What About Seller Personas?


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By now, hopefully, everyone knows the importance and power of Buyer Personas.  Understanding who our buyers are, what drives them, how they are measured, the key issues they face, and all sorts of other things enables us to connect and engage them more effectively.

We can focus our content and our discussions in  ways that are most impactful and meaningful to them.  We can talk to them about the things they are most likely to be interested in in their “language.”  We can create and communicate value in terms that directly impact their success.

Personas have shifted the way we develop much of our content.  Our playbooks teach us about each of these roles, and guide us to engaging them in high impact conversations.

But too often, our conversations break down.  We know what they care about, we know how we should be talking to them, but we fall short in our abilities to actually have the right conversation.

As an example, a few months ago, a SDR called to discuss sales performance management.  It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, it’s what we speak about with all of our clients. a core theme of Sales Manager Survival Guide is sales performance management.

The call started well, she introduced herself, the company, and wanted to talk about issues I had with sales performance in my company.  I responded, “Actually, I don’t have issues.  The team is doing very well, we’re ahead of plan……”

She asked, “How do you measure and track performance?”

I responded, “There are two key sets of metrics that provide the leading indicators, and naturally we look at revenue attainment as a trailing indicator.”

She replied, “You may not be tracking enough things, you should probably be doing more.  Often customers struggle because they don’t have the right tools to make it easy to track performance…”

Curious, I asked, “Why do you think we aren’t tracking enough things?  We’ve studied they key drivers to our business, and the two that we track seem to be really good for us?”

She then started to talk about a whole bunch of metrics, number of calls per day, call duration, and more.

I responded, “We’ve looked at those metrics, and they really aren’t meaningful for our business.  Here’s why we’ve chosen what we’ve done….”

At this point, the call was going downhill very fast.  To the sales person’s credit, she understood.  She was trying to get out of the call, suggesting a follow up call from an account manager or a demo—I have to give her credit, she went for the demo.

She clearly recognized she was way over her head.  She wasn’t able to support her end of the conversation.

She’s a BDR, focused on outbound prospecting calls.  She’s been doing this for a little over 12 months, it’s her first major sales job.

She had a playbook, she had a script—all of which she was executing pretty well, but she wasn’t able to engage me on a conversation that I was interested in being engaged.

And it’s unfair to expect her or most other BDR/SDRs to engage senior sales leaders in a meaningful conversation about sales performance management.  Particularly, if the engagement strategy is to bring insight and help the customer learn.

It’s not arrogance on my part, I want to learn from anyone I can.  It’s the things that keep me up at night (and those that fit my category of persona) require some experience base in business or sales management.  Experience that a playbook is not likely to give.

She simply didn’t have the experience base.  She could read her script, but as I started to ask questions, as I wanted to deepen the conversation, she wasn’t able to do this.  And it wasn’t her fault.

I wonder how many opportunities BDR/SDRs miss simply because they can’t hold up their end of the conversation?

I wonder if we might be more effective in our prospecting if we started thinking about the Seller Personas, aligning the right sales people with the buyers?

What if this company had assigned a more experienced sales person–perhaps one being developed to be a front line sales manager?  The quality and level of engagement in that conversation would have been much deeper, it probably would have provoked me to ask for more.

We already know the power of this in other types of sales specialization roles.  As our products and solutions become more complex, it’s impossible for the sales person to have deep enough knowledge on all the products.  For decades (perhaps even millenia), we’ve had specialists.  A person who knows the application area, the solution very well.  For example, I often hired people who had been manufacturing managers to sell manufacturing control systems.  Or engineering designers to sell product design solutions.

We know that if we are going to engage the customer in deep conversations about their business or function, we have to be able to hold up our end of the conversation.

Yet in the very first call, we throw people who are ill equipped—experientially and knowledge-wise–to hold up their end of the conversation.

We try to engage with insights yet when the customer says, “tell me more,” or “what about,” or “why should I be thinking about that,” or “I don’t agree,” we can’t continue the conversation other than to suggest we arrange a follow on meeting.  We have the opportunity to engage the customer in the very conversations we want to have, but we fail in the very first conversation.

Why should the customer continue?

What if we started rethinking our outbound strategies?  What if we started thinking about sales personas?  What if we started aligning the right sales personas with the right buyer personas?

What would that do to our conversion rates?

In our own company, we’ve had that strategy for years.  There are certain personas that I’m less effective with than other members of our team.  There are certain industries or markets that I’m less effective with than other members of our team.  As we look at our outbound prospecting conversations, we align who we are calling — persona, industry, market, solution—with the best people in our own organizations.  Our “connection rates” are very high, the people we reach feel we can offer real insight and value, consequently are excited to have a conversation.  Not all of those convert–at least immediately–but we’ve had a high impact conversation and established the start of a relationship we can nurture over time.

Our first conversations lay the groundwork for any future conversations.  Our first conversations create lasting first impressions about our companies, our solutions, and our potential to create value.

Doesn’t it make sense to align the right selling personas with the right buying personas?

If we sell IT development tools, to development managers, how much more effective would we be if our people had at least watched an IT development team doing a project?  Or had participated  in some way themselves?

If we sell manufacturing control systems, how much more effective would we be if our people had spent a little bit of time in a manufacturing facility or had a manufacturing background?

If we sell sales and marketing automation systems to executives in those functions, how much more effective would we be if we had people who had managed or lead a team before?

Perhaps as we look at the people we put into SDR/BDR roles, as we look at maximizing the results we want to produce, we need to rethink who we put into those roles, better aligning them with the customer personas we expect them to engage.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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