Revenue Interview Series #2 | Buyer-Personas

In the second installment of our Revenue Interview Series with Andrew Hastings, Arcadea Group’s in-house GTM & Revenue expert, we cover the topic of Buyer-Personas: what they are, how to identify them, and how to tailor your process to the personas you are working with. (Before we get started, if you haven’t read the first installment of this series, we recommend checking that out here, as some of the concepts of Buyer Personas flow logically from our discussion of ICP).

Overview of Buyer Personas:

Buyer-Personas are, simply put, illustrative representations of the various stakeholders that work within your ICP target businesses. Leveraging sociological, psychological, and demographic attributes, Personas speak to both role type (e.g. a CTO) and human profile (e.g. “the white collar MBA focused on shareholder return”) representing those involved in evaluating and purchasing your products or services.

Further, Buyer Personas are a generalized explanation of what matters to the relevant person, how they should be sold to, and what part of the sales process they might play (e.g. blockers or enablers).

Here’s a Persona from one of our portfolio companies that we’ve adjusted in order to make the example more illustrative:

“Maintenance Max”

Title: Director of Operations and Maintenance, Tiger Tail Aero Ambulance, Inc.

Demographics: Typically male, 50+ years old, trade school or ex-military educational backgrounds.

Priorities: The safe return of every flight mission, at whatever cost is required.

Psychological: Prefers in-person meetings given the gravity of operations; feels constantly busy due to the stress of the job and manual processes embedded in the business.

Past career: Ex military maintenance tech, former line tech, sometimes former pilots; all within the fairly insular aviation industry, when not in military. 

Boss / direct reports: Chief Pilot (large operator) or CEO (small operator) / Maintenance Line Staff.

Why Personas are helpful and how they influence GTM:

Personas are tidy summations of the people your GTM team regularly engages, but unless they are guiding Marketing, Sales, Product and CS approaches to market, then they’re worthless. As a result, it’s important to ensure that your personas address:

Engagement style: Do they like in-person meetings, or prefer video conference? Do they want regular engagement, or do they want to bring themselves through the awareness, education, and discovery stagesof the sales process without sales or marketing-guided interactions?

Marketing content: What should marketing focus on, ROI and financial improvement or customer satisfaction and ESG? In short, what message will resonate with their priorities, and why?

Distribution / sales channels: Trade shows, drip marketing, phone calls, white papers – the medium should match the persona.

Bosses / direct reports: Who’s their boss and who reports to them; how does this reality change what they are focused on as individual contributors? How can marketing or sales approaches support their internal goals?

Sales process: How does this persona impact the sales process? Can they not approve a purchase, yet still block it? (This is tied closely into #4 and oftentimes is conflated for that reason).

Let’s now look back to Maintenance Max and consider the implications of Buyer Persona as so defined:

Engagement style: Digital & succinct at first, but in-person connection is required to build trust.

Marketing content: Focus on safety as opposed to ROI or financial returns; leverage case studies when possible, especially in public sector given past employment & training background (Military, e.g.).

Marketing & Sales channels: Trade shows and direct marketing; referrals when possible, given the tight knit market in which Max resides.

Sales process: Max likely has the ability to say yes, and always has the ability to say no, so we can’t only market to the Line Operators. At the same time, we don’t necessarily need to waste effort on the CEO unless Max works in a small-customer segment of the ICP.

Building your personas:

There are many different lines along which buyer-personas can be delineated, and this can make the task of defining your Personas intimidating. “Do I group by geography? By title? By title and then by size of business they sit within? How about seniority within the function? Do each of those deserve their own persona?” The categories provided above are a great first step or a template of sorts for getting you started.

First, though, you have to pick the actual individuals and roles that you will “Persona-ize”. If you are starting from a blank slate, the below roles are a great starting point.

1: Champion/Sponsor:

This can be a front-line manager, a Director or VP at the functional level who has the ability to table ideas such as procuring new software. The “champion,” or sometimes also referred to as your “sponsor,” is the person who is going to be selling internally to others in the business. They and/or their team(s) stand to gain the most from the purchase of your products.

The best buyer personas are crafted around the lost time, resources, budget, pain and other such problems your products are solving.

The champion rarely possesses the power to buy your offering unilaterally. As a result, your champion must be the conduit to internal decision makers of the business.

2: Financial Buyer:

This persona, which is often difficult to engage, is critical to engage properly since they are ultimately the ones who approve pricing and contractual matters. The financial buyer, rarely the sponsor, is typically a CFO or other such senior finance professional who owns tech-spend. As a result, providing clear financial ROI is paramount to getting them on board with the purchase decision. Some approaches to ROI presentation include revenue generation, attrition reduction, pricing potential, cost savings (people or things out of the budget), cost savings due to efficiency (more throughput with the same people), amongst others.

Be sure to ask your Sponsor questions like “how can we help prepare you for internal finance discussions or make sign-off on a business case easy on you?” These discussions are where the education and empowerment of your sponsor come into play.

3: Technical Buyers: 

You thought Financial Buyers were the only personas that could slow down or block a deal altogether? Meet IT. Especially in today’s API-centric enterprise tech stack, ensuring all of the products are safe, security, fast, and ultimately functional are critical. IT teams are rightly nervous about an overly complex internal tech stack, and will push back where complexity and risk seem unwarranted. Just like with the Financial Buyer, you have to be prepared to address these concerns. Providing your sales and sales engineers / pre-sales professionals with the right talking points and knowledge is a must.

4: End-User:

On the other end of the spectrum from the Financial Buyer is the end-user. Where one is focused on lowering organizational risk, improving bottom-line, the end-user is focused in on a narrow set of responsibilities that she must carry out with efficiency and accuracy in order to do her job well.

Compare a CFO to a sales representative and how their lives would change in different ways via the purchase of a CRM for the first time. The benefits are obvious for both personas, but few overlap. Improved reporting, visibility and forecasts would be top of the CFO’s mind. Better account-intelligence and the ability to collaborate with teammates are obvious benefits to the sales rep.

In this way, the mix and flavour of content for these two personas must differ. You must speak to each differently, highlighting the elements of value germane to each of their unique jobs to be done.

A couple more tips on defining Personas:

Once you have a rough sense of who your personas might be, you can begin to refine those Personas into more nuanced and actionable categories. Here are some time-tested approaches:

Ensure a sound external research process. Customer interviews, market research, website analytics, inbound lead sources sorted by title and adoption rates by user role are all key indicators. Be sure to speak with a healthy cross-section of your customer base while completing these customer interviews and understanding why each profile was inclined to engage in the sales process and ultimately buy, adopt and renew the software.

Focus on problems and outcomes before demographics and descriptions. Just as your product was built, and your sales team sells, marketing’s delivery of buyer-personas ought to be rooted in the problems being solved and challenges alleviated. The rest is window dressing to round out your profiles.

And as always, we’d love to connect to discuss any of the above, best practices from your own company, or areas we may have missed. We’re appreciative of the feedback from Part 1 of the Revenue series and look forward to sharing the next installment soon.