One of the primary things potential clients tell me are some things along the lines of what percentage buyer personas they think they have to make . I’ve heard everything from one to fifty-two. The average is three to 5 B2B buyer personas.
But even beyond the number of personas to create, it’s deciding on which buyer personas make the most sense to invest the time, effort, and resource to develop. Which B2B buyer personas, when engaged, will help marketers drive contribution to revenues?

Let’s take on both of those questions. While you can build as many personas as you like, there’s a point of no return that you should be careful not to cross.

Which B2B Buyer Personas Should You Build?
Before you can answer the question about how many, you need to identify which personas are even in the running.

Quite often, the first thing I hear is that the client must have a C-suite persona. They are convinced that the higher they can get in the organization, the more sales they will be able to influence. This is rarely the case unless the solution the client sells is highly strategic or they sell to SMBs where the CXO is responsible for cross-functional roles and/or has a very limited team.

The better question for discovery is, “Who can the marketing team reach and engage successfully?

Who is doing the research and evaluation and recommending the answer to the choice maker? Quite often, what you find is that this person—lower down the hierarchy—is entrusted with the selection and the “decision maker” is just blessing their recommendation based on the business case they presented.

While the decision maker may be involved during various activities, such as sitting in on a vendor demo or discussing options, the true engagement is likely with those on their team they’ve entrusted to do the work of evaluating and selecting a solution.

3 Steps to Identify Worthy Buyer Personas
Start by talking to your sales team. After all, the reason to develop personas in the first place is to build an engaged audience of potential prospects who can and are likely to become customers. If you build personas in a vacuum, you could end up with a database of contacts that sales reps have no interest in talking to and who won’t ever buy from you.
Include a range of sellers – not just your star reps or account managers.
Ask them why they talk to those roles. Are they going in bottoms-up or are they reaching higher to get referred down? Note that this could be the reason marketers think they need a CXO persona. Or, do they pursue the buyer who will be in it for the duration from the start?
When you get this chance , you ought to also ask questions, such as:
What does an ideal company profile look like for X product?
Who else to they need to involve in making the decision? (who shows up at the demo and the on-site presentation?)
How long is the sales process from the time you get involved?
What questions do they ask you?
Which competitors do you see show up the most when you’re working deals?
What kind of obstacles or pushback do you encounter?
You may as well learn as much as you can quickly while you’ve got your sales team’s attention. And be sure to talk to them one-on-one so they aren’t influenced by their peers on the call or in the meeting. The answers to these questions will help you form an initial list of buyer personas for consideration. You may determine that the buying landscape looks a touch different than you thought.

As you have this conversation, also identify companies and contacts each salesperson thinks would be a good interview, so you can start building your list for interview requests moving forward. It’s great to get your sales team’s buy-in and build their excitement about the project. On most of my projects, their willingness to help with customer outreach makes the difference in getting this work done quickly.

Once you have your conversations with the sales team, make a list of the personas they named. Then look in your database to see who’s in your existing prospect pool.
Can you readily reach these roles? If you can’t, do you have the resources and runway to attract and engage them?
And, how clean is your database? Does work need to be done there first?
Can you segment your database according to the personas you’ve identified?
Segmenting a database by personas is sometimes not as simple as filtering by title. Buyer personas are not dictated by title, but rather by role.

For example, unless you’re also segmenting by company size, a CMO or VP of marketing in a small company could be the equivalent of a Director of Marketing at a mid-size company or a Marketing Manager at an enterprise company. You also need to identify other titles that could represent your persona, such as Director of Digital Marketing or Director of Demand Gen, and others specific to a certain role or business function.

Now determine how many buyer personas you can competently engage. In other words, do you have the resources to create content and programs for five personas right now? Or can you only confidently picture you and your team addressing one or two across the entirety of their buying process?
The reason I bring up these considerations is due to how fast things change. If you can only address one persona, then just create one. Otherwise, when you finally have the resources to address the others in six months, you’ll find out they’ve changed. I’ve seen this happen more than once and have had to resuscitate personas that were no longer accurate in order to activate them to effectively inform new marketing programs. Why do the work twice?