Master the Complex Sale - Personas, Buy Cycles and Content Mapping

Old SalesmanWho are you selling to?

How do they buy what you are selling?

What type of content converts prospects into educated buyers?

Mastering a complex sale involves answering these and other related questions.

Your Buyer Persona

Who buys your stuff? Whether it’s burgers, goblets, or online games, it’s a question you must answer. The more specifically you can answer the question, the better off you and your organization will be.

For example, if you sell enterprise level software, you’ll have a number of different buyers that influence the purchase decision. For an enterprise-wide software decision, a CMO, CIO and perhaps even the CEO will influence a buy/no-buy determination.

If a CMO or CIO is your targeted customer, development of a buyer persona will offer a complete and layered picture of this ideal customer. Most people have a basic understanding of what a CMO does. A buyer persona for a CMO, however, might start with a name - “Sarah.” Sarah might be a 40-something year old executive with previous ad agency experience who has been in her current CMO role for two years. Sarah has been struggling to get better data and implement closed loop marketing to achieve tighter integration between her marketing organization and the sales organization, led by “Roger,” a 20 year sales veteran who grew up in the company. Sarah has a boy and a girl both between the ages of 10 and 15, drives a late model Audi, and regularly works 60 or more hours per week.

Now, which picture in your mind is clearer - that of a generic corporate CMO, or that of Sarah? I’ll go out on a limb and guess the image of Sarah is something you can more clearly visualize. For salespeople, knowing that they are selling to Sarah is much more real and personal than selling to a “CMO.” For the technical folks coding the enterprise software, knowing Sarah’s goals around data and how she wants to ultimately use that data will guide their development efforts.

Buy Cycles and Content Mapping

Once you have your buyer personas fleshed out, you can begin to map content to specific stages of your buying cycle. In any complex sales cycle, buyers will pass through the following general stages:

  • Burning Platform - this is a high need stage when a leader in an organization realizes that action must be taken or else his department, company, and job might be at risk. Continuing with our enterprise software example, questions like “How are people getting to my website” or “What pages do buyers closest to making a purchase decision visit the most” are the types of queries that bubble up in this stage. A lack of answers to a business problem drives this stage.
  • Awareness Building/Information Gathering - in seeking answers to their burning platform questions, organizational leaders will look for solutions, best practices, and examples of how other companies have solved problems similar to the ones they are currently attempting to address.
  • Evaluation/Purchase - At this phase, buyers have narrowed their choices and a formal or informal (or both) vetting process takes place.

As your buyer works through these various stages, your job is to offer the right and most helpful content for the stage your buyer is traversing. Your content mapping efforts can initially be as straightforward as developing content for the top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel. After you begin to track the results of your content mapping efforts, you’ll see which content is most effective and be able to create more targeted content for more granular segments of your qualified leads.

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Photo Credit: neonbubble

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