Data-Driven Personas at Salesforce

Understanding Our Users in a Whole New Way


Salesforce personas

Creating Our User Personas

We create our personas based on data from large-scale surveys of our users. These surveys collect information about who our users are, their responsibilities in their jobs, the software tools they use (including Salesforce, of course), and their pain points and incentives. In particular, we focus on learning about our users’ job behaviors and responsibilities that are tool agnostic: for example, we first ask how often our users need to do a particular task in their job, and then we ask them which tool they use to do it.

Surveys vs. Usage Data

We believe that an understanding of our users’ offline behaviors is key to understanding what they need from their tools, and surveys are the most efficient way to access this data at scale. Often, our survey-based persona analysis reveals that groups perform tasks at rates we didn’t expect, but don’t have the tools to serve those needs. In identifying new needs, we can better plan and build for our real users. Usage data analysis is an essential complement to our personas: once we have the groupings, we can better understand how each group behaves within the tool.

Personas vs. Job Roles

Often, we use job roles as shorthand when talking about sales behaviors. Sales Development Reps build pipeline, for example, or Account Executives close deals. While this shorthand works sometimes, our survey data indicated that job roles are not consistently correlated with behavior across our sales user base. For example, users with the title “Business Development Rep” and “Account Executive”, were found in all five persona groups, indicating that job title is not always a clear proxy for sales behavior. We encourage our stakeholders to look to behavior, rather than job role or title, to best understand a user’s needs.

Distribution & Evangelism

Once we have our persona groupings, we share them widely within our organization. We build out slide decks on each persona set by product, detailing our overall findings, breakouts on the individual personas, and giving deep-dives into interest areas that run across all personas (such as accessibility and mobile usage).


How Can I Bring Personas to My Organization?

We’re excited to help our customers integrate personas into their work too! A great place to start is our Personas trail, UX Personas for Salesforce. This trail walks users through the personas we have created so far (Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Marketing Cloud), and provides guidance on how to use personas in your business. For more information about Service Cloud users specifically, check out a post from my colleague Kathy Baxter, “Moving from Contact Centers to Customer Engagement Centers.” We’re excited to continue building on our persona initiatives as our products evolve and as our user base grows!


Salesforce UX

A collection of stories, case studies, and ideas from Salesforce UX

Thanks to raymonst, Kathy Baxter, and Ian Schoen.

Alyssa Vincent-Hill

Written by

I am a Principal User Researcher at Salesforce, focused on quantitative methods.

Salesforce UX

A collection of stories, case studies, and ideas from Salesforce UX