As valuable as it would be to know each of our customers personally, that’s not possible for a marketing team. This is why buyer personas are invaluable.
A buyer persona is a short description of your ideal customer, including their thoughts, emotions, and job roles. It helps businesses relate to their customers and learn how to reach them.
Any sales team trying to grow their customer base can use a buyer persona. And in the right hands, a persona can dramatically increase sales and outreach. We’ll explain how to build a buyer persona and provide a few examples with tips to help your sales team make the most of their personas.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional profile of your target customer based on data and market research. Typically, a company will have more than one buyer persona modeled after particular segments of its audience. Buyer personas are sometimes called customer personas or user personas.
Each of your prospects has unique pain points and standards for partnerships. You can’t empathize with customers and learn their needs just by looking through your sales tech stack (although it’s a great start). Personas take traits from your entire audience and form them into one imaginary person who can represent them.
4 different types of buyer personas
You can’t create a buyer persona with a one-size-fits-all mindset. While some companies break personas into groups based on their job or personality traits, you need a holistic approach. Marketing teams should consider how buyers make fundamental choices. They can do this by organizing personas into four categories:
- Competitive buyers: These spenders buy from companies with an advantage over the competition. In short, they want the best product available.
- Spontaneous buyers: Spontaneous customers want to buy a product that will solve their problems or reach their goals quickly. Don’t bore them with details; give them a prompt solution.
- Humanistic buyers: This is the most empathetic, people-oriented demographic. Humanistic shoppers look for a personal connection when making a purchase.
- Methodical buyers: These customers base their decisions on the finer details. Tell them how your process works and why your product is effective.
In most cases, one persona doesn’t cut it. For example, smaller companies might need only three to four archetypes for their marketing efforts, but corporations with diverse audiences could need anywhere from 10 to 20. In these cases, marketers should use micro personas, which are variations of the same persona that let you test different approaches
How to create a buyer persona
Now that we’ve covered the basics of a buyer persona, let’s explore how you can build one for your sales team. Remember to include buyer information from your company’s CRM and support team. Here’s a step-by-step approach to creating personas.
1. Do baseline demographic research
Before starting a buyer persona template, you must collect current client data. There are a few ways you can gather the correct details for a user persona template:
- Request demographic information in online forms to find trends in your client base. For example, if you organize your personas by different industries, you can put an “industry” field in your online forms. Or, if you have Salesforce, find this data by looking through your current clients.
- Ask your sales team to find shared traits between their buyers. Are prospects in similar roles? Do their companies fall in the same size bracket? Do they operate in a particular geographic region?
- Review your sales process to find patterns in your prospects. You can compare converted prospects with sales tracking tools that might illuminate any similarities.
- Set up interviews with your best clients or send them surveys to see why they decided to partner with you. You can also reach out to prospects who backed out in the late stages to learn why they sought another solution.
- See if your competitors have published research on your customers. You should also keep an eye on who they market to. Knowing how your competition markets itself will give you a great starting point when researching the field.
2. Conduct a survey to find specifics
Using your initial research, put together a questionnaire of more specific questions. What do customers want in a product or service, and why would they choose one business over another? Frame your questions to be as open-ended as possible. Short, 10- to 15-question surveys have the highest completion rates.
Once you write your questions, call candidates to ask them to submit their answers. You can also use online tools and CRMs to send the survey to the most applicable prospects. Offering money or a discount on your services can entice more candidates to participate.
While smaller businesses can’t fund large-scale studies, even concise questionnaires can set you ahead. Make use of the resources you have to recruit as many survey takers as possible. As an added step, try to include a mix of current customers and respondents who haven’t used your product or service.
3. Identify your customers’ motivations and pain points
As a next step, work with your team to look into buyer motivations. Unlike basic demographic research, getting a handle on clients’ goals and challenges will build a successful sales process. To ensure your product checks all the right boxes, answer these questions about your customers:
- What problems are they having in the workplace?
- What do they need to make their job easier?
- Are they struggling with specific issues or are they unaware they could benefit from a solution?
Try working with other teams if you run into any issues finding this information. Customer support and social media experts can offer plenty of insight. If you’d like to simplify the process, a CRM can organize and display buyer information in one place.
4. Share your findings with your sales team
If several of your interviewees bring up similar points, share this information with the sales team. Compile key quotes from interviews that demonstrate what your target audience needs. By preparing for their questions and objections, your sales team will improve their selling points and anticipate demand.
Customer segmentation can help break your clientele into more specific groups. Sales veterans can adjust their strategy to best accommodate subgroups in your customer base. Before testing their new pitches, highlight the KPIs salespeople should track. You can review these outreach strategies if they collect data while they work.
