Understand Your Customer’s Buying Decisions

Buyer personas are my favorite topic to discuss and the reason I founded Buyer Persona Institute almost ten years ago.

I know that understanding your audience’s buying decision is the number one thing every company needs to do in order to engage in successful sales and marketing.  
We interview B2B buyers about their buying decisions and they are so frustrated – they tell us it is too hard to get the information they need to make good choices.

When companies give buyers the information they need, they are seen as easy to work with, and they thrive. It seems so simple and obvious but too few businesses get this right.

When you’re helpful to buyers, you’re easier to trust, and you become easier to choose.

I didn’t want to write a book, but I had to. I had to dispel the myths that were running rampant about what buyer personas really are.

Most people think a buyer persona is a profile of a buyer and don’t realize it’s about understanding that buyer in the context of their buying decision.  
So they grab a stock image off the internet of someone who may look like their “target buyer” and give them a name.

They write down their pain points, their job description, and how they spend their time, and they think that’s the entire buyer persona.

It’s not. It’s a part of it, yes.

But a real buyer persona is able to tell you what your buyers are doing and thinking as they evaluate your solution to their problem.  
It’s about everything that matters to buyers from the time when they first realized they had a problem until they make the final decision to work with you or your competitor.

Buyer personas are amalgamations of multiple real people, but they are not made up out of thin air.

Typically companies would use surveys to help construct their buyer personas. The problem with surveys is that your questions will only give you answers to something you think is important.

There is no way to learn anything new from a survey. The questions are yours, and you are only validating or confirming what you already know, so this is a biased way to build a buyer persona.

What I recommend is talking to people who chose you and, more importantly, people who did not choose you, and asking them to tell you the story of how they decided to make that investment.

It’s a lot more like journalism than research. By keeping your questions open ended you allow the buyers to speak their minds and learn from them.

Ask the buyer to take you back to the day when they first observed they had a problem or a goal. As they’re telling their story, ask them to go deeper and deeper until you get the full picture.

Ask them about their mindset at various stages in their decision making process. How did they decide that one company was the best fit for their needs?

As you walk through their story with them you’ll uncover their attitudes and needs at each step in their decision.

Then just listen.

Listen and record the conversation whether it’s in person or over the phone.

It’s important to record because you then get a record of the subtle cues within their speech and their actual way of expressing their needs.

If you’re face to face don’t take notes, stay present with your customer and find a way to record the interview.

These conversations with real buyers are the only way to get the full story of what the buyer’s experience is like and what you need to do to improve that experience.


Action Steps

  1. Ask recent buyers to tell you a story about their buyer’s journey with your company and your competitors as they evaluated your product or service.
  2. Keep asking questions as they reveal the process from beginning to end, but don’t have scripted questions. Make it a conversation and ask lots of follow up questions.
  3. Record the conversation and don’t take notes if you’re face to face. Save the analysis for later.
  4. Ask them about their mindset and how they arrived at their conclusions at the various stages of the process.


Result You Will Achieve

Buyer personas that tell you what you need to do to earn your buyer’s trust and their business.

Mentor: Adele Revella

CEO of Buyer Persona Institute. Adele’s unique perspective derives from decades of experience as a sales and marketing executive, trainer, researcher and entrepreneur.

This article is based on an EHQ interview with the mentor.