Archives for posts with tag: Buyer

It’s the start of a new half year! Where better to begin than with the job of figuring out what makes your ideal buyer tick? A customer or buyer persona is a collection of the characteristics common to buyer types in your target organisation. Figuring out your personas allows you to market to many like-minded individuals with the same messaging. This is in stark contrast to when you have a specific customer in mind – effectively a market of one organisation – because then you can message directly to that person, rather than to the persona construct.

Crucially, there may be more than one buyer persona you need to engage with in your target customer: lifestyle people; money-makers, corporate ladder-climbers; business heads, finance people, procurement. These personas may well fulfil multiple or different roles in the decision-making unit of your target organisation: decision-makers, budget-holders, influencers, users, and other staff.

You should gear all of your marketing and messaging to your personas, and adapt it to each persona. Framing your personas comes from research, which might be based on quantitative or qualitative information. Where to go for that information? It’s what you already know, it can come from interviews, calls, or meetings, from your sales teams, or from your customer database.

I’ve found the following list of headings to be useful when building a persona:

  • About them: gender, age profile, education, family, job role, experience?
  • Personality: approachable or aloof, prefers emails to calls, passionate, dispassionate?
  • Goals: commercial, personal, emotional?
  • Challenges: resources, politics, regulation, competition?
  • Hangouts: where do they go for their information? Websites, social media? You need to be where they are…
  • What can you do for them? Help them hit which goals, meet which challenges, be recognised?
  • Objections: what might stop them working with you? Time-pressured? Locked in to a supplier?
  • Message: how might you best message to them? Productivity, growth, compliance, morale?

Giving each persona a name, even a picture, and hanging their profile on a wall will keep them front and centre.

I want to revisit the theme of an erstwhile post on how I often give businesses one chance and then they’re gone. When you think about it, it’s no chances, as their first slip up is their last. One chance would be their second chance. Anyway, with the irony of the blog title behind me, let me tell you a story.

I used to have almost all my insurances with one company: houses, cars, even tyres. I’d inherited them as a supplier from my Dad. Anyway, one day I had a car accident. A tourist driving a hire car in front of me and my boss – we were heading to hit some balls one lunchtime – missed his roundabout turn-off for the motorway, took the next turn, which was also ours, went 10 yards and attempted an immediate u-turn, forcing me to take evasive action and break my suspension on the far kerb.

The tourist admitted no blame – in fact he said .’you did not see me?’ – we exchanged details and so began a sorry saga which took months to resolve. My boss was not deemed an independent witness, I provided all the information I could, and ended up chasing the insurance company’s insurance company to try and resolve it. The last time I phoned I was told, ‘oh we’ve already settled the claim 50-50 with the other driver’s insurance company.’ I was furious, not at the injustice of the other driver lying, since many people will lie and cheat to get out of something, but at the fact that my insurer had let me down as a customer and failed to even let me know the result of the case.

I immediately cancelled all of my insurance policies with them. Their customer service team called me back, stuck to their version of events and that was that. It was like dealing with an enormous slippery snake, with staff hiding under its slithery skin.

Once chance – and gone.

A few years ago, I used to work with a company called The TAS Group. They invented something called the Sales Velocity Equation, a metric for sales effectiveness.

It was a really simple and powerful way of thinking about how effective a sales person or organisation you are. In a nutshell, your sales velocity for a given time period (let’s say a quarter) is proportional to the total number of qualified deals you work during the period, multiplied by the average deal size, multiplied by the percentage of deals that you win, the total then divided by the average sales cycle length for those won deals during that period. It’s all about speed, the implication being that if in the next period you can improve the factors above the line and reduce the sales cycle length, your speed – or sales effectiveness – increases. Good, huh?

On a number of occasions I suggested that the natural corollary to this is the buyer velocity equation, but my thoughts were not bought into, which is fair enough. I think it still has merit though.

If you’re a B2B buyer – and I suppose you could think too about yourself as a B2C customer or consumer, offline or online, though it’s nowhere near as elegant – you want to be as productive a buyer as you can.

It follows, then, that your productivity within a certain period is a function of the number of projects you have tabled, the average size of those projects, the amount of projects you get off the ground, and the length of time from project conception to project kick-off, or even to project completion. The greater the projects volume and project size, the greater the percentage of projects you get off the ground, and the quicker you get them off the ground, the more productive a buyer you are.

Make sense to me anyway. In the same way as the sales velocity equation, it helps you strip away the waste and the unnecessary and focus on the small number of important levers of success.



These days, as a provider of products and services in either a B2B or B2C scenario, you get very few chances before you blow it. If you’re in a commodity business, you get one chance. Mess up and you’re gone, even if you’ve had a good track record before your faux pas.

One strike and you’re out.

I’ve bought 3 shirts from an online discount store in the last 3 months. It’s the usual end-of-line strategy and stuff. The prices are good, and the quality of the product is decent. But the damn things take ages to arrive. Ages as in a month or more. And it’s tough to get customer service to respond, unless they’ve good news and can give you a tracking number. I haven’t got my last item yet…when I do I’m not using them again.

Years and years ago, when I lived in Scotland’s capital, I used to go to a local fast food place for fish and chips or pizza. One time I got a chicken pizza. I was ill with food poisoning that night and the whole of the next day. Never went there again. Did I tell them about my experiences? I can’t actually remember, but I voted with my feet.

