Knowing the persona of your prospective buyer is foundational to your success. You define the persona of the prospect you want to move to becoming your customer or donor.

As a friend of mine explained it, the brain is naturally wired to consume information and make decisions in a certain flow. So when we follow the natural decision-making pathways of the brain, as sales people we can be more successful.

As I talked with my friend more, I realized this is exactly the kind of information you could use. So I asked him if I could share his “insider” knowledge with my realtor friends. This blog post is the first of a series that will show you how to use neuroscience.

First, a bit of background. My friend’s name is Gary Hennerberg. He’s the author of “Crack the Customer Mind Code, Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” His marketing campaigns have gone to tens of millions of people, have been translated into four languages, and has sold many millions of dollars of products and services. He knows his stuff.

In his book, he describes seven pathways in the mind that influence how people make decisions.

The first “pathway” to “YES!” is to know the persona of who you’re selling. Since Gary is kind of a heady guy, you might want to know what he means by “persona.” Here’s what he says:

It’s vital that we understand the basis of the personality (or persona) of the audience so we can relevantly communicate and be aligned with how the mind thinks. To get to the persona of our prospective customer we must dig deeper than basic demographics, lifestyles or interests. 

In ancient Latin, the word persona meant “mask.” And “mask” is an interesting metaphor as we think about an individual’s persona, because people often place a mask over their true personality. Peel it off, and we may expose emotions surprisingly different than what we would have expected.

Breaking through requires that we think deeply about our customer and give them a reason why they should listen to us. While it’s helpful to know underlying demographics and interests about our customer, those are not likely the tipping points that lead to a prospect becoming a customer.

It’s Hennerberg’s observation there are 12 foundational personas. Usually one of these is the dominant persona, but occasionally two or three can be blended for a more universal view of your most likely customer. Chances are, too, that you’ll want to modify these or you’ll decide that your product or service has its own distinctive persona. What’s most important is that you take the first step to identify the personality of your customer.

Here are the twelve, all written in first person:

1. Trailblazers/Early Adopters
Deep down, I yearn to be the first to acquire what’s new. I’m an “innovator.” I thrive on blazing a new trail with what’s new and cutting edge. I will stand in line for hours to be the first to acquire the latest, greatest, and newest product as it is being introduced. Ahead of the curve? That’s me! It makes me feel important. Some call me a geek.

I have the money and financial means to be ahead of the pack. Yeah, I know the prices are often higher to be the first to have it. But it’s worth it to me. I want to be the first to have everything, so that I can flash it around.

I’m passionate and deeply desire to be among the few in the know so I can acquire it first. And when I find something new and cool that I really like, you can bet I’m going to advocate the product and become an evangelist for the product creator. But companies should beware: if the product sucks, I’ll tell the world. I’m always online, chatting, posting, and making my opinion known. My friends and I stick together to alert everyone of product fails.

2. My Brand/My Lifestyle/My Growth
My personal brand demands attention. My look, lifestyle, and personal growth they are all at the core of my being. The fact is when I receive a compliment of any kind, my head swells with pride. I love to be glitzy glamorous, and when I’m flattered, it reinforces that I am eternally young. You might call me a fashionista. If looking good above all else means being physically uncomfortable, then that’s the way it is.

I’m comfortable spending money, so I can brag about the experience. My lifestyle choices and brand are made to position myself as the envy of people around me. I want to imagine myself as a jet setter who travels extensively and who dresses the part.

It’s also important to me that I grow my mind and my skills because knowledge is highly valued and is a part of my personal brand. Possessing an intellectual acumen for leadership positions me as someone who is important. 

3. Money Matters
I’m a practical and sensible person. I have common sense. My decisions are usually based on a combination of price and value. I don’t always look for the lowest price in every situation, but I do look for the greatest value, and I’m careful with my money. I’m frugal. I work hard. I don’t believe in needlessly spending my money. I don’t need thrills or frills. Most important to me is accumulating money, not possessions.

I wish the world were more sensible. I know I can’t change the world, but I think I can be of influence to people around me. How I spend money becomes a badge that I wear on my sleeve. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not seeking notoriety. I really don’t even seek attention. Rather, I quietly lead my life with a certain smugness that will ultimately enable me to live comfortably. I don’t want the financial pressures that so many people feel. For me, money matters a lot. I will seek out the greatest value I can find, and I will be quietly proud of my accomplishment.

4. On Financial Edge
I always feel strapped. My credit isn’t very good. I often don’t fit in to traditional financial services and banking. Unfortunately I’m not always able to pay my bills on time. 

