Why Are Personas Critical for Today’s Sales Teams?

Personas have been a fundamental part of the marketing discipline in many organizations, but sales professionals are leaving money on the table if they don’t take advantage of the insights that these personas can provide.

What is a persona?

A persona is a depiction of an individual that represents a segment of an audience. This segment can be a customer or non-customer, or at any stage of their relationship with a given organization. Originally, personas were described in terms of demographic statistics, like an age range, a gender and an income bracket. However soon marketers understood that characteristics of their users were a better way to describe an audience — and these characteristics could span multiple demographic groups. Quantitative data can actually limit the insights derived from the exercise if used exclusively.

Qualitative data is the real key to understand a segment of an audience. Interviews and open-ended surveys are designed to draw out the needs and intents of an audience. Across a healthy sample size, insights are drawn and then decisions can be made about the number of relevant personas to distinguish.

Like mentioned above, Personas are often depicted as if they were an individual, given a name and attached to a photo. This is a fictional person, of course, but having a dossier of a persona is a valuable aid to teach others in the organization about the audience they are selling to. Accordingly they can apply insights from this exercise to better perform their task in the organization.

How are Personas currently employed?

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. -Steve Jobs

Companies that ask their customers what they want and then give it to them are doing the base level minimum for survival.

Personas inform creative decisions about design of apps and websites, brand management and advertising. The best organizations use personas to better address the needs of users that they didn’t know they had. Henry Ford understood the latent need of his user base as he built a business around automobiles when his users wanted a faster horse.

Why haven’t sales organizations emphasized personas?

Sales departments traditionally work very differently from marketing departments and others. Sales is typically an area of a business where execution and repetition is king. There is a belief that sales processes should be template-ized, that there’s a single right way to get deals closed. In most sales organizations, salespeople are encouraged, cajoled and threatened to stick to the script.

Creative brainstorming is often left to the Marketing, Advertising and Product management departments. Freelancing and experimentation by a sales rep is ok if it closes, but that same “creativity” could be very problematic for a frontline salesman who deviates from the script only to lose a deal.

How can Sales departments benefit from understanding personas?

Sales organizations have a large degree of leeway in handling communications with their customers. There are conversations that salespeople have that extend beyond the working relationship between the two agencies. Many clients expect to have a personal, friendly working relationship with their salesperson and they feel good about working with a human being.

In those situations, it’s optimal to understand the expectations, needs and intents of many different kinds of users. Maybe a key characteristic of one kind of buyer is they expect warmth and personal touch from the company they engage with. Accordingly a salesperson could open each conversation with some thoughtful questions about how life outside of work is going. Other buyers may have an expectation of strict rigor from their chosen vendor and the salesperson can focus his energy on tight presentations and error proof proposals.

No other department at a company has more face time with clients than the sales departments, yet largely salespeople are only armed with understanding a single buyers’ mindset in most organizations. Building up a more nuanced and understanding salesforce will be critical to driving a great user experience from a human sales force going forward.

See how we help transform organizations by developing personas today at punchkick.com.