3 Steps For Finding Profound Buyer Insights Like Sherlock Holmes


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English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. W...

English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. Watson. Illustration by Sidney Paget from the Sherlock Holmes story The Greek Interpreter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sherlock Holmes is the most famous fictional detective of all time. Introduced to world in 1897 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Well noted for his logical reasoning, canny ability to get people to confess, and use forensic science to solve the most heinous crimes.

Given the complex nature of B2B Marketing and Sales today, finding profound buyer insights takes the same level of investigation. However, the upside can result in a significant competitive advantage yet unforeseen. Being a fictional character, Sherlock Holmes had the fantastical ability to see what the common person could not.

1. Where to Begin

I am often asked – “Tony, where do we begin finding insights that will make a difference?” It is a place I like to help with and provide assistance. Where you begin is incredibly important to the end result. The end result is finding profound buyer insights. Buyer personas play a role by helping to communicate the found buyer insights, which lead to newly informed growth strategies. This has been their founding purpose since their origin.

A good place to start is with an event usually related to either a consequence or a growth opportunity. Like a good detective story, you are looking for who is involved and the motive. In the B2B world, a few example events can be related to:


  • Market share in decline
  • New product launch falls significantly short from projections
  • Sales volume drops year-over-year in a big way
  • Key competitor is winning more business

Growth Opportunities:

  • New market expansion
  • New technology
  • Competitor is in decline
  • New Acquisition

These are just a few and there are many more I am sure many of you can identify. For the majority of B2B Marketing and Sales leaders, these types of events can be either severe cases of concern or exciting opportunities not to be missed.

2. Start With What You Know

If you are zeroed in on a consequence or growth opportunity, start with what you know. The more modern detective shows on TV today usually start with the “room”. You know the visual. It is a room and board where they have pinned facts and pictures of suspects. Staring at them – looking for clues and formulating theories. All before they hit field and hunt for the suspects.

Starting with what you know involves collecting the internal clues. They can come from quantitative analysis, sales reps, audits, and etc. External clues can come from facts about your buyers and their buying processes or criteria. This step becomes important for this reason – you want to formulate at least an initial theory.

3. Pattern Recognition

Ever noticed in most good detective stories, there is the use of the signature. Meaning the robber or murderer leaves a signature at the crime scene. The detectives do not recognize it at first, but come upon it by detecting a pattern. Noticing similarities and an evolving identification.

Profound buyer insights begin to emerge out of pattern recognition. Like Sherlock Holmes, there is a forensic nature to identifying patterns. It takes multiple interviews, qualitative fieldwork, skilled use of techniques, and a working theory. You are looking to find a trail, which at first is not so obvious. Once on it, it can lead to a profound buyer insight on why such consequences are happening. Or, why buyers are responding to growth opportunities you can ill-afford to miss out on.

There are no set numbers of buyer insights. You may find in such detective like work one or as many as ten. The guiding principle is buyer insights emerge from seeking the motive of why. Buyer persona development becomes the story on how the case was solved. Not the story itself.

A key takeaway here for B2B marketing and sales leaders is this: true to their origins, buyer insights and buyer persona development were designed to uncover the profound why of events. Giving you the ability to be informed, like a detective, on strategic direction.

Are you on the right trail of finding your buyer’s motives?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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