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Prospect Persona Explained

Prospect Persona – What It Is and Why It’s Important

When creating a prospecting & selling process, a critical initial step is developing a Prospect Persona. I define a Prospect Persona as a representation of the decision maker(s) you are selling to.

A well thought out Prospect Persona help you to focus on both of the following:

  • The decision maker’s factual variables
  • The decision maker’s personality variables that impact the prospecting/selling process

While business-to-business (b2b) selling is thought of as less emotional than consumer sales, ignoring the personal aspect of the selling process will cost you sales. It’s simple – people buy from people they are comfortable with and like. The more you are in tune with the prospect’s personality, the more likely you are to make the sale.

Steps Used to Develop Your Prospect Persona

Persona development in a b2b environment is a 2 step process:

Step 1 – You identify factual variables typically found with decision makers at your existing clients. This information should be completed before any marketing activity begins since it can serve to help develop a more effective marketing message to be used with your various communication tools.

Step 2 – You identify personality variables specific to the individual decision maker(s) at a prospective client you have been referred to. You complete this step after completion of your email activity that generated the referral, but prior to engaging in direct communication with your freshly minted lead.

Sample Step 1: Variables

Following is a list of the more common topics reviewed when completing Step 1 outlined above:

  1. Seniority level of decision maker. Generally speaking, lower level individuals need more education while higher level individuals prefer a more global view from the information you provide.
  2. Where do decision makers typically go for information?
  3. Is the buying decision typically made by this individual or by a group?
  4. What are the common features/benefits typically found to be important?
  5. What are the common objections associated with your offering?

Sample Step 2: Variables, Topics and How to Get the Information

While the factual variable items outlined in Step 1 above can typically be sourced from existing clients, learning about the personality variables can be more challenging.

Following is information to pursue:

  1. What is the best day of the week/time to try to communicate with the prospect? Do they prefer email, text, written, or phone? These are examples of operational elements that will impact the success you have initiating productive communication with the prospect.
  2. What is the process the prospects like to deploy when evaluating prospective suppliers? Do they feel more comfortable meeting face to face? Do they typically engage other associates in the decision making process? If so, is this required or do they elect to take this path? Is competitive bidding utilized? Proposals? RFP’s? The earlier you have information on these topics, the better prepared you will be as you progress through the selling cycle.
  3. How long have they been in their job? How long with the company? How old are they? Do they have a family? Are they the family’s primary breadwinner? This type of information can provide insight regarding goals and their risk profile. Newer, younger employees without family responsibilities are often easier to sell since they tend to be willing to take more risk, and they are looking to prove themselves.
  4. If applicable, who is the existing supplier? How is the existing supplier perceived by both the decision maker and throughout the organization? Hopefully you have a thorough strength/weakness assessment comparing your firm and the competition.
  5. What are the decision maker’s existing pain points? Particularly important when you will be working with a risk adverse decision maker. Risk adverse individuals are more inclined to purchase when the offering is positioned as “less bad” than their existing situation vs. being positioned as a new opportunity.

Putting Your Prospect Persona Topics To Work for You

Following are some suggestions as to how to purse Steps 1 & 2 above:

  1. Linked In – Useful for ascertaining their tenure and standing with the company. Also, note number of links – are they a social person? Social people tend to involved more people in their decision making processes.
  2. Facebook – Often you can ascertain a prospect’s family situation via this vehicle.
  3. Google name search – You may get lucky and learn additional information using this resource.
  4. Administrative support – Often you can collect information by speaking with the administrative support staff. This can come from the administrative staff of the high level person you sent the original email to, or possibly your decision maker’s support staff. Calling into the company’s customer service number is another good way to help you collect some of the information outlined above.

Closing Comments

B2b buying decisions tend to be less emotional compared to consumer purchases, but people still want to buy from people with whom they are most comfortable. The more you learn about your client on a personal level before you start your sales process, the more you create and nurture that all important feeling of comfort.

In Category: Contact, Lead Generation

Marylou Tyler

Process expert, speaker, co-author of top-10 business e-book - Predictable Revenue - Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine. Create predictability in your sales pipeline by systematizing the steps from initial conversation through qualified opportunity

Show 2 Comments
  • Denver Nowicz March 4, 2013, 12:08 am

    Very informative post. In our situation we have multiple persona’s that we would target differently. One persona is smaller companies 10-15 employees where the owner may be the decision maker. On the email side there is no top level person to ask for an internal referral. When we call we might get the assistant but they can’t usually refer us up. Would it be just asking the assistant what would be the best way to approach the owner?

    • Don Dawson March 4, 2013, 2:00 am

      In addition to asking for the best way to approach the owner (email vs phone, time of day, etc.), I suggest you try to obtain as much additional information as the assistant is willing to provide – keep asking for more info in a respectful and courteous manner until they push back.

      Some query examples follow. Who is currently used for the product/service you provide, and what issues exist with the current supplier? Does the owner typically make the buying decision independently and if not, who else is normally involved? If you were me, how would you go about presenting my product to your boss?

      Before you start firing questions at the assistant, please have in front of you a cheat sheet listing all the information topics (in a perfect world) you would want to know prior to reaching out to the decision maker. Don’t be in the situation where in the heat of the moment during your conversation with the assistance you forget to ask some simple question that would have provided you with key information related to your particular selling situation.

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