How Sales Personas Revolutionize Sales
data-driven personas have established themselves primarily in marketing, but they also do a great job in sales: sales personas take your sales to a new level. When and how to use personas correctly in sales: We show you how.
data-driven personas are an effective tool - not only in marketing. The use of personas also pays off, especially in sales. The so-called sales personas support companies in every phase of the sales process - from the sales strategy, the selection of sales staff, the evaluation of suitable communication channels to the tonality, especially when it comes to direct contact with B2B and B2C customers. In short: data-driven personas helps to design offers and sales messages that fit perfectly.
What are Sales Personas?
Sales personas are data-based character profiles that help sales teams better understand existing and potential customers. The personas are based on an extensive collection of data from market research, customer surveys, and past sales. Compared to the target group, sales personas enable a detailed character analysis of all stakeholders involved in the purchase, including their individual needs, preferences, challenges and motivations that speak for or against a purchase decision. Sales personas are therefore an effective tool for sales managers to develop tailored messages, offers and a customer-centric approach.
How many sales personas do companies need?
In order to achieve or even exceed your goals with personas, the data basis is essential. Only with scientifically based internal and external data can you create personas that are at best representative of at least 80 percent of your target groups. Depending on the product portfolio, sales funnel and customer types, this may involve several personas. An initial target group segmentation helps to determine how many personas you actually need for your project. Depending on the data available, this can be done according to demographic characteristics, products purchased or interests. It is important to take a look at the sales funnel. Where and how did people become aware of you in the past? Which other competitors besides you are worth considering? What criteria and offers have so far persuaded customers to make a purchase decision or kept them from doing so? Who is involved in the purchase decision?
The latter question in particular provides information about the number of possible personas. After all, it is often more than one person who decides on a purchase. Think of children's toys, for example, which children want but whose purchase is decided primarily by parents, grandparents, or other relatives. Or a CRM solution for mid-sized companies, where employees from customer service, project management, and management are all involved in the purchasing decision. Even with products that you sell via dealers, as a sales department you address both dealers and, indirectly, their customers. These examples already give an indication of the different needs, goals, and buying motivations of those involved.
Developing Sales Personas: Here's how
Developing personas means: collecting data, evaluating it, classifying it and building a character profile from it. Even though all types of personas essentially contain similar information, they differ in terms of their focus. For example, Candidate Personas, which companies use primarily in recruiting and human resources, focus on qualifications, stressors, and motivational factors at work, while Sales Personas focus primarily on consumer behavior and purchasing decisions.
The basis for this consists of representative data from independent opinion research institutes, customer surveys, online reviews, analytics, and information from completed purchase transactions. For a comprehensive data-based profile, Persona Institute recommends to research and/or collect the following data itself:
- Demographic data: Age, gender, place of residence and housing situation
- Data on financial or occupational situation: household size, net household income, occupation, level of education, etc.
- Information about hobbies and interests: Leisure activities, lifestyle, everyday life
- Psychographic data: Goals and values, Character traits, Personal challenges, View of personal future, Innovation type.
- Data on consumer behavior: In particular, data on purchasing decisions, product and brand preferences, and media consumption (print, digital).
- Data on health and personal fitness: data on health awareness, nutrition, physical and mental fitness, etc.
- Travel behavior data: Mobility behavior and attitudes towards mobility issues, preferences for certain activities e.g. beach vs. city vacation, camping vs. hotel, etc.
- Data relating to your service and/or a specific product (segment): Data from online reviews, complaint management, customer service, social media and analytics, etc.
Depending on the use of the persona or the company's goals, you can integrate additional points into the persona profile. Important for this are representative and high-quality data, which represent your target group unaltered. The Persona Institute will be happy to advise you on which data basis and approach is appropriate for the (further) development of your sales personas.
The sales business: 5 approaches that bring the sales persona to life
Finally you have your sales personas - and now? Often, everyone involved is highly motivated to work with personas at the beginning, but later the profiles disappear into a folder, sink into the depths of the intranet and ultimately miss their appearance in the operational business. This is a pity - because there are numerous opportunities to optimize sales in a targeted manner, to relieve employees and ultimately to boost sales figures. We have summarized the most important areas of application and ideas on how Sales Personas can revolutionize sales in the following:
1) Promote communication between product development, marketing and sales.
The development of data-based personas is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process that usually involves experts from different departments, such as product development, sales and marketing. Even beyond that, personas are a kind of link that improves communication across departments and creates a uniform understanding of target groups. This prevents miscommunication and misunderstandings - the basis for better collaboration across departments.
