How To Create A Buyer Persona and Why You Need One

Written by Charlotte Powell
on February 05, 2018


Sales Enablement works in three key ways: content, processes and technology. We talk a lot about content and how important it is to have the right collateral to answer your customers’ questions at any point in their sales journey. We could also talk endlessly about why you need Sales Enablement strategies and technology in place to deliver your content both to your salespeople and to your customers. In terms of processes, however, one of the best things you can do for your salespeople is ensure they are spending their valuable time on the right customers.

Time spent by salespeople on customers who aren’t interested or aren’t able to buy is basically time wasted. We all know salespeople make money by selling, so let’s give them the best opportunity to do that by giving them qualified leads to work with. All this begins with a first step: developing a buyer persona.


Before we start – some worrying stats about lead qualification

In HubSpot’s Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics, the following stats stand out to highlight the problem with the sales and marketing relationship when it comes to MQLs:

  • Only 8% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were very high quality.
  • Only 25% of salespeople said marketing was their best source of leads.
  • 52% of marketers say they provide salespeople with their best quality leads, while salespeople rank marketing-sourced leads last.

Given that a good part of marketing’s time is spent sourcing leads for salespeople, this is pretty disheartening stuff. If marketing thinks a lead is qualified and sales disagrees, the problem is clearly in the definition. Have the two departments actually sat down together to define the buyer persona or what makes them qualified?


How to create a buyer persona

Defining a persona sounds a little hippy-dippy. In fact, in order for a buyer persona to be effective, it needs to be specific. As a business, you might have a general idea of an ideal customer profile. Your product/service does X job. Who might need X job done? Let’s say, for example, you make air conditioning units for commercial buildings. Since purpose-built office space is likely to have air conditioning installed from the outset, your customer base might be two-fold: people who build offices and companies sweating in converted office space. Perhaps you’re specifically targeting small offices employing up to 100 people and your specialty is retrofitting air conditioning units to existing buildings. I’d imagine that would narrow the field quite a bit – although to be honest I’ve never felt quite so British as I do right now, attempting to sound like I know things about air conditioning. In any case, while your ideal customer profile gives you a customer base to research, it doesn’t give you any specifics about whom you should be pitching to. For that, you need the persona.

Who, within this fictitious office development company or small business, is interested in air quality? Are you going to just Google companies and email the first name you find? No. You’re not. You’re going to do some research and find out which job titles are relevant to you. Purchasing people, maintenance people, fittings and fixtures procurement, etc. You can do this through LinkedIn and on recruitment websites, where a good job description can give you a lot of information about your buyer. Or you can talk to your existing customers to establish what the buyer’s role actually is. Not just their job title, but what their responsibilities are on a daily basis and – crucially – how you can help make their job easier. Once you know what their challenges are, you’ll know how to pitch them solutions. That’s the great advantage of having properly developed a buyer identity.


Can they afford you?

As well as establishing that the buyer meets your ideal customer profile, part of the qualification process is ensuring that they are ready to buy. It’s not like you throw them on the scrap heap if they’re not – they simply get moved into a different process until they are ready – but you don’t send their details on to sales with a note saying ‘these guys are good to go’. That’s the kind of behavior that discredits marketing’s qualification process. What we need to know is whether a) the individual lead has the authority to make a purchase and b) whether they are in a position to go ahead. If you’re not able to straight-out ask them these questions, you should be able to make some basic deductions based on their behavior. For example, how actively are they engaging with your site and your content? This is where lead scoring comes in, and I think we’ll save that topic for another day.


Some buyers will find you first

While you’re scouring the internet looking for leads, your customers are doing the same thing, seeking out a product/service to do the job that they need doing. These people will likely be looking on your website, checking out all the great content you’ve got there, before they give you a call. At this stage, it is said that the buyer could already be 80% through their buying journey, so the fact that they’re calling you is a big deal.

Please note, however, that not everyone that calls is automatically a qualified lead. Just because they’ve found you, doesn’t mean they are a good match for your business. It’s worth asking them questions to establish whether they fit your buyer persona – including whether they are ready to buy – before you pass them straight to sales. Otherwise, they’ll end up in the 92% pile with the rest of the leads sales deems less than ‘high quality’ and you’ll be back to square one on building trust between the two departments.


What happens once you hand over a qualified lead?

After you’ve jumped through hoops making sure that the leads you send to sales are worthy of their time and effort, it would be a terrible shame for those leads to sit in their inbox, untouched. After all, you’re not the only air conditioning business out there and it could be your competitors are way more on the ball than you are. Some companies opt to put into place a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing to ensure that both departments fulfil the expectations of the other. For example, marketing guarantees a certain number of qualified leads, and sales promises to follow those up within a set time period. This means that everyone knows what their responsibilities are and no one feels hard done by. If you’re interested, we could write a whole other blog on SLAs another day! Let us know in the comments below.

And of course, once you’re ready to start presenting your solution to your qualified lead, it always helps if you have a beautiful, sleek presentation tool at your fingertips stacked up with marketing-approved collateral ready to win over your prospect.


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