best ways to communicate with her.
Imagine if you didn’t know these details about Hannah and you kept leaving voicemail messages at her office or sending her large files that she couldn’t easily read on her phone.
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By creating a more complete picture of Hannah, you’ve made it much easier to sell to her (and anyone who fits her profile).
Keep in mind, though, you can’t create an effective persona from a vacuum. Take time to do live interviews, so your persona descriptions are accurate.
Trust me, it’s worth the effort. With a good buyer persona in hand, it’s easier to serve customers throughout their buying journey.
How to Create a Buyer Persona for Sales
- Do live customer interviews
- Create a persona description
- Make a quick-reference card for sales reps
- Add personas to your sales engagement tool
Step 1: Do Live Customer Interviews
You need to talk to living, breathing people who use (and love) your product. That’s the only way to understand the “types” of people who are most likely to buy in the future.
To do this, you’ll need to go out to some of your existing clients, and do some detailed market research to develop your buyer persona.
You’re looking for information that will humanize these individuals for sales reps, and allow them to build a picture in their own mind of the kind of person they’re going to be talking to. You’re also looking for things which will tell those same reps when and where they are best off trying to contact these buyers, and how and why they go about making buying decisions.
It’s a mix of practical information – like the best time to send an email – and “colour” information that gives reps the best chance of knowing how to phrase that email.
Information you’ll need to collect:
- Persona name
- Company information
- Industry/type of company
- Persona’s challenge/need
- Why it’s important
- Location (ie., suburbs, city, etc.)
- Family size and type
- Personality (ie., outgoing, friendly, quiet, etc.)
- How it manifests
- Habits/Decision-making criteria
- Goes where to find solutions?
- Makes decisions how?
- Goes where to find news and trends?
- Communication habits
- Technology used
- How/when calls are made
- How/when emails are done
- Communication style
In practical terms, you’ll need to think about how you actually recruit customers for interviews, and how to get the most out of them.
To get your high-value customers onboard for an interview, show them they’ll get value from taking part. Make it clear that you’re not selling, and that you’re asking them because of their special value to you as customers.
Offer a choice of phone or video, and have an online questionnaire ready as a fallback. Go through the person in your organization who has the best relationship with the individual.
And finally, show your gratitude in the form of a free service upgrade or a gift card.
Step 2: Create a Persona Description
You need to flesh out what this persona looks like. Use the template below, and fill in the information you gathered from your live interviews.
Keep in mind, this is just a guide. Personalize it to fit your customers and your business.
Template: Persona Description
[Name] is the [Role] for a [industry/type] company located in [geolocation] that has [size] employees. [Name] is continually looking for solutions to [challenge/need] because [why it’s important].
[Name] is [gender], [age], and lives [location] with her [family type] of [family size/details]. She’s [personality] — the type of person who [how it manifests].
[Name] goes to [where] to seek solutions for every type of problem she encounters, but she also trusts [decision-making criteria/source] when it comes to making business decisions. [News source] is her go-to resource for news and current trends.
[Name] tends to use [technology used], and getting her on a call requires [how/when calls are made]. You’re likely to hear from Hannah via email [how/when emails are done]. [Communication style]
Step 3: Create a Quick-Reference Buyer Persona Battle Card
Every sales rep needs a 1-page reference that includes the description and other key details about your persona.
Something like this:
To create your buyer persona battle card, you can create a Google Doc that’s stored in a Persona folder… use Canva to create an infographic type card like the one above… or have your graphics team create something that’s exactly right for you.
The point is to make the most relevant research about your customers available in a quick-reference format.
As mentioned above, this card has a range of information such as demographics and interests which tell you the kind of person you’re dealing with. A 50-year-old woman from the suburbs with teenage kids is going to react differently from an urban 35-year-old single man.
It has practical information you can get by answering these questions:
- What social media does this persona access?
- When is the best time to reach out?
- What’s their preferred medium of communication?
It also has information that can help sell:
- What are the kinds of challenges that this persona tends to face in a work environment?
- What pains do they have?
- What solutions have worked elsewhere?
The template above contains some additional information you could add if you want to get into even more detail – types of motivation and some information about Myers-Briggs personality types, which could be useful if you’re trying to work out the best psychological approach. But you may feel that level of study is not necessary.
Step 4: Add Personas to Your Sale Engagement Platform
Once your buyer persona research is done, you need to make it easy to use. The best way to do that is to build personas into your salesperson’s workflow.
TIP: Include persona details in your sales engagement platform, so the information will be available right there within the salesperson’s communication activities.
Sales engagement platforms include information such as best time of day to call, what communication channels have been most effective, and more.
Once your persona research has been done, you don’t have to guess which sales communication methods will engage the buyer. You’ll already know.
Once you understand how to communicate with a persona, you can automate it through your sales engagement platform. That’s going to help you send messages at unprecedented speed and scale, and gather data-driven insights that help you close deals faster.
Using Your Buyer Persona in the Sales Process
A good salesperson knows that initial discovery can make or break a sale. Effective discovery provides a sales rep with critical details that will help that rep not only meet the buyer where he or she is on their journey, but also more accurately qualify and forecast the opportunity.
With buyer persona research at your fingertips, you’ll have a general idea of what’s going to be most relevant to a person before having your first conversation with them.
Remember, the buyer persona won’t replace sales discovery, but it will save you time. With your Persona Battle Card in hand, you can go into a discovery call with:
- a basic idea of the buyer’s pains
- how he or she measures success
- what he or she values
Not only that, it will help you tailor your communications to the buyer’s preferences.
Make Personas Part of Your Process
Today, sales success depends on keeping your customers at the center of your efforts. That’s why it’s important to have well-researched, well-documented buyer personas.
But they won’t work if you don’t use them. So do the research, create your personas, and then make them easily accessible.
Also published on Medium.