How Morgan J Ingram Helps Companies Build a Scalable Foundation for Persona-Based Prospecting

Collin Stewart, CEO

03 May 2018

If you’ve ever been on the frontlines of sales development (as many of our readers are, or have been), you know the importance of understanding the roles and business motivations of the people you speak with.

Put another way, you know an intimate understanding of the personas you sell to is critical for your job. Sounds like such an elementary piece of the job, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, all too often a detailed understanding of – and comprehensive process to address – a company’s buyer personas is left unfulfilled. Sure, there may be some information in an onboarding document, and some training sessions on who the target(s) are.

But, ultimately, building an intricate knowledge of personas – their wants, needs, and objections – falls on SDRs to incorporate into their always crazy day-to-day.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. In fact, it shouldn’t be, says Morgan J. Ingram, Director of Sales Execution and Evolution at international sales training consultancy, JBarrows. Having no clear and scalable process for categorizing and prospecting to the various personas that buy from you will not bring you sustained success.

“It really comes down to the fact that every organization should have some sort of process in place for your success. And when it comes to prospecting, outreach, and messaging, if there is no structure and no streamlined process, there is no process for success,” says Ingram, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“But there are steps you can take to have a foundational structure, so that every time you reach out to an account, they see that you have done your research, you’ve done your profiling, and it prompts a response. That’s what a foundational structure is: it allows you to plug and play with any rep you have, based on their personality, and see success across the board. And, it’s scalable as well.”

Building Personas

The building blocks for a scalable, persona-based prospecting process is, you guessed it, effective personas. According to Ingram, drafting those critical sketches is initially determined by the maturity of your organization.

For example, if you work for a large or mid-size organization, you probably have a good idea of who buys from you, and why. If you’re lucky enough to be in that position, Ingram suggests establishing a clearly defined persona-based research document for the company. That can be done, says Ingram, on a simple Google doc and should include all of the research you compile for each requisite persona (potential objections, concerns, possible trigger events etc.). Everyone who needs it should have access to that doc.

If you don’t know your personas, you’re going to have to do a good amount of A/B testing and messaging to figure out who is responding, and who is resonating with your reach outs, adds Ingram. And once that is complete, make sure you meticulously record everything in a shared document.

“Leadership needs to be involved in this as well. Leadership should give guidance, and get everyone involved in this process,” says Ingram.

“I’ve realized that reps are more confident when leadership is involved. This is not homework, it’s a team project.”

Putting Those Personas to Work

Of course, once you have those personas built-out, it’s time to put that data to work.

In your prospecting tool (whatever it may be), Ingram suggests building individual cadences for each of the personas you’ve researched. This is critical point: you want those unique cadences because personas often have different motivations, or use different language, and your messaging should reflect those distinct characteristics.

How granular you choose to be with your unique cadences depends on the industry you sell, adds Ingram. For instance, if you are selling to the enterprise, you may want to be very granular in your prospecting approach because massive companies have so many roles, each with different responsibilities.

Most sales teams, however, are probably going after fewer distinct titles. For example, a Director of Sales Development and a VP of Sales Development, probably have the same agenda, at the end of the day. So, if you’re selling to a sales department where that is the case, you don’t need to have unique cadences for each of those different jobs.

“I mean, if you see it in your customer success journey that a VP of Sales and Director of Sales are actually quite different, than address it,” says Ingram.

“But, if you don’t need to go super deep, don’t.”

In addition to giving your SDRS tailored messaging to work with, having this level of organization will also save your reps valuable time. When you have a new lead, for example, adding the to your CRM and getting them into a campaign is very quick process. You know where they belong, and you know you have the right messaging for them.

Phone Calls

Just as each unique persona requires distinct messaging, so too does each unique persona require a dedicated talk track on the phone.

“Each persona I call, my value prop is a bit different because their priorities are different. Of course, each job title will give you a different objection,” says Ingram.

“You will learn that over time. But, to help you out, you should be writing those out and learning how to handle them.”

That said, you never know how a person will respond…until they respond. Some prospects genuinely like being sold to. Some hate it. And, to make things even more complicated, you never know the unique personalities of your SDRs until they get some experience under their belt. For example, some SDRs might prefer a more direct, forceful approach to sales. Others, however, might prefer a more gentle tone in their prospecting.

To stay on top of all of those moving parts, Ingram recommends SDRs have a nuanced talk track that includes different routes a call could go. And, just like the research that goes into establishing the personas for the organization, these nuanced talk tracks require research and should be routinely added to by each SDR.

Because that’s what persona-based sales requires – research, testing, and detail. You need to know who you’re reaching out to, and it needs to be done in a way that’s comfortable and genuine.  

Any by building a scalable foundation for persona-based prospecting, you’re giving your SDRs every opportunity to do so.

For more on Ingram’s thoughts on personas and prospecting, check out his recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.