5. Flesh out your buyer persona
Humanizing your buyer persona can help your sales team visualize their target customer while practicing their selling points. Name your persona and outline their daily responsibilities. Describe how they operate in their position, the roles they fill at their company, and their long-term career goals.
Keep corporate messaging in mind by ensuring your persona can discuss their company’s core products and services. Then, if you feel inspired, throw in a picture of what they look like and include a name everyone will refer to them by. Your team can practice crafting personal sales strategies that cater to your audience’s pain points by seeing all these details.
6. Test and update your buyer persona as needed
Once you’ve compiled your buyer persona, it’s time to put it to the test. You may need to go back to the drawing board if you come across any of these problems:
- Your buyer persona ignores a crucial segment of your audience.
- Your buyer persona is too general.
- The buyer persona doesn’t apply to a new product or service.
- Your buyer persona isn’t boosting any KPIs.
Even if your buyer persona works right out of the gate, you will likely encounter one of those problems down the line. Instead of trying to fix every issue at once, slowly iterate on your personas over time. Conduct multiple rounds of research, with three or four days of planning and review between each round. After a few weeks of honing, your personas will better represent your audience.
Buyer persona use cases
Your buyer persona will explain what customers want from their products and services. It can’t give you an exact profile for each shopper, but it can help you understand what’s going through prospects’ minds during the buying process. You can use this knowledge to leverage the most effective marketing and sales content and tactics.
Personas give sales teams a glimpse into the minds of their ideal customer through market research, consumer insights, and past data. They also give sales reps a leg up from generic sales scripts. Finally, they reallocate script budgets into more personalized sales materials.
Buyer persona usage by team
Even though marketing teams tend to create a company’s personas, they aren’t the only ones who can use them. Sharing your buyer persona across groups can help align different parts of a business. The other teams that can use your buyer persona include:
- Sales: personalizing their outreach and messaging
- Customer support: identifying problems buyers may encounter during their customer experience
- Human resources: understanding the customers your workforce assists
- Leadership: aligning goals across teams to meet consumer needs
“Negative” buyer persona
While archetypes built around your ideal customer are useful, not all personas are positive. There are some companies or people you don’t want as customers, which we call negative personas. A negative buyer persona is a valuable sales tool because it helps you:
- Learn what types of leads to filter out or ignore with lead generation software and strategies
- Avoid selling to the competition and giving away trade secrets
- Filter out customers who don’t fit into your target demographic or won’t benefit from your product
It’s important to note the difference between leads that might need follow-up down the line and leads that fit a negative buyer persona. Negative personas should only cover customers your business never wants to sell to, not prospects that could become customers in a few years.
Tips for buyer persona interviews
Interviewing people for your personas will be more valuable than using only market trends and sales rep feedback. If you plan on scheduling interviews, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your efforts.
Who to interview
There are four groups of people you should hone in on when you’re gathering details for your buyer persona.
- Past and existing clients: The people who best fit your personas have already said yes to your product. Clients know what your company offers and have seen your buyer’s journey. They’ve discussed pricing options, developed relationships with your sales reps, and made a purchase.
Most importantly, they saw a pressing need for your product or service and followed up on it. That need is critical to unlocking a successful persona. Review the contacts in your sales software and schedule interviews with your favorite clients.
- Current prospects: Anyone who interacts with your content is interested in your company—even if they don’t end up buying. If you’re building a persona, learn more about prospects in your sales funnel. Note what industries they’re in, what roles they fill at their companies, and why they reached out.
Once you discover what sparked their interest in your business, you can emphasize that aspect in future marketing materials and sales pitches.
- Referrals: When your sales team breaks into a new market, it’s tough to get started. The smartest thing to do is rely on your customers. Ask them for referrals and interview them. If it’s within budget, you can even offer current clients a referral bonus for any prospects who end up purchasing.
- Prospects who went to your competitors: These prospects saw everything you offer and still went to a competitor. To find out why they chose another company, set up a meeting to learn what wasn’t working for them and what they needed that you didn’t offer. This group can be especially useful for creating a negative buyer persona.
Now that you know who you’re talking to, let’s start the conversation.
How to set up interviews
Not everyone will say yes to an interview—some people are busy, and some don’t want to be bothered. Here are a few tips to get references to agree to interviews
- Offer the right incentives: You’re getting value from each interview, but what’s in it for the interviewee? It’s common courtesy to offer the right incentives. They don’t need an over-the-top offer or a free year of service, but make the interview worth their time. A gift card or discount is usually enough to convince them to sit down and talk.
- Be clear with your intentions: If an interviewee sees a message from a sales leader, their first thought is that you’re trying to sell them something. They might be suspicious and avoid a conversation entirely.
Explain that you’re not making a sales pitch by mentioning the interview at the start of the call. If you’re using email, allude to the interview in the subject line. The more you can separate the interview from a sales pitch, the more open people will be.
