Like all generalizations, customer profiles don’t always perfectly describe the companies you’ll find. There will always be corner cases—like the company who’s both a customer and a competitor, for example—but the profiles are still useful time-saving heuristic. Pick their primary category and move on.
When I prospect through a list of thousands of companies, these customer profiles give me a rule of thumb by which to mindlessly eliminate most and quickly cull the list down to just the few hundred best options.
Step 2: Create your buyer personas
Within each company are the actual people who you will be selling to. We’re going to create profiles for them, which we’ll call buyer personas. Personas will help you know who specifically to target with your marketing and sales efforts.
You may have multiple buyer personas within each company because the person who controls the budget––also known as the decision maker––isn’t always the same person who wants to buy from you.
Here’s a scenario: A mid-level employee wants to hire you, but has to ask her boss. You have two personas: the buyer and the person who decides if she can buy. For much of your sales process, you’ll be helping those who want to buy, convince their boss or CEO that working with you is a good idea.
Decision makers often have titles like director, vice president, CEO, or procurement manager. When selling to a new company, always try to engage the highest ranking buyer persona first, otherwise selling will be an uphill battle. More on that later.
Below, you’ll see my ideal buyer persona. I’m lucky because my buyer persona usually happens to be the decision maker. They’re one and the same.
Marie the Marketing Director
Marketing Director at a software startup of 50-500 employees
Marie’s company sells an expensive software product and has lots of content plans but neither the staff nor the internal expertise to execute on them. Marie controls her own budget.
I developed this persona by looking at my current customers, 64 percent are female, 80 percent are directors, and almost all purchased because they needed more content. When I run ads, when I write articles, and when I message people on LinkedIn to sell to them, I’m doing it all with Marie in mind. If I try to speak to her and her needs, it’s more likely to resonate with my buyers.
If you don’t have customers to analyze yet, the next best thing to do is:
Ask other folks in the same line of business to explain what their buyer personas look like.
Find prospects, friends, or colleagues who are potential buyers and are willing to be interviewed.
Find interviewees who are potential buyers via sites like Craigslist, Quora, SurveyMonkey, or UserTesting (Authors note: no affiliation).
Use what you gather through these activities to create a prototype buyer persona, and then continue to refine as you go. Collect as much primary source material (writings, recordings, direct quotes) from your customers as possible for reference later. This is known as voice of customer (VOC) content and it’s critical for sounding authentic. For example, as a salesperson, I might describe my customer’s problem as “a lack of high-quality content” but they might call it “needing a better freelance writer.” If I said it my way, they might not even know what I was talking about. Always try to speak in terms of VOC.
For more detail on buyer personas, check out Hubspot’s guide on the subject.
Got that. What comes next?
Now that you know who your customers and buyers are, we’re going to learn about the different roles you’ll have in your business. To run a successful freelance enterprise, you should know how to be the:
Head of product
Head of marketing
Head of sales
Head of customer success
Each role owns a different piece of the sales process. Learn them, and learn when to be which. Switching back and forth may be stressful at first, but you’ll get used to it and you’ll build momentum. Whatever you do, don’t let up. A former sales leader of mine likened this whole sales process to boiling water: Once you spend enough effort to get it boiling, keep stoking the fire with periodic activity in each of these areas and don’t let up. Sustained effort will yield the right results.
This chapter’s key takeaways:
Create customer profiles (the companies).
Create buyer personas (the people).
Speak like your customers (VOC).
What you can do to take action right now:
Create a document or notebook where you can take notes as you go through this book.
If you have customers, analyze what you like or don’t like about them.
Do light research on 2 to 3 dream customers and list what makes them appealing.
Write out rough drafts for your customer profiles and buyer persona(s). Come back and add to them later on as you learn more.