Use Persona-Based Buying Scenarios To Improve Buyer Predictability


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TN2020: Problem solving through storyboarding

TN2020: Problem solving through storyboarding
(Photo credit: Zadi Diaz)

One of the must have competencies in the future of B2B is buyer predictability. Without it, there will be an inability to anticipate how to help buyers and customers. Creating the undesirable position of being old news.

Scenario Planning

Scenario planning, as a strategic tool, has been around for a while. It is used in several contexts. You will see its use in military, economic, and business environments. The use of scenarios in buyer persona and insight development is an important component. During the past dozens years, best-in-class organizations, from Fortune 500 to mid-size companies, have made use of persona-based buying scenario modeling to anticipate buyer problems and target the right decision-making response.


The purpose of persona-based buying scenario modeling is to get a picture of how organizations uses systems, evaluates, decides, and interacts around challenging problems as well as objectives. What we seek to understand is the relationships of problems and objectives to people, systems, processes, and culture. Why is this important now? I have three reasons to offer:

» The use of a single view of one buyer – a single buyer persona – can fall short of what is needed to truly to have a understanding of how to help organizations.

» Organizational behavior is changing. B2B selling companies are falling behind in understanding how organizations are changing and what new relationships to people, systems, processes, and culture are forming. And, how purchase decisions are affected.

» B2B marketing and sales are not only struggling to understand buyers and organizations, but also struggling to define the value they must deliver. Knowing how their organization can deliver value to another organization is turning out to be a must have to survive the B2B buyer revolution.

To deliver value, one B2B organization must help another by understanding how their products, services, or systems will impact not only a buyer, but also the company itself. This means getting to know the relationships between buyers, users, stakeholders, and approvers. This includes their partners and other suppliers.

Avoid Being Blindsided

There is an important correlation, which B2B organizations need to connect the dots on. As organizational behavior changes while the digital age gathers steam, it is having a direct impact on decision-making. I often find when helping organizations this common dilemma. I will let a recent VP interview do the talking:

“I have to be honest with you, even after we’ve done surveys, win/loss interviews, and built a buyer persona, we still don’t know why the heck we lose to competitors at times.”

What this amounts to is getting blindsided. Lacking an understanding of how organizations behave – and – how they are changing leaves you wide open to being blindsided by unknown powerful forces. Key people, users, cultural differences, system incompatibility, and other unknown forces can derail the best efforts of B2B marketing and sales.

Decision-making is flattening also. New collaborative tools are making consensus building much easier. If you do not know how consensus building is taking place, you cannot be a part of it.

Two Scenario Types

There are two perspectives leaders will need to learn in order to make buyer predictability part of their game plan. One, what is the current situation. Two, what foresight can we bring to change it. This is where persona-based buying scenarios can be very effective.

There are two types of scenarios to craft. One is present day. This helps you understand what is currently happening and to spot where your organization can make a difference. The second is future-based scenarios. This allows you to paint a picture on how to predict buyer challenges and buying environments. And, helps you to show your B2B potential buyer or customer on how their situation can change.

Sound far-fetch? Not really. Here is a case in point for you:

A SaaS service provider to the financial industry conducted buyer research. Using present-day persona-based buying scenarios, they uncovered a new relationship between two newly formed roles, which hadn’t existed before until new regulatory requirements went into affect. The present-day scenario showed how they fit into new systems being used and how buying decisions were made. They crafted future persona-based buying scenarios to depict how their new service application would support these new roles and systems. Adapting this profound buyer insight and scenarios to content and sales presentations, they had nearly 30 preorders before their new service application was launched!

What You Need

There are four essential elements to make persona-based buying scenarios work for you. The following is a brief review:

Step One: Buyer Research and Insights Gathering

A true day-in-life type of perspective is needed. The focus should be on how the organization goes about using systems, how people interact, how goals are established, and what processes are affected. And, how do these factors affect decision-making.

Step Two: Develop Company Personas, Buyer Personas, and other relevant Personas

The purpose here is not only to develop just buyer personas, but to also develop a persona-based view of the relationships to buyer personas. This is shown through a company persona. A Buyer Persona Relationship Diagram™ can offer insight into relations and processes – which exist in the context of the organization.

Step 3: Develop Present Day Buying Scenario Models

What you want to do is put your buyer research understanding into archetypal buying scenarios, which were uncovered. Depiction of how people, systems, processes, and culture interacted in response to specific challenges or objectives. For example, in one scenario, we found the person who represented the power user, although not in the decision-making process, had a very strong influence on the final purchase decision.

Step 4: Develop Future-Based Buying Scenario Models

Here, it is important to map your marketing and sales approaches to specific archetypal scenarios, which are future-based. This is the point to turn buyer insight into buyer foresight. Using creativity to help your buyers and customers see the future, which your organization’s products, services, and people make possible.

Having as well as bringing buyer foresight to B2B organizations can help create powerful positioning. Persona-base buying scenario modeling is one of the important ways you can do so. Understanding these four steps and making them happen will get you on the path to buyer predictability. A path you will need to take sooner than you think!

(I welcome further conversations to help you and your buyers envision the future. I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on how persona-based buying scenarios can help us understand both organizations and buyers. Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are trying to avoid being blindsided.)

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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