The Problem With Not Knowing Your Buyers

buyers buyer personas
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Tony Zambito

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Lack of insights about buyers creates an inability to solve problems

Over the last twenty years, since founding the concept of buyer personas, I have worked with many leaders.  Leaders that are responsible for their overall business, marketing, or sales functions.  What I often hear is the need to get more insights about their buyers and customers.  Especially when something is not going according to plan.  Something simply is not working. 

That something can be related to:

  • Growth plans have fallen short
  • Competitors have made significant inroad
  • Marketing plans miss the mark
  • Sales have fallen way short of the target
  • Customer churn is increasing

You get it.  Problems multiply and they are interrelated.  And when they do present themselves, you can hear as well as feel the urgency.

Many of the problems encountered can usually be traced back to not knowing enough about buyers and customers.  Even after requesting numerous analytical reports, leaders are left wanting.  Wanting answers to what is happening and why these problems exist.

A tendency usually seen in these situations is the quick jump to assuming problems are related to tactical shortcomings.  That there must be inefficiencies in the way marketing or sales is being done or the performance of their teams.  Rather than not knowing enough about their buyers.

When I ask leaders what they want to know, I can tell if they have made this jump to assuming problems are due to primarily tactical shortcomings.  For example, here is a sampling:

  • “I need to know what they think of us and our salespeople.”
  • “Why did they choose our competitors over us.”
  • “What are the common objections they have?”
  • “What content do they read when evaluating our products?”
  • “What makes us different when compared to our competitors?”

These are just a sampling of responses.  What they have in common is they are more about wanting to know about tactical shortcomings rather than having a deeper understanding of buyers. 

As part of coaching leaders on how to lead in a buyer-focused manner, I point out something that goes like this:

“Do you realize what you want to know and what you asked for is a basic sales-oriented win/loss analysis?”

Pointing out that the problem with not knowing buyers is you are left with looking internally.  Rather than being focused on how to help buyers meet their goals, challenges, and solve perplexing problems. 

Just as I saw twenty years ago, I continue to see win/loss analysis be misrepresented as buyer insights and what buyer personas are based on.  When I founded the concept of buyer personas, one of the reasons I did so was because of the shortcomings of the win/loss analysis. 

They have their place in measuring sales effectiveness, but they are not a substitute for the deeper understanding of buyers that will get you the answers you really need.  And you are still left with the problem of not knowing your buyers.