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C-suite Selling: Why Personas Are No Substitute For CXO Intelligence

Sharon Gillenwater

We talk to a lot of companies with "CXO engagement" initiatives. Most of them have invested a lot of time and money creating "personas" on target roles such as Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Information Officer. Below is a sample of a basic persona, though we have seen much more robust examples from some of our customers.

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Personas are a great starting point for understanding the general careabouts of your target audience in aggregate--but they are a poor substitute for doing your homework on specific CXOs. Interviews with CXOs show that they expect sellers to know about their business priorities and initiatives. Go in with a generic product pitch and you will probably not get another meeting.

Case in point: Back in 2012 every CIO persona out there listed BYOD as one of the CIO's top intiatives. But that same year, a top tech exec at Wells Fargo told CIO Journal that he was  “having none of ‘bring your own device.’” Imagine going into a meeting with that executive, touting your BYOD solution with no prior knowledge of his contrarian view. 

The reason companies love personas is because they seem like the proverbial silver bullets. But CXO engagement requires a deeper understanding of each CXO's priorities and initiatives. Your credibility depends on your ability to frame your offer in the context of their business. 

So be careful when using personas as the basis for your CXO engagement strategy. While they are certainly useful, they are no substitute for understanding your customer's CXO priorities.

When it comes to understanding CXO priorities, Boardroom Insiders executive profiles are about as close to a silver bullet as you can get. Want to learn more?

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Sharon Gillenwater
Written by Sharon Gillenwater
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.
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