- Make full use of their time: Be flexible with your interviewee’s schedule and prepare your questions beforehand. That way, when they’re ready to begin, you aren’t wasting time looking for datasheets or notes.
Additionally, try to avoid lulls in the conversation. Any information you can gain from the discussion is valuable, so keep it moving. Remember, you’re taking time out of your day, too.
If you use your interview time well, prepare the right questions, and offer incentives, you can use interviews to revolutionize your personas.
Questions to ask during the interview
- Job role/industry questions
- What is your title, and what department do you work in?
- How would you describe your daily responsibilities?
- If you were hiring someone to take your place, what qualifications would they need to have?
- What industry is your company in?
- What quotas do you need to hit each quarter?
- Do you normally hit those quotas?
- If yes, what are your best strategies?
- If not, what do you think is holding your company back?
- Personal/company demographic questions
- How would you describe your company’s demographic?
- How would you describe your personal demographic in comparison?
- What is your company’s employee count?
- On average, how much revenue do you bring in each year?
- Does your company deal locally or do you have a large geographic range?
- Goal questions
- What does it mean to be successful in your position?
- What does it mean to be successful at your company?
- What does a perfect workday look like?
- What are your concerns when you’re trying to “hit your numbers”?
- What challenges are you looking to address?
- What problems are you looking to fix?
- Buying questions
- How do you prefer to communicate with vendors?
- How would you describe your last three purchases?
- What was the reasoning behind those purchases?
- How did you decide to buy it?
- Were there any competing offers involved? What made you stick with the one you purchased?
- What might make you hesitant to purchase from a company?
Most importantly, make sure you record your interviews. You don’t want to forget any crucial insights. A simple CRM platform can help you record meetings and organize notes so you don’t miss anything.
With information gleaned from your interviews, you should have all the details required to build a persona. To help you get started, check out the buyer persona examples below.
Buyer persona examples
The ideal buyer persona will look different for each company. However, their impact on sales teams is universal. With well-constructed personas, sales reps can successfully target their customer base in a personalized way. Here are B2C and B2B customer profile examples to get you started.
B2C and B2B persona differences
B2B buyer persona
Alan Webster – Marketing Executive
- Alan has been in marketing for over 20 years
- He’s in his mid-40s, he’s married, and he has two kids
- Even in important meetings, he always takes time to answer a call from his family
- He’ll admit he’s headstrong—maybe a bit too much at times
- Even after he leaves work for the day, he’ll always be thinking about how he can solve problems at work
- Oversee all marketing campaigns
- Constantly develop and implement the next big marketing strategy
- Manage and coordinate his staff to complete necessary tasks
- Get in touch with media and advertising agencies to bring in new leads
- Make sure the messages he’s sending reach the right audience
- Keep tabs on existing prospects and learn how he can better market to them
What they care about
- A quick meeting with a direct objective
- Keeping company growth goals in line with employee capabilities
- Knowing the latest trends on blogs and social media
- Getting his message to the first page of Google
- Attracting the right audience
- Finding new and useful leads
- Not enough employees or time to fully manage his inbound marketing
- Managing his team in a more efficient manner
- The service is not worth the price he has to pay for it
- No guaranteed ROI
- The software looks too complicated for his team to learn quickly
- The software overlaps and hinders different programs his team currently uses
B2C buyer persona
Erin Mckay – Freelance Software Developer
- Single and in her 20s
- Needs three cups of coffee a day
- Struggles to write “unique” code in time to meet deadlines
- Spends free time on solo projects that she’s hoping will take off soon
- Still working on her degree, but she’s taken enough online courses to earn a Master’s
- Does coding as a hobby but takes jobs for extra income
What they care about
- Gaining experience to one day leave freelance and work for a larger company
- Learning how to go beyond copying and pasting code to fully understanding the field
- Practicing with premium tools to ease into a workplace environment
- Constantly looking to learn more about code
- Needing to interpret her clients’ needs
- Writing code on the fly to meet customer needs
- Spends most of her time organizing and compiling code
- Has a difficult time finding the errors in her code
- Focus on free trials and special offers
- Reiterate the time she can save with premium developer tools
- Show how premium tools can make her side projects easier, too
- Emphasize the creative freedom and specialization of the premium tools
Leverage your buyer persona with a strong CRM
The best buyer personas are intricately detailed. Between company data, market trends, and interviews, it can be difficult to organize all the information your team needs to secure a sale. But once you’re done, your buyer persona can dramatically improve inbound sales.
Invest in a robust sales CRM like Zendesk Sell to streamline your persona research and apply it to your sales strategy with ease. With sales prospecting tools, you and your team can stay on top of company information and personas in one convenient place. Zendesk Sell also integrates with hundreds of different business apps and software, making collaboration simple.