What do sales people want from Personas?

Robin Griffiths

The B2C heritage of the ‘Persona’ movement means there’s a lot of focus from marketing teams on the creation of realistic profiles for fictitious people who are representative of a typical buyer. Profiles often include a photo of a person (licensed from a photo library), their age, marital status, number of children and so on. The thinking is this will bring the persona to life in the mind of a sales person.

When I present this type of Persona Profile to sales people (and I have done it a few times!) their eyes glaze over and I can see them thinking, “Here’s another idea from marketing that’s kind of interesting but doesn’t give me what I need”.

In B2B good sales people follow a ‘consultative selling’ approach. They start an exploratory sales meeting with a new customer contact by first engaging them in a conversation around some of the big trends in the industry the customer operates in. They then move on to talking about some of the strategies the company is pursuing in response to these trends – great sales people will have done their research in advance by reading the latest annual report and press releases from the company and searching for other relevant news and commentary on the web.

If the conversation is going well, at this point the sales person will have ‘earned the right’ to start talking about specific business challenges or opportunities the customer may face. A good way to segue into this discussion is for the sales person to talk about some of the challenges they are hearing from other customers they talk to.

With any luck, by this stage the sales person will have uncovered one or two challenges or opportunities that are top of mind for this contact, and which can be addressed by the products and services the sales person has to offer. The final objective for the sales person at an initial meeting is then to position his/her company as having relevant solutions that have solved similar problems for other customers, and then ask for support in continuing the discussions with other relevant people within the customer’s organization.

If Persona content is going to help sales people have high quality, consultative sales conversations it needs to provide:

  1. Insights into the big industry themes for the customer segment concerned
  2. Insights into the role and responsibilities, and typical workflows for the persona concerned
  3. The typical top of mind challenges / opportunities faced by this specific persona
  4. The product and service capabilities that specifically address each challenge and how customers get value

The problem for marketing teams is this type of Persona content is hard to develop.

Robin Griffiths

Specialist in proposition development and creator of the Proposition Mapping™ methodology. Robin's career includes Founder and CEO of Force12 Software, and Director of Cambridge Consulting Engineers.