Solution selling: stakeholder personas

stakeholders Porter ConsultingAl Morgan, Director of Solution Marketing and Dale Rensing, Porter Consulting Senior Market Analyst

In our previous blog, we discussed how important solution selling has become and the complexity it introduces. We also outlined three steps one can take to be successful at marketing solutions. They include:

  1. Establish stakeholder persona templates
  2. Map content delivery according to the buyer’s journey
  3. Focus on role-specific message marketing that targets value propositions to each stakeholder

Let’s take a closer look at how establishing stakeholder persona templates can support the solution selling process.

Know Your Customer

No matter what you are trying to sell, it’s important to know your customer well enough to understand his or her aims, issues and objectives. If you’re selling speed and the customer is looking for reliability, you could miss out on an opportunity for a sale by focusing your message on the wrong aspect of your solution.

What’s especially tricky with solution selling is that there are multiple people (aka stakeholders) involved in the decision making process. The number of people you need to know has increased exponentially. The good news is that, with most solution sales, the decision making process usually centers around four key roles; the Influencer, the Problem Owner, the Blocker, and the Decision Maker.

Find Commonalities

Developing personas for each of these stakeholders allows you to establish a rich profile for the key roles involved. Personas help you capture their challenges, their position, specific behaviors, purchase drivers and other characteristics. When you frame the business interests of the actual people involved in the decision making process, you can better develop marketing programs to directly address their needs and more effectively engage with them.

Take Differences into Account

While all personas have an interest in the final solution, their points of view and goals are often different and may conflict. Though they all ultimately want to move forward, each one has different needs and motivations. Understanding their unique requirements can help you to address these and show how your solution can be a win-win for everyone.

In brief, the four specific stakeholder roles can be summarized as follows:

  • Influencer – the champion for the solution and the door opener for the right vendor
  • Problem Owner – the one who has the problem/issue and needs a solution
  • Blocker – someone who can stop the project from moving forward
  • Decision Maker – the one with whom the final decision resides

In order to persuade each individual, you need a greater understanding of all their goals and motivations. They will have technical as well as business objectives that need to be met.

Influencer: The Influencer tends to be a senior manager, perhaps an IT manager, technology architect, or a sales or marketing program manager–one who generally reports to and counsels decision makers. This person has insight into the project plan and issues. Often an innovator interested in cutting edge solutions, the Influencer knows why the solution is necessary, what the issues are, and the value the right solution will bring to the company. Commonly referred to as the Door Opener, he or she can introduce you to the Problem Owners and Decision Makers. The Influencer will be on the lookout to ensure that the vendor meets all the demands and needs.

Problem Owner: The Problem Owner is often both technical and business savvy. Ranging from IT managers to senior sales and marketing managers, the Problem Owner knows a great deal about the company, products and specific brands. Because he or she is focused on obtaining solutions to meet the business needs, as well as providing a plan for growth and flexibility, efficiency and cost are important. This person is looking to resolve problems quickly and efficiently with minimal risk in terms of delays or cost overruns. The Problem Owner is looking for a vendor they can trust and rely on to provide and support the solution.

Blocker: The Blocker is someone who does not want either this type of solution or yours specifically. The Blocker is loyal to another solution–either something that already exists or possibly a competitor’s product. Sometimes the Blocker appears because other internal teams have similar agendas. Any number of people can act as the blocker – IT directors, managers, SMEs (subject matter experts), specific product supporters, or a line of business manager. The Blocker can be very persuasive because he or she sees the solution as a threat to his or her job and position. The Blocker tends to not like change. Convincing this person that the change can positively affect him or her can be important to winning the sale.

Decision Maker: Often a member of the highest levels of an organization, whether it be CIP, CEO, CMO, CFO, VP of IT or line of business executive, the Decision Maker may not initially be involved in the project but is the one who will approve the chosen vendor, budget, and timeline. This person is influenced by the Problem Owner and Influencer who present the need, solution and justification to the Decision Maker in order to keep the project moving forward. A highly respected and seasoned business executive that is both business and technically savvy, the Decision Maker relies on the Problem Owner and Influencer to provide the best options and then will choose from the most qualified candidates.

In our next blog on solution selling, we will explore how marketers can best map content delivery according to the buyer’s journey so your messages will be received at appropriate and opportune moments by each persona.

At Porter, we understand this process in-depth. We start by interviewing a broad swath of marketing, sales, presales, and even channel partners that touch deals and customer. We focus on what matters to each role of the decision team and why. Once we build the model, we can recommend content, tools, and strategies to embed our sponsor’s message as we travel on the buyer’s journey together.

If you’ve had experience in developing personas and applying them to developing content and collateral, we’d love to hear about it.


Al brings 30 years of IT solutions marketing to bear on current marketing and sales challenges.  Technologies change constantly, but it still takes content, skills and confidence to win the big decisions. You can find more blogs and content from Al at www.porterconsulting.net.  Porter Consulting is a marketing services consulting company who can you help you grow revenue.

Dale Rensing has been helping customers envision the benefits of technology, from local area networks to cloud technologies and IoT for over 25 years.  You can find more blogs and content from Dale at www.porterconsulting.net.  Porter Consulting is a marketing services consulting company who can you help you grow revenue.

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