Persona Classification and the Buying Committee: The What, How, and Why

By Win Salyards, Senior Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

Developing an accurate and actionable understanding of the B2B buying committee and the buyer personas that make it can be challenging, especially when your buying cycle is complex. The titles in an active buying committee can vary widely depending on the size of the company, the vertical, the industry, or one of the many other differentiating factors that makes your customers unique. So, how do you go about organizing and understanding your BC? You classify and generalize. Over the next three posts, I will break down the B2B buying committee and build an understanding of each persona type that could be included and the what, how, and why you should be classifying your personas this way. 

Persona Classifi-What? 

Persona classification breaks out the different buyer personas acting within the buying committee. Much like taxonomy in biology or the concept of archetypes in literature, persona classification should immediately clarify a persona’s role and how they relate to other buying committee members. And similar to taxonomy, persona classification has a bit of a hierarchy. The way I breakdown classification levels, from highest to lowest, is as such:

  • Power
    • What power do they wield within the buying committee?
  • Action
    • What are the steps they take during the buying process?
  • Concern
    • What are they most concerned with?

Power: Decision-Maker vs. Influencer vs. Validator

I break down types of power into three categories:

  • The power to influence
  • The power to say no, and
  • The power to say yes.

These categories determine whether a persona (and its associated titles) is classified as a decision-maker, influencer, or validator.

If they have the power to say yes, they’re a decision-maker.

If they primarily have the power to say no, they’re a validator.

And if they primarily have the power to influence, they are influencers.

If you’re familiar with this terminology, you may ask, “Where is the champion?” that’s where action comes in. 

Action: Where is the Champion? 

When I say ‘action,’ I refer to the activities the different personas take or are primarily responsible for during an accounts’ buying journey.

These can be loosely broken down into:

  • Research
  • Drive, and
  • Block

And this is how we identify the champion.

Champions are influencers who drive the buying process forward.

Rather than everyday influencers whose primary action is research, champions do both.

Regarding the third category, block, this action is how we can be sure if someone is primarily a decision-maker or validator because validators are hurdles or roadblocks to jump over before finalizing the final decision.

The process can stall when the validator gets involved during the buying process, which is why we frequently see legal, compliance, and security titles in validator roles.

In contrast, decision-maker roles can both drive and block

Concern: Is it IT? It’s IT.

The final persona classification is concern, and this is where we break things out into:

  • Business
  • Technical, or
  • Other varieties depending on the industry or product.

In this case, a concern is the focus of a persona’s actions.

For example, a business influencer researches the business case for a solution during the buying process, whereas a technical influencer researches the technical aspects of a potential solution.

Concerns can apply to any persona.

In some cases, there may be technical and business champions.

From the validator side, this is where you have legal, compliance, or risk validators, depending on their concern. 

 

This way of categorizing personas and how they relate to the buying committee makes it easier to understand how different titles can apply to a BC.

Next time I’ll go over how we can make this actionable. 

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