Today’s post is the fourth in our series about buyer personas. (if you missed the last three posts, read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 here.) This week, let’s consider a part of the process I suspect most people leave out: the interview. OK, I admit it, I’ve done it too, but that doesn’t mean you should. It’s actually really important to know what influences buying decisions, not only for your customers, but also for those who didn’t buy from you.
Why do people skip interviewing their customers and prospects? Maybe they (think they) don’t have the time, or perhaps are uncomfortable asking people probing questions about their buying habits. It does take time to talk to people, but if you’re considerate of their time and keep the interview short, you’ll get the benefit of the shorter time, as well; not to mention, you’ll get real insight into their behaviors and motivations.
Formulate a Few Open-Ended Questions
Formulate a few questions you’ll begin with for your interviews. These probably won’t be the only questions you’ll address, since the conversation may take you in different directions, but they are a good place to start. Make sure your tone is that of an inquiry for your own education, not an inquisition.
You’ll do better with an unscripted conversation than a strict set of questions. Let the interviewees tell you what they want to communicate. That will tell you immensely more about them than if you ask questions they aren’t interested in answering. You’ll get more complete answers, and answers from the heart rather than just what they think you want to hear.
Remember to focus on motivating factors rather than demographic information. A lot of demographics are available on the internet. Your sales team may have a lot of that information already; or if it’s not available otherwise, you could email a short questionnaire before your interview.
During the interview, ask questions that will start to open up the conversation:
- Tell me about your goals. What were/are you trying to accomplish? How can we help you do that?
- What are you (the interviewee) chiefly responsible for? How does our product/service fit with that?
- How do you measure your success? How does your boss measure it?
- What challenges stand in the way of getting your job done? Do you ever feel limited in what you can do? What factors block your progress?
- What are your top 3 headaches right now?
- If you bought, why did you choose us? If you didn’t buy from us, did you buy from another company or not at all? What influenced your decision?
If you’re interviewing by phone, you can fill in answers directly on a worksheet as you talk — either writing by hand on a printed sheet or filling in the blanks on your computer screen. If you’re taking notes on your computer as you talk on the phone, we recommend NOT using a traditional keyboard that clicks, as this is distracting for a lot of people. If you have a virtually (sorry, pun intended) silent keyboard, that’s fine to use.
We’ve found that the best way to conduct the interview is to use a voice recorder — with permission, of course. That way, neither you nor your conversational partner will be distracted by your taking notes; you don’t lose any data to a faulty memory; and you might pick up some really helpful tidbits you missed during the actual conversation, as you transcribe the information to your worksheet.
Next week we will discuss putting all of this information together into a composite persona.
For a complete toolkit that gives you everything you need when creating buyer personas, click below: