Understand Your Prospect: Ideal Customer and Buyer Persona
The secret to selling successfully is knowing who you are selling to and what matters to them. The more complex your sale, the more difficult it is to figure out what is important to each buyer, and the more important it is to do it.
B2B Complex Sales
If you are selling to other businesses, you may find that you have a relatively straightforward sales process with few people involved in the decision. If, on the other hand, your solution is expensive, changes the way a company functions, and impacts many people and departments, you have what we call a complex sale. Complex sales typically take longer and include many more buyers. In fact, a B2B (business-to-business) complex sale could involve multiple departments and as many as 15 buyers in the process. With that many people involved, knowing the right thing to say to the right person is the way to have successful conversations.
Understand Your Customer
Let's start at the beginning. When you begin selling may quickly realize differences across industries, companies, divisions, and buyers. Understanding your customer means understanding the industry, the company, the divisions, and the departments you are selling into. It also requires that you can relate to the buyers represented by each of those departments.
Before we dive in, let's clarify some vocabulary people use around this topic.
- Target Market: These are the companies that meet your demographic criteria. They may be the right size, geography, etc.
- Ideal Customer: These are companies that meet your psychographic as well as demographic criteria. They are ideal because they are the best fit with your solution.
- Buyer Persona or Avatar: A buyer persona or avatar describes each buyer involved in the buying process.
When trying to understand your customer, sometimes it is easiest to start at the top. Begin by mapping out the demographics of the companies in the industries that you want to target for your sales and marketing campaigns. The narrower the target, the more specific the messaging can be, and the more effective the effort will be. So be as specific as you can.
Next, determine which divisions or departments are most likely to have the problem your product solves. The bigger the company, the more likely you will be selling to one division. Some kinds of solutions are more likely to be implemented across all divisions. You will need to research how your solution is most likely to be applied.
The Buying Process
Next, consider how the buying process is likely to work and who is expected to be involved. In a complex sale, you may work with as many as 15 buyers across multiple departments. These buyers can have titles as diverse as CEO, Engineer, Project Manager, CIO, technician, or anything else you can imagine.
You will probably need to include Attorney and Purchasing Agent into your list of titles.
Each industry and company may buy differently, but you will start to see consistencies across clients and industries. Start mapping it out: How is the process initiated?; Who does the research?; Who approves the solution?; How will it impact existing systems, and how will those people be involved?; How will the users be introduced?; What role will the purchasing department play?; and What will legal typically?
The better you understand the typical buying process, the more successfully you will identify the buyers involved. Once you know who all the buyers are, be sure to speak to as many as it makes sense to communicate with. Relying on one buyer in a complex sale is a major red flag and is the cause of many lost sales.
Buyer Persona and Avatar
Categorize the buyers by their relationship to the problem. How are they impacted day-to-day by the current reality? Does it make it difficult to do their job? Does it get them in trouble or result in complaints? A title can help you figure that out. For example, CEOs tend to care about company reputation, company growth, sock-holder issues, and ROI. While the people who manage and use the product care about ease of use, implementation, and features. Understanding the differences is the key to having the right conversation with the right person. The CEO will have a very different relationship to a problem than a technician will, for example.
Once you identify all the potential buyers, you can create an avatar or buyer persona for each.
What Not to Do
Marketers initially used buyer personas for B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing, so if you look up how to create one, it may suggest things that probably won't matter in a B2B sale. For example, the kind of car they drive, the neighborhood they live in, or how old their kids are probably won't help your B2B sales team. Age might matter, but only in so much as it might impact how they communicate (text or email). Focus instead on the business factors that will affect their decision.
Sometimes you will hear marketing talk about an ideal avatar or persona. But, from a sales perspective, that isn't very helpful. It is your responsibility to communicate with all of the buyers who influence a sale. So, you need to understand them all.
The only reason you might use an ideal avatar or persona is if you use that to decide the best entry into a company. That would be the person who is most likely to speak to you who can also influence the sale. It might also be the person who is most likely to research the problem, so marketing would want to create content to address that person. Otherwise, from a sales perspective, all the buyers matter.
I would also be wary of the concept of a decision-maker. Many people influence a purchase. They have different roles in the decision-making process, but they all have influence. Just because they aren't the final say doesn't mean they don't have a voice.
Sometimes we use the work Economic Buyer to refer to the person who can say "yes" when everyone else says "no" or "no" when everyone else says "yes." That is a valuable concept to prevent missing a critical buyer. However, that doesn't mean the other people involved in the decision are not influential. In most cases, as the team goes, so goes the economic buyer.
With all of that in mind, the task must seem daunting. Your job is to narrow your focus to the target market that makes the most sense and is most likely to need your solution. Once that is done, you can identify the buyers and the messaging that will resonate with each.
If you would like some help identifying your ideal customer or understanding your buyers, use the link below to schedule a call.
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