How Sales Operations Can Breathe Life into the Sales Strategy

December 10, 2012 at 7:00 AM

buyer persona sales strategy trainingAs the Sales Operations leader, you connect the company strategy to field execution.  Your work needs to breathe life into the plan and put it into action.  Lose sight of the most important thread and you’ll shoot even the best strategy right between the eyes.  Regardless of what you do, you have to keep the buyer in the forefront.

Directing Sales Operations is one of the most challenging tasks out there.  Limited resources and lukewarm support from sales leadership can make the job thankless.  You have a full plate and the tasks you carry out are crucial to sales’ success.  You feel like there’s no other team pulled in as many directions as yours.

Make All You Do Buyer-Centric

Put the buyer perspective at the core of all that you do and you’ll make a difference.  You’ll have a direct and positive impact on revenues.  Your team will be seen as it should – as the glue between the plan and the action.

Today, we’ll take a look at just one piece of Sales Operations efforts and how to connect them to the buyer.  Specifically, I’ll discuss designing sales training focused on Buyer Personas.  In future posts, we’ll cover other important Sales Ops efforts and how to build them around the buyer.

Click here to download our grading tool to see how buyer-centric your Sales Operations efforts are.

Buyer-Centric Sales Training Scorecard

The very first step – have Buyer Personas built for all of the major buyers your company should target.

Before that can be done, let’s make sure we have a common definition of a Buyer Persona:

Buyer personas are research-based modeled representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, how they think, what goals drive their behaviors, how they buy, and why they make decisions.

If these don’t exist in your company, the effort has to start right now.  You as the Sales Operations leader can be integral in this work.  If it’s not yet been done, click here for a post by SBI’s Tony Zambito for guidance.

Train Your Sales Team on the Buyer

We’ve all been there before: The new class of sales reps comes onboard.  You make sure your training materials are up to date.  Org charts and product PowerPoint decks are checked.  How to enter all the info needed for your CRM is reviewed.  Administrative information and company history is shared.  Who are the competitors and what are their SWOT’s, etc., etc.

But what about the Buyer?  After your newly minted sales reps complete their training, ask them the following:

  • Who are our most important buyer personas?
  • What are our buyer journey steps from “Not in the Market” through to Purchase? 
  • List 5 questions each Persona asks throughout the journey?
  • What triggers move each of the Personas along the buying journey?
  • What are the objectives, obstacles and success measures for each persona?
  • What are their feelings during the buying process?  Are they insecure about making the right purchase?  What are their fears and how can you alleviate them?  Are they usually skeptical about a vendor’s ability to deliver results?

Chances are that your new hires won’t have the answers.  They’ll know your product features and benefits.  They’ll have been trained on the Sales Process.  They’ll know how to get pricing and use contract templates.  But, if they aren’t trained to understand the buyer in a very intimate way, the rest won’t matter too much.

Fix Your Training

Back to the first step – make sure your company has buyer personas.  Personas aren’t created with one marketing guy and some market research from two years ago.  Personas require focused research into the buyer.  Again, take a look at this post for more detail on conducting Persona research.

When you build your training, how are the buyer personas woven into all the content?  You must stitch the buyer perspective in all of your sales training or you’ve blown up the strategy:

  • Devote at least 30% of your new-hire training to your buyer personas – who they are, what they feel, how they buy, what are their goals and how they are measured.
  • When training on products, have real-life customer feedback.  What do they consider to be the benefits?  Don’t rely on the product team to tell you – they’ll say the benefits are whatever they’re most proud of building in.  Make sure this comes from the customer directly.
  • When training on the sales process, ensure it is buyer-centric.  At each step of the process, what is the buyer asking themselves?  What does the buyer need – not what do you think they need – to move from Consideration of solutions to Solution Preference?  The list goes on.
  • Training on Lead Generation or Lead Management: Train your reps on how prospects get educated and keep up on market trends.  Use buyer-specific examples of how they figure out they have a problem and become aware of your solutions.  Show your reps the Content Marketing efforts of the company and how it aligns to the buying process.

Your sales strategy has to begin and end with the Buyer.  For you to successfully link strategy and execution, start with how you train reps.  Train them on the buyer – their motivation, how they buy and what they think.

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Topics: Content Marketing, Buyer Personas, Sales Training, Sales Operations Strategy

Posted by Patrick Seidell

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