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The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Website Personas: A Practitioner’s Guide – Customizing your Personas for the Sales Team (7 of 7)

The persona series to this point focused on personas built specifically for website design teams. True, they can be utilized by teams from other functions (customer service, advertising, lead-gen, content producers), but the needs of those other teams often dictate an additional or alternate phase.  This is particularly the case with sales teams. Our customers tend to be large corporations, so their sales people typically operate in territories and are less likely to be found in single-location clusters.  This makes the training component of the persona process more difficult – often impossible — to coordinate.  And while workers in most corporate disciplines these days operate under the stresses of deadlines and performance goals, the stress on sales people is typically higher (often much higher) than that in other functions.  The pressure to “make the number” every month or quarter makes it difficult for sales people to take two days (plus a day of travel) to attend a persona workshop, no matter how compelling the value proposition may be.  Persona deliverables for sales teams must therefore accommodate their particular circumstances and success criteria. The persona deliverable favored by sales these days is the infographic – a long-form poster that strives to convey the essence of a (complex) subject in an entertaining, visually engaging, and readily grasped format.  Infographics have become immensely popular because so many of them are so very clever.  A quick visit to www.bestinfographics.com, for example, never fails to turn up an amazing variety of topics, formats, and organizing themes.

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Figure 1: Design inspiration is readily available

Content dictates format

Unlimited design options can present challenges as well as opportunity, but infographic content should always dictate the form.  For personas in which the value is largely predictive, words matter more than numbers or images, so our infographics (oxymoronically, I know) strive for creativity with text-based images. For a sales audience, the primary content should be the personas’ imperatives (what they believe they MUST have or do), along with the all-important causal underpinnings.  For the persona of a Chief Information Officer, therefore, an example of an imperative and its underpinning might be:

I must be included in earliest stages of strategy-setting … because it will reduce the time, cost, and risk of deploying strategy-critical technologies.

Both parts of the insight are essential for the sales person hoping to sell to a CIO.  The “imperative” allows the sales person to understand the beliefs driving the CIO’s behavior.  The “causal” explanation allows the sales person to understand why the CIO thinks that way and provides the basis for predictive extrapolation. We typically identify between seven and 10 of these imperative-and-cause items.  They become the focal point of the design. To give equal emphasis to both aspects, we favor juxtaposing them in contrasting colors in a side-by-side (“versus”) format.

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The full set of these key insights becomes the design element around which the rest of the infographic takes form.

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The rest of the content can introduce, follow, or surround this focal point. For personas intended as sales targets, we typically will include the persona’s view of his or his department’s mission, and what a typical sales person must be able to offer before he can hope to get the persona’s time and attention.  We might arrange the question and, in this case, two-part answer, around a well-known dual-faceted icon:

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Insights into how to sell to the persona should also include, where appropriate, his or her decision-making process.  This can be rendered as a flowchart or a sequence or, as illustrated here, a simple checklist.  Checklists (by their anal, left-brain nature) can typically stand a little jazzing up.  But unless you’re very creative, it’s just lipstick on the pig.

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We will supplement these “sales essentials” with industry- or role-specific data points.

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Infographics will typically be add-ons to the primary multi-viewpoint deliverable, so there’s generally no need to clutter them unnecessarily with demographics and other life/career details.  Great quotes or cartoons, however, can always find a place, since they typically deliver insight in a concise, memorable way. (Click here to see full CIO infographic)

Where to start

The Web is awash with infographic tools, templates, and instruction.  You will be lucky if you find a template designed specifically for persona presentation; you will be extremely lucky if you find one that accommodates predictive personas and the content attributes they dictate.  If you are adept and creative, however, you can build your own template and adapt it for the different formats your various audiences might require.  Just as a persona intended for use by a sales team needs to be different from a persona aimed at a web design team, so will the needs of a customer service audience differ from those of a lead-gen team or a tech support team.

Tying training into infographics or typing infographics into the training

Predictive personas for sales teams must be designed to be effective without persona training.  Technique for using the infographic for predictive purposes, however, should be demonstrated by building and posting a short (2-minute) video using the infographic content by way of illustration. If your circumstances do allow you to incorporate training, one of the most valuable team exercises you can run is that of producing infographics.  This is especially effective if you are able to provide a template the teams can use.  You can label the content areas and let them fill in the data points, or you can let them define their own content blocks.  Either way, the exercise in reducing the beliefs, behaviors, and experiences from the primary deliverable into a more convenient, easily-digested infographic is an excellent way for a team to take ownership and get into the mind and the guts of their personas.

– Roger Beynon, CSO, Usability Sciences

Interested in talking with us about Personas? Contact us.

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