To Drive Consultative Selling First Build Buyer Personas
I think we all agree that selling IT staffing services and more specifically, differentiating from the competition is really, really difficult. Fortunately I have an idea that I think can help IT staffing sales professionals not only differentiate themselves in the eyes and minds of their prospects, but also help them engage customers in a deeper and more meaningful way than they traditionally have.With consultative selling, the customers goals and objectives including the current state of their department and/or project(s) and their desired future state are identified through a combination of preparation, effective sales discovery and the utilization of thought provoking probing and "drill-down" questions. Most importantly, consultative selling also requires the salesperson to share ideas and insights that are relevant and of high value to the customer. I refer to this as insight selling, a key element to consultative selling. This is what makes it "consultative." This is also the part that most sellers struggle with. To drive consultative selling, I suggest sellers begin by building buyer personas. Let me explain.
Build Buyer Persona's
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. At the most basic level, buyer personas have two components, 'master role' and 'responsibility.' Most IT staffing sales professionals call on prospects (IT hiring managers) across a multitude of 'master roles' including C-Level, VP, Director and Manager. IT staffing sales professionals also call on IT hiring managers responsible for a variety of different 'responsibilities' including Software Quality Assurance and Testing (QA), DevOps, Application Development and the PMO among many others.
The Case for Building Buyer Persona's
Let's be honest, if you've never worked in an IT department, written a piece of software code, managed an IT project or have any sort of educational background in Management of Information Systems, speaking with IT hiring managers can be very intimidating. Yet the goal or expectation for IT staffing sales professionals is to engage IT hiring managers in consultative selling.
The purpose, and case for building buyer persona's is to enable sales professionals to engage in consultative selling with IT hiring managers without ever having written a piece of software code, managed an IT project or having any sort of educational background in Management of Information Systems
Buyer personas allow IT staffing sales professionals to tailor their messaging for different segments of their audience. For example, instead of sending the same lead nurturing email to every prospect in your CRM or ATS database, salespeople can segment the contacts in their CRM or ATS by buyer persona and tailor their messaging according to what they know about those different personas.
For example, let's assume I'm an IT staffing sales professional calling into Netflix. I'm calling on the PMO Director and I'm also calling on the Help Desk Manager. If I'm to expect either of these prospects to engage in a conversation with me, I need to prepare two very distinct and different messages. Why? First, one prospect is a Manager (Help Desk) and other is a Director (PMO). The master role of 'Director' is measured and evaluated differently than that of a Manager. Because Directors sit higher up on the organizational chart, they face a different set of challenges and responsibilities and have different goals than a Manager. Second, the context and nature of the challenges the Director of the PMO faces is different from that of the Manager of the Help Desk because the scope and nature of the work is different. Therefore, each prospect is going to have very different interests.
If I expect to have any chance at all in capturing their attention, I need to engage them in a conversation that is relevant and of high value to them based on their buyer persona. To learn more about the difference between consultative selling and transactional selling, read my blog, examples of consultative selling vs. transactional selling.
How Buyer Personas Drive Consultative Selling
With a good understanding of each buyer persona, sales professionals are in a much better position to engage prospects and customers in consultative selling and share ideas and insights that are of high value. Instead of being excluded from the customers internal discussions and decisions on how to go about achieving a goal or solving a problem and treated like a commodity supplier or order taker, IT staffing sales professionals can now be included and engaged in the solution conversation which means they are in prime position to influence the decision and outcome.
The Alternative, Selling Without Understanding Buyer Persona's
When salespeople have little or no understanding of their ideal buyers including how they are measured and managed and the challenges they face and the ideas, and information that are relevant to them, how can salespeople possibly expect to engage in a consultative conversation? Without understanding buyer personas, sales reps are equipped to deliver the same amount of value as what you receive from a toll booth operator.
This is why new hire ramp up time including time to quota attainment takes so long for so many sales reps and recruiters in the IT staffing industry (and why you should structure sales onboarding around consultative selling). They're calling on prospects and candidates in which they know nothing about their job function, role, responsibility, challenges they face. In this instance sellers and recruiters only have one option and that is to go into pitch mode and talk about themselves, their company or their job opportunity. The problem however is this NOT how customers (or candidates) want to engage salespeople or recruiters.
IT staffing firms that take the time to build buyer personas not have sales teams that can apply a consultative selling approach, which shortens their sales cycle and drives customer loyalty. And isn't that ultimately what we're after?
What steps have you and your organization taken to build your buyer personas? What strategies and tactics are you applying to adopt a consultative sales methodology? Let's start a conversation in the comments section below.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.