Understanding Buyer Personas
A study conducted by Forrester Research tells us that sales professionals must tailor their message specifically to each unique buyer they interface with because corporate decision makers expect the time they spend with a sales person to be educational and valuable. For those selling IT staffing and IT professional services you most likely call on and sell to many different buyers. For instance, you may call on the CIO or VP of Application Development but you may also sell to the Manager of Help Desk Operations or the Software Quality Assurance Manager or the Director of the Project Management Office (PMO). Chances are you also interface with Human Resources such as the VP or Director of HR or a Recruiter or HR Generalist. Having said that, how can IT staffing sales professionals-especially those who never worked in a corporate IT department and/or were never trained in software engineering and/or never led a team of IT professionals-create a valuable and memorable customer experience?
To begin, IT staffing sales professionals must understand and build buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better, and make it easier for you to tailor content including your messaging such as email, voice mail and content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.
A buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem or achieve a goal that your company can help them with. Much more than a one-dimensional profile of the people you need to influence, or a map of their buying journey, actionable buyer personas reveal insights about your buyers’ decisions — the specific attitudes, concerns and criteria that drive prospective customers to choose you, your competitor or stick with the status quo. When you have insights into what your buyers think about doing business with you, such as verbatim quotes from people who have recently made the decision to solve a similar problem by using your service, you have the knowledge you need to align your sales and marketing decisions — from positioning and messaging through content marketing and sales enablement – with your buyer’s expectations.
The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as on insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys and interviews, etc.). Depending on your target market you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20.
Don’t Confuse Buyer Personas
Keep in mind that buyer personas are not your target market. Your target market is at a macro-level such as the industries that you service, the size of companies that you target and other account qualification criteria. Your target market includes characteristics of the types of customers you have had success with in the past and those that you have struggled with. These characteristics however are at the account or industry level rather than an individual level.
Job titles are also not buyer personas. Job titles can give us clues or indicators of what characteristics make up a buyer persona. Actual real people are also not buyer persona’s. This is where a lot of people get hung up. Remember, a buyer persona is a general representation. Now that you have a basic understanding of what buyer personas are its time to learn how buyer personas help salespeople.
What do you know about the buyers you are calling on and selling to? How are you going about building effective messaging campaigns that speak specifically to the different buyers you interface with? Please share your thoughts 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.