Practical tip: Personas are only an effective communication tool if all employees actively integrate them into their daily work. Therefore, offer interdepartmental workshops on the persona in which employees can exchange ideas, suggestions and criticism about the persona. Posters with the persona profile also help to keep the respective customer groups in view.
2) Question the size and relevance of the customer clusters
The segmentation described at the beginning and the development of data-based sales personas provide a solid basis for scrutinizing the size and relevance of existing customer clusters and optimizing them where necessary. After all, working with personas often results in new target groups with potential that were given too little or no consideration at all in past sales measures. Based on the persona, question existing systems and concepts and optimize them if necessary.
Practical tip: Compare the personas, their preferences and needs with your existing sales strategy and the customer journey, and use the data to consider where there is potential for optimization. The data on consumer and media usage behavior, as well as information relating to the purchase decision, provide valuable starting points for this.
3) Work out important product features
Whether B2B or B2C: customers choose products or services for different reasons or because of specific characteristics. For successful and customer-centric sales, you need to identify these decision criteria and integrate them into your strategy in a targeted manner. In this way, you can individualize the sales funnel for the respective target groups and focus on the really important features as a USP.
Practical tip: Work out together with product development which features and characteristics are most relevant for the respective personas. In doing so, also take a look at missing features where the competition may already be one step ahead of you. This benefits both the sales strategy and product development, which can now optimize products more quickly and in the right places thanks to personas.
4) Identify pain points and find solutions
Identifying pain points and eliminating barriers to a purchase decision in advance is probably one of the most important tasks in sales. Data-based sales personas provide clues that help to optimize your sales strategy in a targeted manner. The barriers can differ depending on the persona. A direct comparison helps to identify the biggest hurdles, to determine interfaces between personas and to tackle these barriers first. When categorizing, it makes sense to divide the buying barriers of the respective personas into soft, medium and hard barriers.
- Soft barriers: These include physical availability barriers, for example when consumers are interested in the product but cannot find it or too little information is available about the product (product formation barrier). Mental availability barriers also count as soft barriers, as do personal doubts as to whether the product is suitable for one's own needs.
- Medium barriers: Depending on the persona, the medium barriers can also be classified as soft or hard barriers. These include price barriers, which companies can quickly overcome with discount codes or special offers, for example, or habitual barriers that encourage consumers to always buy the same brand. The main thing here is to build up targeted contact and trust so that this customer group decides in favor of your product after all.
- Hard barriers: It becomes more difficult when your company conveys values that the persona does not support at all or does not want to be associated with. It's almost as complex to convince consumers who are 100 percent committed to another brand - not so much out of habit, but out of complete conviction. For example, it is almost impossible to convince a convinced and long-time iPhone user of an Android device - and vice versa.
Practical tip: To identify pain points and purchase barriers of the respective personas, it helps to use a table in which you compare the relevant data of the personas. Among other things, information on consumer and media usage behavior, as well as data on value attitudes, innovation type and net household income, provide information on possible purchasing barriers. Such a list can also provide information about other target groups that you could inspire to buy your product once the barriers have been removed.
5) Optimize communication with customers
data-driven personas enable a detailed understanding of the target group, which makes it easier for companies to get in touch with them. Psychographic data and information on media usage behavior provide information on where, when and, above all, how existing and potential customers prefer to communicate. Personas can therefore be seen as a guideline for optimizing existing sales documents, communication channels, and the tone of voice in sales documents, offers, emails, and direct customer contact.
Practical tip: Develop, if necessary in collaboration with marketing, guidelines for persona-specific communication that take into account the characteristics and preferences of each persona. Practical workshops and examples help employees to integrate new conversational tactics and communication approaches into their contact with customers. Regular feedback sessions also help to further improve customer contact.
data-driven personas in sales: A process
The application examples show: Personas do not end with the development of a data-based character profile, but are rather an integral part when it comes to optimizing customer-centric sales and communication strategies. In this context, personas behave logically like their real customers: They change, discover new interests, may suddenly have different needs and require new or at least modified products to meet them. This means that in order to achieve lasting success with data-based personas, you need to validate them regularly and adjust them if necessary. Once a year is a good time for this. It is also worth taking a look at the existing data if there are significant changes to the product range, brand presence or the market itself.
The Persona Institute would be happy to support you in this or to take over the development of your data-based personas from the very beginning. Sounds interesting? Then please feel free to arrange a non-binding consultation or tell us about your concerns.