6 Reasons Your Buyer Personas Are Wasting Sales Time

Jul. 8

Time is money, especially in Sales. Are your personas wasting precious Sales time? 

Sales Wars is pleased to bring you a guest post from Sales Jedi Katie Martell, Co-Founder and CMO of Cintell.

In the marketing realm, buyer personas have been celebrated as a means of driving more relevant content, campaign decisions, and messaging. In sales, the love for buyer personas should be as audible – after all, when done right, buyer personas become INCREDIBLY useful tools to train sales staff, drive more profitable conversations, decrease sales cycles, and improve the relationship between marketing and sales.

Unfortunately, although 73% of companies use, or plan to use buyer personas, the majority (85%) of companies are not using them correctly (according to the ITSMA).

So what does a good persona look like? At Cintell, we define personas as models of your ideal buyers, based on market research and real data about existing customers. Personas help you understand your customers from inquiry to advocacy – their preferences, behaviors, buying habits, challenges, motivations and other important details spanning the entire customer lifecycle.

Poorly designed personas may contribute to the sobering statistic that 64% of field sales people’s time is wasted on admin tasks and responsibilities around demand generation (SiriusDecisions.)

How can you tell if your personas are only wasting time? Here are 6 quick signs to look for:

  1.      They contain irrelevant information for a B2B transaction

Personas, at their core, serve to humanize a B2B buyer, and create some empathy in the mind of the person calling them, crafting an email for them, or designing product for them. But there is a fine line between creating humanized personas and vehicles of totally useless information.

In a B2B environment, personas should contain attributes and details relevant to a B2B transaction, such as organizational dynamics (who do they run big purchases by?), business pressures (what are they measured on at work?), and the purchase process (how do they evaluate vendors?). What kind of dog they have, how many kids, or what kind of apartment they rent may apply to consumer personas, but if your B2B persona is limited to these attributes, sales is likely to consider them a complete waste of time.

  1.      They’re hard to find

Where are your latest persona documents stored? Is it easy for your sales team to access them on a moment’s notice say, from their mobile device when headed to a field sales call? So much time and energy is spent crafting research-driven, detail-rich personas. Why are they so hard to find, trapped in PDFs and Powerpoint slides at the bottom of your team’s desk drawer, or deep in sub-folders on your company’s intranet or Wiki? Make them easier to find, and you’ll see an increase in adoption.

That is why at Cintell we publish personas in the cloud, making them accessible wherever your sales team members may be, in the office or rushing to their next meeting.

  1.      They don’t account for the full buying committee

Don’t let sales waste time talking to the wrong people, or worse, delivering the wrong message. Ensure your buyer personas take into account the multiple individuals who are involved on purchase decisions in a B2B complex sale. Get beyond the elusive “decision maker” and arm sales with a complete persona for influencers, end users and other champions of a deal. Each has different priorities, and needs different messaging.

  1.      They’re shallow

Are your personas limited to demographic information such as job title, industry, company size, and similar? If so, they may be useful for database segmentation and other operations tasks, but they are entirely too shallow for sales. Give your team what they need to understand this persona well enough to sound like an expert. Tell them about their needs, preferences, personality, and values. Explain how sales needs to engage this persona across the customer journey. Include details on how, and why they buy, who they’re influenced by, and what their priorities, challenges, and motivations look like in their day-to-day professional life. Think of a persona as a sales enablement tool.

  1.      They’re out-of-date

When was the last time you updated your personas? Unfortunately, many companies wait until the marketing regime change to infuse some life into their personas. Markets change, priorities shift, and new challenges and trends affecting your buyer emerge continually. If you’re not keeping personas up-to-date, you’re setting your team up for stale conversations. Consider a monthly, quarterly, even bi-annual process to validate the information in your personas is still current and accurate. Consider trends shaping the marketplace, new buyers, regulation shifts, and other issues to keep your personas fresh and useful. Allow your customer-facing teams (sales/customer support) to provide feedback and adapt the personas over time.

  1.      They were created in a bubble

Your personas are only as strong as the underlying research used to create them. If you fail to speak to real buyers, both existing or potential customers, you’re working under assumptions and bias; and unfortunately, these are not a sound strategies for business. Primary research is the cornerstone for accurate buyer personas. Include sales in the process of persona creation, as their insights from the front lines can be very helpful. Plus, when sales is included in a collaborative effort, it may also help to increase their adoption of the resulting insights.

I’m a firm believer that buyer personas are not just a tool for the demand generation and content marketers of the world. When done right, they can serve as immensely useful sales tools, helping to unify sales and marketing, inform more relevant sales conversations, and getting an entire organization on the same page as it relates to the most critical component of our business: the customer.

Katie Martell

About Katie Martell

Katie Martell is on a mission to help companies better understand their buyers as Co-Founder and CMO of Cintell. She brings experience creating buzz and driving market demand for B2B organizations in the Greater Boston technology ecosystem. Katie earned a B.S. in Marketing Communication, Advertising & PR from Emerson College in Boston, where she is a scotch enthusiast, ska aficionado, and board member of the American Marketing Association Boston chapter. Follow her on Twitter @KatieMartell and find out where she is speaking next.