4 Keys to Building & Using Personas In the Sales Process

By: Teresa Weirich

August 16, 2018

Productive sales conversations depend on having the right tools in place to guide the call and make sure it is beneficial not just for the sales professional leading the call, but also for the prospective customer on the other end. Sales teams spend countless hours developing playbooks that contain just the right call script, objection responses, and customer success stories. And while all of those components are absolutely necessary ingredients for a successful call, there’s often a major component missing: a tailored conversation to the person on the other end of the call or, in other words, the “persona”.

While we won’t get into the nitty gritty of what a persona is, this summary from UX Magazine helps to set the stage so we can discuss not just what personas are, but how to create effective personas that you can include in your sales team’s playbooks:

“A persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences, lifestyle choices, and the like. Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a “type” regardless of age, gender, education, and other typical demographics. In fact, personas vastly span demographics.”

When sales teams think about personas, many jump straight to job title and the role that the individual holds in the organization (like a marketing manager versus a vice president of marketing, for example). But leading a conversation that’s persona-based isn’t as simple or as clear-cut as simply swapping out the title. In fact, there are several considerations that should go into the persona creation process as well as each sales conversation. For sales professionals, that means yet another consideration to take into account on each call. Not only do they need to stay on message, but they have to tailor the message to the individual on the other end.

In this article, we’ll share 4 keys to creating powerful and effective personas for your sales team, and will also explain how adding another variable to the call doesn’t have to be scary.

4 Keys to Consider When Developing Top Personas

Typical Profile & Demographics

The profile and demographics are where most sales teams start when creating personas for the first time. This includes basic facts about the group of individuals such as: typical role or title, general age range, educational background, technical abilities, specific skill sets, and so on. In general, this element of the persona-crafting experience can be thought of as the “LinkedIn Profile” as most of this information can be found online. Creating a persona is like casting a wide net—not every prospective customer will fit neatly into a persona, but the idea is to represent as accurately as possible the type of person that the sales team is targeting.

By starting with the basics like the demographic profile, it’s easier for sales professionals to categorize prospects even when they don’t fit a precise persona. For example, if a company prospects marketers, the team may run into 10 titles that are all similar, but each with its nuances (such as a demand generation marketing manager vs. a top-of-funnel marketing manager). In this case, the two roles may have differences, but both are at the managerial level and probably have similar goals, challenges, and objections, as we’ll explore below.

Goals and Opportunities

Once the profile for each persona has been determined, it’s time to research the goals and opportunities that are typical of that role. Goals can be thought of in a couple of different ways: tangible, metric-driven goals and intrinsic, personal goals. For example, a digital marketing manager may want to increase leads through smart capture forms on the website, but that same individual may also have her eyes set to move to a more senior level marketing position. Both types of goals are important, and they should be noted separately as potential goals and opportunities that are fitting of the persona.

When listing goals and opportunities for the individual, think about the industry as a whole, the position within the organization and within the department, and tactical goals, such as job responsibilities and KPIs. By having a good understanding of the general goals and opportunities of the persona on the other end of a call, the sales professional is better able to guide the conversation, point out valuable features, and share relevant customer success stories specific to the role.

Challenges and Obstacles

Similar to understanding goals and opportunities, it’s equally important to understand the pains, frustrations, and general challenges that the individual most likely faces in her role. Challenges can be portrayed as big industry challenges or as tactical on-the-job hurdles, but the key is to have a good idea of what the general pain points that these personas are up against. What gets them frustrated? What is holding them back from achieving their goals? What part of their process is manual? Do their tools/solutions cause them more pain than good?

Challenges and obstacles are those things that not only get the persona’s attention, but allows the sales professional to align goals with challenges and opportunities with obstacles—they are constantly at war with each other, and a lot of times, the challenges can seem insurmountable. By not just understanding the pain points of the persona, but putting a story behind it will not just get the prospective customer to pay attention to what the rep is saying, but it will help keep them engaged.

Common Objections / Red Flags

Finally, every sales process has at least one (but often many more) objection or red flag. Regardless of how perfect the persona matches up to the value props and the positioning, there’s always a “But…” or a hiccup. Fortunately, by doing research and listening carefully to other calls with the same type of persona represented, your team can determine the most likely objections and red flags, such as budget concerns, not having the proper decision maker involved, too complicated of an integration process, and so on. By having a good idea of what’s holding the sales process back before it’s even held up, sales professionals can confront objections before they’re even asked and educate the prospective customer about the process rather than react to it.

By listing out the most common objections and red flags and aligning them to the persona, it’s much easier to understand the entire makeup of the individual on the other end of the conversation. By now, your sales team has a fairly accurate picture of each persona’s profile and demographics, their goals and opportunities, their challenges and obstacles, and now their common objections and red flags. While no persona will ever be completely accurate, sales professionals can use the general profiles to ask questions and to guide the conversation effectively, rather than operate in a state of constantly reacting rather than proactively leading.

Incorporating Personas Into Sales Playbooks

The best sales teams are able to effectively guide a conversation, stay present on the call, and tailor the messaging to the person on the other end. But doing all of that at once can seem overwhelming…. but it doesn’t have to be.

Sales teams should incorporate persona based messaging into sales playbooks that can be imported into Costello’s sales playbook software, allowing sales reps to stay present in the conversation and guide themselves through the call by asking the right questions, handling objections, and sharing the most appropriate customer stories—all while the call is taking place. Sales professionals don’t have to try and sort through various tools or documents to find the right thing to say—they’re always on message and can relax and stay tuned into the most important task at hand: the conversation with the prospective customer on the other end of the phone.


  • Teresa Weirich's Headshot
    Teresa Weirich

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