Trash your buyer personas. Bold statement, right?
Well it’s a different world out there, and the same strategies and tactics of yesterday no longer work. And let’s be honest, this isn’t corporate marketing. This is sales. We have different metrics, goals, and ways of being.
Now, I’m not saying trash ALL buyer personas. In fact, the principles I’m sharing today will help you rebuild your buyer persona from the ground up. Because buyer personas can be powerful, but there’s a high likelihood that your personas could be hurting you more than helping you.
Remember, this is sales. So we can’t approach the buyer persona from a marketing perspective. Instead, we must do the following:
- We have to base ours off of real data
- We have to actually talk to our closed-won customers and clients
- We have to base ours off of actual pain points instead of roles and responsibilities
- We have to actually use it when it’s complete (and update yearly)
- We have to create an anti-buyer persona
Let’s dig deeper into each of these. Once you understand these basic principles and how to apply them, it’ll be off to the races for you. You’ll find your team having more conversations, closing more deals, and retaining clients longer.
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The 5 Problems With Most Buyer Personas (and how to fix it)
Problem 1 – You base your persona on who you want to sell to, rather than who actually buys your product/service.
Here’s the deal. You might think you have product/market fit (because you are closing deals), but what if there’s a better fit? In other words, what if going after a slightly different segment of the market increased sales by 5%, 10%, or even 20% or more? This isn’t unheard of.
But you have to dig into the data. Open up your CRM and export all of your closed deals and look for overlap in buyers. Find out who it is that actually buys your product, rather than who you like to sell to. And don’t be surprised to find that these are two different types of prospects. The good news here is that your past success will help give shape to your future success.
Problem 2 – You don’t talk to existing customers or clients
Most sales teams close a deal, call it good, and never circle back to talk with the new customer or client. Or, if they do circle back, it’s to upsell or cross sell a product/service. The problem here is that you have real-life, flesh-and-blood people who are likely your ideal buyers (or at least they’re close!), but you don’t take the time to learn more about them.
Even worse is that sales leaders make a point to reach out to existing customers, but only talk to, say, five people before they get busy with something else. This is not a representative sample size, and so the data you walk away with could be leading you down the wrong path. Talk to lots of customers/clients to triangulate your ideal buyer persona.
What do you ask them? Let’s touch on that next.
Problem 3 – Your buyer persona is based on roles and responsibilities rather than pain points
You know the term pigeonholed, right? Well, you’re pigeonholing your sales team into working with a certain segment of the market if you are mostly selling to specific roles/titles rather than taking into account pain points and problems.
To be clear – you want to help people solve a problem, so pain points are KEY in sales. You know this. But what you might not know is that while creating your buyer persona you should be thinking “Who has this problem that I can solve,” NOT “Which job title should I sell to.” The former is powerful, and the latter is just lazy.
Problem 4 – You don’t USE your buyer personas
You know the drill. At the beginning of Q1 sales leaders get over-zealous about the year ahead. They workshop a few buyer personas, polish the docs, put a bow on them, and then put them in a file folder never to be seen again. This begs the question: What’s the point in building a buyer persona if you don’t use it?
I won’t beat a dead horse here, as there’s really not much to say other than use your buyer personas once you make them!
Problem 5 – You don’t make an Anti-buyer persona (you have to make these)
If a buyer persona is the person who is most likely to buy your product, then you could assume the anti-buyer persona is the person who is least likely to buy your product, right? Wrong. The anti-buyer persona is best defined as the person you don’t want buying your product. These are problem customers and clients. They are a) A massive pain in the neck, b) Churn too quickly, c) Don’t pay on time, d) Drain your human resources, or e) all of the above.
Over time, you can get a good idea of who these buyers are. You don’t want these leeches around, especially when there are so many great people out there to sell to. Thankfully, I’ve found that most folks at the top (C-suite) of larger companies are the easiest to work with. Ironically, the lower you go in company size, the more difficult it can be to navigate the business relationship. Let’s be honest, a small business owner’s livelihood is wrapped up in their business “baby”, and they’ll do anything to keep it alive, including calling you day and night and putting impossible demands on your people. Of course, there’s also a lot to love about small businesses, but that’s for another article.
It’s possible to craft 2-3 different buyer personas to help increase sales. But if you want to really find your ideal buyer, it’s important that you do your homework. Go through your CRM, talk to existing customers, find out their main pain points, then and only then sit down to workshop the personas.
Remember, one of the worst things you can do is to haphazardly create buyer personas based on your feelings or what you think is right. They must be backed by hard data and tested against the market. Do this and you’ll be lightyears ahead of your competition.
Until next time…