I’m not the type of person who goes back looking to get a refund or compensation – life’s too short. I simply shop elsewhere. And don’t forget that we typically tell 3 times as many people about a bad experience as we do after a good one.

This is why, as a business, you must have a relentless and constant focus on quality, end-to-end. The thread can be that fine.

Along with trench warfare mentality, it’s a good mindset to imagine that you only have one chance to impress with every customer, every time.


In a previous post, I talked about allowing the buyers who know what they want to do their thing and not getting in their way. In many businesses, however, buyers need help buying. They need educating, guiding, encouraging, challenging and persuading.

You may lament that your buyers don’t know how to buy. This may be true, but it’s a cop out on your part. They don’t know how to buy for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you don’t make it easy for them. Perhaps they’re too busy. Perhaps they haven’t acknowledged they need to buy. Perhaps they hardly ever buy this sort of thing – or even they’ve never bought this sort of thing before – and so why on earth should they be as close to this as you are?

We all make the mistake, once we’ve been in a company a while and have come familiar with how our stuff works, of thinking customers are interested in our stuff, never mind understand it.

Spend time thinking about your buyers. Think about the problems they have and the options they have to address those problems. For many businesses, even though they know they’re stuck in the weeds, it’s a case of ‘better the devil you know.’ Think about where they want to get to, what’s stopping them from getting there, and how your stuff can uniquely help them. If your buyers are sufficiently different for you not to be able to think about them as one group, then put them in groups that do make sense and think about those groups separately.

Think also about the steps they should take to buy from you, and what you need to share with them to get them to keep moving forwards. They don’t necessarily know the steps, so they will need evidence from you that these steps have worked for similar companies.

You’ll know your approach is working when they stop asking about themselves and start asking ‘how are other companies doing this?’ and ‘how are you doing this?’ And, who knows, if you illuminate the path well enough they might self-select and do the buying themselves.

I met with a company in the software space recently. They are what you would call a high velocity business, focusing on a transactional business model for sales. They used a phrase that resonated with me:

“You don’t step in front of a speeding train.”

If your customer knows what they want, and is ready to buy, let them. Don’t insist on going through your sales process in the hope that you might be able to increase the initial deal size, because you run the risk of slowing down the deal or halting it altogether. Maybe they want do business with you without dealing with a salesperson.

This strategy of using your sticky product as the tip of the spear allows you to go back subsequently and sell more stuff to them. You land with a small sale and then you expand the business.

Of course, this works very well in businesses that have a strong compelling event, a market-leading product that can be bought ‘no touch’, and great marketing. Customers can find what they want and self-purchase. It’s not so easy for companies who are selling services, or products that are less transactional and more complex in their nature.

If you are blessed this way, though, it’s case of both caveat emptor and emat emptor. Let the Buyer Beware, and Let the Buyer Buy.

And so we come, dear reader, to the fourth stage in the B2B buying process. Our first three stages are typically defining and amassing our addressable marketdefining the sales opportunity and delving into the customer’s objectives, in that order. Sales process is something you should do in the right order. It’s a linear series of stages to get you to the finishing line in the most effective way possible.

In many ways successful selling is about guiding your customers through their buying process, the destination of which is a realisation that you can uniquely address their specific objectives and a purchase. The fourth stage is demonstration, and this is where you start to demonstrate how you can uniquely address their challenges, remove their barriers and get them to where they need to be. Unsurprisingly, it matches the fourth buying stage where the buying company is evaluating their alternatives.

Just as your investment in time, and the cost of acquisition, start to accumulate at this point, so does the risk for the buyer as they are starting to reduce their choices and make the selection which will deny them other potential good courses of action. Your job is to make them feel good about choosing you, so that they can feel good about the recommendation to themselves and their colleagues. A cynic would argue that Man is motivated at the most basic level by fear and greed. This is true when you’re up against a very large or established player in your field, and can play out with the buyer thinking ‘well, I can’t be blamed now, I went with the biggest and best, so it’s not my fault.’ If you’re not the big guy, you need to work hard to make sure they don’t fall back on the safe option, when what they really need to do is select the best option.

Here are some things to ponder on during the demonstrate phase:

– who wants you to win inside the customer? How important are they? What are they doing for you? How do you know that?

– how are you leveraging your friends and handling your enemies inside your customer? If you don’t know who’s a friend and who’s a foe, this is a problem and you need to find out

– what do the buyers inside your customer think of the evidence or proof you’re demonstrating? Do they buy it? Remember that it’s only a differentiator if they acknowledge it as such

– what do they think of your solution? Do they really understand what makes you different?

– have you demonstrated specifically how you can address the problems they have? Can you point to other similar examples or projects where this has been borne out?

– have you shown the return they should expect from choosing your solution? Do they buy into the numbers? Do your return estimates approximate theirs?

– what indication have they given you that you are the leading contender for the business? Do you buy into this or are they telling you what they think you want to hear?

– if they’ve given you an indication that you’re not the front-runner, do you know what makes the leading bid the leading bid, and what’s your plan to address that?

Don’t forget that you should always be qualifying. Things happen quickly in business and circumstances change accordingly. You need to be sure that they still need to act, for the same reasons, and they still have budget earmarked to do so. After all, if you really are the front-runner, your competitors will be trying to change the objectives to suit them, or introduce enough confusion that the deal gets broken up into smaller pieces that they can snag.