Buyer Persona: 5 Reasons Yours Might Be Flawed

Your new hot-shot sales rep says he did all of his research and memorized your buyer persona. He sits down with you and goes over all of the selling points he needs to land a high-value client, and he seems excited to bring in his first major sale since he joined up with your company.

There’s determination in his eyes as he dials the phone to get in touch, and after the third phone call, he gets a response. His introductions are flawless, and he mentions how your company’s product is the solution they’ve been waiting for…

“Thanks, but we actually don’t have that problem.”

Your sales rep might have committed the buyer persona to memory, but that doesn’t mean it’s accurate information.

Buyer personas are great tools for addressing your prospects’ needs before learning more about them. But, there are a few common mistakes that sales leaders make that lead to buyer personas that don’t fit their audience.


1. It has too small of a data set

The main point of a buyer persona is to represent the buyer that’s most likely to need your product or service. But, if you base this buyer persona on the five clients you landed last week, that buyer is just going to look similar to those five people.

You can’t make a portrait of your most common buyer if you aren’t looking at the whole range of people you sell to. That’s like applying for the Olympic 100m dash when your only competition so far has been a group of twelve-year-olds. 

Researching a buyer persona takes extensive conversations with a wide range of clients. But, the earlier you give up, the more likely you are to misrepresent your audience.


2. It’s one out of hundreds

It’s not always about how accurate the buyer persona is. You can base your sales strategy around Manager Martin, but if he’s in an alphabetical folder between Manager Mandy and Manager Mary, your personas are probably too specific.

The best part about buyer personas is that they have broad characteristics that shape your sales strategy. If your team is basing their selling points around the specific needs of a single client, you’re undermining the whole point of a buyer persona.

Sales reps need to look at a buyer persona and form a strategy around how their pain points are affecting them, not by what Accounting Andy likes to do in his free time.

If you have a wide range of profiles for any new client, try making three or four buyer personas out of your existing buyer personas. By having a set of general traits, your team can still get a great starting point, without losing their ability to think on their toes. 


3. You had to dust it off

If your buyer personas are on a cobweb-ridden shelf next to a set of floppy disks and your company’s old rotary phone, it might be time for an update.

Your clients don’t want the same things they wanted a few decades ago. But, even the difference of a few years can make your buyer personas outdated. 

A wide range of things can give companies less of a reason to take interest over time. Maybe a competitor took over the industry, and you need to change up your target audience. Maybe a recent discovery led to fewer people needing your product or service. Or maybe, a pandemic hits, and you need to change gears and find a different use for your products (unlikely, I know).

Keep your customer profiles fresh by interviewing more recent clients and fitting them into your buyer personas. Just make sure you don’t go overboard with your newer customers.


4. It’s only based on new clients

While having buyer personas that are too old is a serious issue, basing them only on your more recent buyers is just as bad.

Your newer customers all have one thing in common: they bought your product. That may seem like a prime target for buyer personas, but what about the people you didn’t land? Why didn’t they sign on with your company?

Buyers that sign on with other companies are arguably more useful than the ones you had success with. They went somewhere else, and they know something that your company doesn’t. Between new pain points, and competing offers, your buyer personas will be much more useful if you have data from all types of prospects that your sales team comes across.


5. It has too many assumptions

You know what they say about assumptions, right? 

Don’t make them.

That’s the way I remember it at least. Buyer personas need to reflect what real people are thinking when they consider making a purchase. Some sales leaders will just take information from sales reps and product experts to make a buyer persona.

But that’s only one side of the story.

The only people that know how your buyers think are your buyers. So, even if you need to offer some extra incentive for an interview, it’ll all be worth it when you start targeting the right pain points with your sales strategies.


The thing is, there’s no flawless buyer persona.

Buyer personas are fake people for a reason. There’s no perfect buyer that represents every person your team will come across in their sales process.

Buyer personas have flaws that can mislead your sales team if they’re relying on them too heavily. The two most important virtues in sales are knowing how to research your clients and adapting your selling points to that information with the buyer persona in mind.