The Power of Buyer Personas and Job-to-Be-Done in Sales Coaching
April 27, 2023
In 15 years of developing sales leaders, I've learned that understanding potential customers' needs, pains, and desires is crucial to closing a sale. The most successful sales teams have reps who understand their potential customers' needs, pains, and desires. This understanding is key to helping them tailor their presentations to address issues that will be relevant and urgent and ultimately increase the likelihood of closing a sale.
To help sales reps better understand their prospects, buyer personas are an essential tool. However, not all salespeople know how to use them effectively. In this article I'll share my best practices for understanding buyer personas and the concept of job-to-be-done, which will help sales reps become trusted advisors who can diagnose problems and solve them for their buyers.
What are Buyer Personas?
Before diving into how sales managers can coach salespeople on understanding personas, it's essential to have a clear understanding of what buyer personas are. Buyer Personas are fictional representations of the characteristics, behaviors, and pains of a specific group of potential customers. They are based on research and data gathered (sometimes by your marketing team) about the customer group, including demographics, behavior patterns, pain points, and motivations. The more detailed the buyer persona, the more effective it is in helping sales reps tailor their conversations and close more deals.
They give you an idea of who they are, what their pains, needs and desires might be, and how to tailor your conversations on every channel order to address them.
Personas are like a cheat-sheet to understanding your customers, so why not use them?
Understanding the Job-to-Be-Done
While personas can give salespeople an insight into WHO their potential customers are, understanding that prospect’s job-to-be-done is an even further advantage in the sales process. The job-to-be-done is a concept that was introduced by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in his book, “The Innovator's Solution”. It states that people don't buy products or services; they “hire” them to do a job. When it comes to sales, understanding the job-to-be-done helps reps understand why a customer is looking for a particular solution, the problem it solves, and specifically how your company can help.
By understanding both personas and job-to-be-done, salespeople go from vendors just looking to sling products to trusted advisors who can diagnose problems and solve them. I’ve seen this transition have a powerful impact on sales performance. This theory emphasizes customer-centricity, instead of company-centricity which is an outlook you'll find covered in my book The Sales Enablement Playbook written with Cory Bray.
Coaching Sales Reps on Understanding Personas and Job-to-Be-Done
So how do sales managers coach their team on understanding personas and job-to-be-done? The answer is simple: education and practice. It's important to provide your sales reps with training materials that focus on both topics, as well as offering opportunities for them to practice using personas in their sales conversations.
Training materials can include developing avatars for each buyer persona that you sell to which are as detailed as dossier from those spy novels I used to read as a kid. Get specific on things like your prospect's typical age, industry knowledge or experience, educational background, where they go for their information, factors and people who influence their buying decisions, how your product can make the prospect look like a hero.
First Start with the Basics
The first step in coaching salespeople on personas is to ensure that they understand the basics. Salespeople should understand what personas are, how they are created, and how they can be used in the sales process. This foundational knowledge will allow salespeople to begin using personas effectively.
Second Identify Buyer Personas for Your Business
Once salespeople understand the basics of personas, the next step is to identify buyer personas for your business. Work with your marketing team to gather data about your target customer groups, and use this information to create buyer personas. Ensure that each persona is based on real data and reflects the unique characteristics that you know and understand about that customer group.
Third Tailor Discovery & Sales Presentations
Once you have identified your buyer personas, it's important to make sure that salespeople tailor their discovery and sales presentations accordingly. Salespeople should be able to adjust their conversations based on the customer’s persona, using language and concepts that resonate with them. By tailoring conversations to the individual customer’s needs, salespeople can create greater engagement and ownership on the part of the prospect.
Fourth Continue to Monitor & Refine Your Personas
Finally, it's important to remember that personas are not static; they evolve over time as customer needs change and new data becomes available. So it's important for salespeople to continually monitor their personas and refine them accordingly. Ensure that you have a feedback loop from Marketing, to top of funnel sales efforts, to closers to clearly understand what is working at all times. It doesn't take much (economy, technology, a competitor) to create a shift that changes everything.
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One of the keys for sales management to help salespeople understand and apply personas in their conversations is to provide them with real-world examples that they can relate to and emulate. Get them in front of your customers! Invite your customers to share with your sales team - not just feedback about your product or service but insight into what their daily job entails. What they struggled with before becoming your customer and what their lives look like now. By providing them with scenarios based on actual customer stories, they can see how applying personas can improve their conversations and help close more deals. Additionally, use role-playing exercises to help salespeople practice applying their newfound knowledge in conversations.
The Benefits of Understanding Buyer Personas
Personalized Sales Approach: Salespeople who understand personas can tailor their selling efforts to the specific needs of the customer, making the conversation more engaging and more relevant.
Better Communication: Understanding personas allows a sales rep to communicate more effectively with potential customers, using language that resonates with them and addressing their specific concerns.
Shortened Sales Cycles: By tailoring their conversation to the needs of the customer, salespeople can create greater engagement and ownership on the part of the prospect.
Questions You Can Ask in Coaching Conversations:
What persona-based messages are resonating top of funnel with prospects?
Which personas are we selling to at this company?
What's your persona strategy with this prospect?
Which persona-based pains have you validated in discovery or demo so far?
Are our persona-based assumptions aligned on job-to-be-done, pain, and potential wins for this prospect?
Understanding buyer personas and the job-to-be-done is crucial to becoming a trusted advisor who can diagnose problems and present compelling solutions for prospects. By coaching sales reps on how to use buyer personas effectively and providing them with real-world examples, you can give your salespeople the edge they need to close more deals.
**Remember to continually monitor and refine your personas as customer needs change and new data becomes available.
Frequently Asked Questions
1: What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on market research and real data about existing customers. They provide a deeper understanding of customer needs and buying behavior so that salespeople can tailor their conversations to better meet the needs of their target audience.
2: What are the benefits of understanding buyer personas?
Understanding buyer personas allows sales reps to communicate more effectively with potential customers, using language that resonates with them and addressing their specific concerns. It also allows for a personalized sales approach, helps shorten sales cycles, and provides an opportunity for deeper engagement.
3: How can salespeople use buyer personas in their conversations?
Salespeople should invite their customers to share feedback about their product or service, and then provide scenarios based on actual customer stories to help them relate to the customer experience. Additionally, they can practice applying persona-based tactics through role-playing exercises.
4: What are some questions you can ask in coaching conversations about buyer personas?
Some good questions to ask include: "What persona-based messages are resonating top of funnel with prospects?", "Which personas are we selling to at this company?", "What's your persona strategy with this prospect?", "Which persona-based pains have you validated in discovery or demo so far?", and "Are our persona-based assumptions aligned on job-to-be-done, pain, and potential wins for this prospect?"
5: What should a salesperson keep in mind when using buyer personas?
It's important to remember that buyer personas should be continually monitored and refined as customer needs change and new data becomes available. Additionally, salespeople should not just rely on buyer personas but also use their own intuition and business acumen to create personal relationships with prospects.
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