One of the best ways to be productive is to avoid wasting time. The more time you waste, the less time you have for what is important. To ensure you have time for what's important, you must prioritize the tasks and projects that produce the results you want or need.
Marketers have provided sales with an ideal customer profile (ICP), buyer profiles, and buyer’s personas. The general concept here is that your ICP should be made up of companies that need better results in the areas where you can help them improve. There is no reason to spend your time trying to sell to people and companies who don't need what you offer.
Early in my time as a sales manager, I had a number of salespeople who were frustrated that every small, medium, and large company they called had an existing partner. Eventually, after thinking through the problem, they would pitch the idea that it would be easier to call on companies that weren't already buying what we sold. They were heartbroken to learn that they were not permitted to sell to people who didn't need or want what we offered. This is the nature of a displacement business, and it is the result of an industry maturing and having too many sales organizations competing for too few clients.
A buyer's persona is way for marketers and salespeople to start with a theory of the buyer’s challenges, responsibilities, concerns, and goals. Another way to think about this is to answer the question, "What does this person want?" The ICP, buyer profiles, and buyer’s personas are written without any recognition of what might actually drive the buyer and what they really need. Some of what motivates decision-makers and stakeholders are personal needs, the kind that are difficult to suss out.
A List of Buyer's Profiles
There are things that human beings want or need that go unmentioned in sales conversations. This list is an extended version of a list in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.
Playing for Position
Some percentage of the decision-makers and, more especially, decision-shapers are playing for position. There is a political game being played in large and small companies. Sometimes, if you pay close attention to what is being said, you can see the conflict between two parties, one who will benefit from the change and one who believes they will be harmed by anything that benefits the person they are competing against.
Position is moving up the company's hierarchy, gaining more power and gaining proximity to greater power. Someone who believes they lose if their opponent succeeds is not going to support you, and in some cases, may work against you. None of this is going to show up on a buyer's persona. Because you are complicit in the change, you need to know you are almost certain to have alienated the person opposing change.
The Need to Transform
You often find new leaders seeking a fast win, proving they are going to make the changes that improve results. Those who have sold long enough will remember when a new leader fired them, replacing them with a competitor they have worked with in past roles. The change maker isn't looking for more of the same, nor are they particularly interested in incremental improvements. Instead, they want a transformation.
There are decision-makers who believe they are responsible for transforming the organization they lead. A salesperson who tries to displace a competitor with what is not different enough to capture the decision-maker's attention and imagination isn't likely to create or win a new opportunity. For this buyer persona, you need to provide the vehicle for change.
Aversion to Any and All Risks
You are not going to find "risk aversion" on many buyer's profiles outside of risk management. There are, however, some decision-makers and stakeholders who are risk-averse. Oftentimes, this person believes they create value by being the devil's advocate, a role that tends to help people explore their decisions. While the person or people initiating a change are pushing forward, this person acts as a brake, slowing things down—and potentially preventing change.
No matter how certain you are that you are going to be able to help the company improve their results, the risk-averse person will require proof, followed by more proof, followed by some sort of risk shifting, like a guarantee, or some penalty for failing to produce the better results.
Inclusion and Exclusion
There are personas that are playing to be included. They want to be part of something. They also want to belong. Leaders who don't understand how important this is should go back and study Maslow's hierarchy of needs. After physiological and safety concerns, belonging is the next level up. One might argue that belonging is part of safety.
Some part of the need to be included may be safety and security, but it also might be a strategy to move up the hierarchy, a play for position. It is a mistake to ignore people who need to be included, because you are threatening them by excluding them. By inviting them into the conversation, you are including them, and meeting their needs.
Neophilia and the Need for Novelty
Some decision-makers seek things that are new and novel. They are not interested in what has already been done and are infatuated with what is next. Any initiative that is more of the same—even if it is better—isn't going to raise the neophile's pulse. You might recognize how closely this might fit the buyer who is interested in transformation, and they do share certain needs. But the neophile is more interested in what is new, while the transformation profile is more concerned with transforming their company.
People who always want what's next are hard to keep as clients because sales organizations have trouble meeting their needs. These are the folks that buy the new iPhone, even though the only thing that changed is a faster chip, one that won't produce any improvement one could perceive. When you have something new, go to these decision-makers or shapers to start a conversation.
Businesses grow and shrink. A business that is shrinking is going to need to make changes to survive. You may also find a stakeholder who needs a change so they can survive and keep their job. You might find these buyers to be more difficult to help, as they are already failing, mostly because they waited too long to change.
Some of these buyers may not be willing or able to make the changes necessary to improve their results and survive. You are always better off by being proactive and helping your prospective clients make changes before they are forced to do something on a timeline that makes it more difficult.
Purpose and Meaning
Different generations have different values. Older generations tend to lean towards meaning and purpose later than younger generations, who are more sensitive and want to make a positive difference. Any inability to convert business outcomes into social good may alienate those who believe that what they do has a huge positive impact on society.
In the future, part of success in sales is going to come from speaking to what different buyers need, including a positive impact on the world.
At the 2022 OutBound Conference, I am going to share a new framework that is going to bring these ideas into focus in a way that is practical and tactical, making it easier for you to provide your contacts with what they need.