The case study
The young male Sales Rep (who could look like any of One Direction) pushed past the hefty amount of stock on display in the ‘Mom and Pop’ convenience store, nodded his head as he said hello to the “Boss” and went to met with the wife (or Lady Boss) sitting by the cash register. She smiled on seeing the young rep visit her again, she even blushed a little as he smiled sweetly. Our Rep had done a review of their stock holding, presented a summary of the purchases needed to top-up their popular lines and presented a special deal for an upcoming promotional pack. She looked as his dimples as he smiled and she quickly signed the order. She looked over at her husband, “the Boss” ogling the young female Rep who had just turned up, ‘no way she’s getting and order looking like that’ she thought to her self.
Know the the real buyers & treat them how they wished to be treated
The first time I realised we could segment customers, as we segmented consumers, was when we devised a plan to send good looking young salesmen to service Convenience stores in Singapore. This insight came after channel-manager Raymond Han and I had visited the convenience store with the rep described above.
In this scenario, typically the convenience store was run by a “mom & pop”. “Pop” or ‘the Boss’ was supposed to be the front of store, supposed to arrange purchasing, loved buying bulk deals, never paid bills on-time, considered himself the Big boss. Accordingly, many companies sent young ladies to flutter their eyelashes to influence “the Boss”.
With a little insight into both customer psychology and relationship management, one could easily tell that while the “Boss” was permitted to drive a Merc and wear a large rolex, the real power was “Mom”. She sat quietly in the background, running the till making the business work- no out of stocks, no loss of credit worthiness, no drama. Typically, ‘Mom’s’ hated the young lady reps who came to charm the “Boss”, but they loved the Boys (‘shiao tee’) we sent them. The plan worked; sales increased.
Pertinent questions for both the Board level and managers in the middle are; do you know who your Buyer really is? Do you know their behaviour preferences, their personal motivations and reasons for buying? Have you segmented your Buyers and created Buyer Personas?
What are Buyer Personas?
Buyer Personas are documented descriptions of the most important Buyers or customers of your business. They are either and individual profile or a group profile of the influencers and decision makers needed to close your sale. Personas outline the personalities, objectives, obstacles, and success measures of your target buyers. In the scenario above, we grouped all the “lady bosses’ of the convenience channel together in one persona and treated them similarly.
There are two purposes to creating buyer personas. The first- and more important- is to understand the motivations of the individual buyer. By understanding the individual motivations of an individual buyer your sales team will be able to present them with tailored information to win the sale. The second purpose is to create groups (or segments) of buyers with similar motivations to enable you to devise strategies to influence a group of similar buyers- like Convenience store lady bosses. Today’s example is about the broad similarity of buyer motivations and behaviours within Singapore convenience stores which enabled us to develop a unique strategy to win in this channel. To be effective group personas should focus on maximum similarities within a group and the maximum differences between groups to make the segments effective.
The Value of Individual Personas: they Lead the Conversation
To win any sale a good salesman adapts their product message to address the specific needs of the individual Buyer and their particular behaviour style and personal motivations. Creating a series of different buyer personas enables the business to better understand customers in a number of ways.
Identify the preferred communication style; the easiest means of establishing personas is to utilise the DISC system to divide your customer base into the 4 differing behaviour preference archetypes and hence utilise tailored communication approaches that best fit each style. Simply doing this will enable you to tailor your message and presentation more closely to your customers preferences enabling you to win the sale.
In more complicated businesses, where the buying is done by several people or a committee, more information is needed.
Understand roles. Where there are multiple people involved in a purchase decision, its likely you will come across different personas. Knowing the persona of each person involved in the buying process provides valuable insight into the decision makers and influencers and how best to connect with them. Your communication must appeal to the most compelling needs of the individual and the role he is playing in the decision making process.
If you sell to multiple companies each with a similar structure, you will find that similar roles- e.g. purchasing managers- may have similar needs and so you could create similar group personas. IN our example we have focused on the “Lady Boss” persona and her needs, equally the “Big Boss” has a separate persona, where you offer respect and deference as he could block your order, but he will do little to support it.
Influence the purchase decision. Once contact is made with the decision makers, you must utilise your influence. A well-developed Buyer Persona gives relevant knowledge of Buyer needs. It leads to the ultimate goal of providing a tailored solution and solving their problem and gaining you the sale.
Your research should culminate in a one-page Persona document- either for an individual buyer or Group of buyers. Which should include
- Name/Role of Person in buyer organisation
- DISC profile and hence your behaviour and communication style
- Objectives. These are the objectives of the individual and the objectives of their role in the organisation.
- Obstacles. What are the buyers major roadblocks that prevent good work?
- Personal Fears. What scares the Buyer and keeps them up at night? (You may use DISC to identify broad fears of each DISC style to add value and to augment your perception of the specific worries an individual buyer or a buyer role)
- Success metrics. What does success for the Buyer look like? How are they rewarded, or how can they exceed their bonuses?
This will enable you to create a Buyer’s Persona for a business or several personas within a larger purchasing organisation. It will enable you to create your sales pitch to meet their specific needs as well as identify the information you will need along the buyers journey.
Here’s an example of an individual persona of a buyer
|Persona Name||Sam McAllan|
|Role & Responsibility||Purchasing Director|
|Objectives||Develop purchasing strategy, Integrate older purchasing systems, ensure quality and timely delivery otherwise business halts, show economies of scale to CEO, keep Board of Directors happy|
|Obstacles||Outdated purchasing process, budget cuts, rising costs, poor demand forecasting meaning regular overstocks and out of stocks|
|Success Metric(s)||no overstocks and OOS; cost per unit is less important|
|Personal Fears||– Insecure about personal performance, detailed worker
– Worried about CEO perceptions
– Worried about maintaining a good product
– Skeptical: Will I get support from the rest of the organization?
– Impatient: Time-starved; results needed now
– Suspicious: will this work; Is it worth the investment?
From this you are clearly able to see how what your company offers can meet the specific needs of this customer.
We will develop this strategic approach to sales further in succeeding instalments but if you have any comments or examples of how buyer personas have helped you, I would encourage you to share them.