• Sales personas are as diverse as buyer personas – therefore, portfolio marketers must have a deep understanding of their needs
  • Many B2B organizations have global account managers, solution specialists and sales engineers
  • Treating these three sales roles similarly would not produce the right results for sales or portfolio marketing

When you watch a hunter and his or her pointer dog at work, it is interesting to see how well they complement one another. Each brings specific capabilities that contribute to a successful hunt, but they also have very different needs.  

Portfolio marketers have a responsibility to enable the sales team with the knowledge they need to maximize their interactions with buyers. The reality for many B2B organizations is that even if they go to great lengths to understand the diversity and unique needs of their target buyers, they still enable their sales force as if it is one homogeneous group of people. When I was working for a large software company that sold highly complex solutions, we came across the following situation that may sound familiar for many organizations. Our sales team was divided into three groups:

  • Account managers. These sales reps looked after a small group of named accounts (two to four) that had significant revenue with the company. They invested time to understand their customers inside out and would position the entire portfolio of solutions through upsell and cross-sell engagements. Typically, the account managers had limited knowledge of the company’s solutions.
  • Solution specialists. These sales reps were responsible for and experts on a particular segment of the offering. They would position their own solution area into a named set of customers (20 to 40) that generated less revenue for the company. They would also be called in to support the global account manager on particular deals for their solution area with larger customers.
  • Sales engineers. The sales engineers were very technical people who could support sales groups with demos, proofs of concept and formal requests for information/proposals.

black dog jumping into water as man pointsWhen we went through the exercise of transforming our go-to-market strategy to become more audience- centric, we initially enabled our entire salesforce as one group. Needless to say, our success was limited. The messaging and sales plays we brought were good for the account managers, but too high level for the solution specialists. As a result, we were pulled into detailed discussions with the solution specialists that quickly bored our account managers. In the end, neither group was happy with our efforts – and never mind the sales engineers, whom we lost from the start.

Now, this is where the hunter and the pointer dog come into play. Solution specialists (i.e. hunters) need to be knowledgeable about the type of game they are hunting, the tools they can employ to hunt, and how to most efficiently make the kill. The account managers (i.e. pointer dogs) are running around in the bushes using their skills to go and find game. Once the account manager finds and points to an opportunity, it is up to the solution specialist to finish the task. Each deploys their unique talent and plays their part to close deals together.

Shortly after this exercise, we realized we had to equip both groups with completely different messaging and depth of knowledge. The account managers needed to know just enough about why a prospect would want to use the company’s solutions and tools so they could then lead the solution specialists to come in and help close the deal. The solution specialists needed more in-depth enablement to help buyers understand how the solutions would meet their needs. They also needed training on how to take leads from the account managers and maintain a buyer-focused conversation in a consistent tone of voice.

After the company adopted an audience-centric approach to sales enablement, we were able to get more mindshare for our product line from account managers, who had many offerings to choose from to make their number. For the speciality sales and sales engineers, we provided the depth they needed to speak with conviction and answer hard questions from buyers as they went deeper into the buying cycle.

The power of sales personas should not be underestimated when developing sales enablement strategies. By understanding the sales persona, portfolio marketers can drive sales enablement by crafting the right messages that resonate with each. The resulting alignment in engaging with the customer between the various sales groups ensures a consistent tone of voice throughout the buyer’s journey. Portfolio marketers must develop sales personas for each sales role, as they are the starting point for effective sales enablement programs. The SiriusDecisions Sales Knowledge Transfer Framework can help portfolio marketers establish a best-in-class sales enablement program that drives competitive differentiation.