It’s a struggle. I’m not proud of my situation, but I do the best I can to manage my finances. Sometimes I just overspend. I’m not good at math. I guess my reading skills aren’t so good either. I don’t tend to pay a lot of attention to accountability. I go about my life not realizing that I have exhausted all of the money available to me. Other times it’s just that I don’t make enough money to pay all the bills. As the saying goes, “there’s too much month left at the end of the money.”

I’ll admit I don’t know how to manage money. It wasn’t taught to me. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention in school.

I’m doing my best, but I sometimes fall short of what the world expects of me. I live paycheck to paycheck. I’m afraid of people taking advantage of me, yet I’m often open to helping others just like me. I’m part of my silent community. That’s my life and I struggle to make changes and improvements to my standard of living.

5. Right Thing to Do: Taking the High Road
I’m a person who takes the high road. I make decisions based on what are right for me, my family, my health, the environment, and more. My persona is one who judges and makes decisions that are based on if a product or cause supports my belief system of doing the right thing. Sometimes I will fall on a sword for any cause. Some say I’m an activist.

I believe every decision should be based on if it’s the right choice to support whatever deep-seated values I possess. A decision must support my belief system, or I will have misgivings and buyer’s remorse. I feel affirmed when decisions give me permission to feel good about myself, the people around me, the earth, and our culture.

I recycle. I try to choose food that is nutritious or organic, and grown with as little negative impact on the earth as possible. I drive a fuel-efficient vehicle. In the back of my mind, I must know that my purchase decisions won’t have a negative impact on culture or the world around me. I want to see, from marketers, how their product is the right choice for me. Cost isn’t always an issue.

The world and our culture will spiral downward unless we all participate in turning things around. I don’t want to have any regrets. I will do my part. I wish other people would share my sentiments. I’m fearful we will leave the world in a worse place than it was given to us. My righteous-based decisions are my small way of making myself and the world a better place. I sleep better at night when I have taken the high road.

6. Love and Social Relationships
My life revolves around relationships. I am affirmed by love and acceptance from loved ones, family and friends. I’ll admit that sometimes I’m insecure about myself. I highly value being loved, wanted and desired. I need to have a partner in my life to feel fulfilled. When that happens, all is well in the world. Without a life partner, there is emptiness that I crave to have filled. I turn to family and friends to fill that void. The center of my life is to be liked, and I seek affirmations for everything I do.

My purchase decisions are influenced by what my friends will think about me. I am naturally attracted to anything that could make me more lovable and likable to others. I love being active on social media. I am careful about the photos I post because I want them to be a statement about me. Selfies with influential people are important to me, and I will regularly post about those experiences. It affirms who I am and it elevates my self-worth.

7. Adrenaline Seekers: Opportunists
I am convinced that I can beat the system. Whenever there is an opportunity or chance that I will prevail “over the man,” I experience a physical adrenaline rush. Money isn’t the big motivator. Feeling that I can beat the system or beat the house—whether it’s the stock market or a casino—gives me a rush like none other.

I can smell opportunity, and I play to win. Money is a scorecard. I don’t always need to win a big pile of cash; I just need to score. A small win is still a win, and it’s worthy of bragging rights. I’m a realist, but I’m also a dreamer. I like to be given the opportunity to see myself as part of the story and dream big because when that happens, my adrenaline motivates me to play along.

I’m a risk taker and I crave winning. Losing isn’t taken easily, but it happens. However, you’re not going to hear about any of my losses. My losses are quickly erased from my memory grooves and they’re replaced with the memory of past wins. Adrenaline gushes when I’m introduced to an opportunity that I sense is an alternative to traditional approaches.

8. Safe Players
I play my life safely. I don’t like to take risks. For that reason, I’m often sought after by my risk-taking friends because I am a problem solver. I think of myself as unassuming in my approach to buying decisions. Financial risks are out of the question. All my earthly possessions are important to me, and I protect and nurture them. I am fearful of making a decision that will result in loss, and losses aren’t limited to only money. As a professional, my belief in safety extends into my relationships with clients. I’ll admit that I am more pessimistic than optimistic about outcomes. I tend to doubt some choices that I make, so I approach things very carefully.

I am inclined to create a firewall around myself so that I don’t have to deal with problems. I think of myself as a problem solver. I am loyal to organizations that help keep me safe.

9. Hiding My Compulsion
I have deep-seated compulsions that need to be regularly fed. Usually I hide them. I’m aware of my compulsions and how destructive they can be to me, both physically and mentally. I yearn for normalcy and continually seek out how to lead a normal life. Secrecy is paramount. Anything I see from marketers must be discreet and private.  I want to see support from organizations about what can be done to help what eats away at my core. 

There are dozens, probably hundreds, of niche compulsions like mine. Some of those compulsions are painfully apparent and obvious to people, yet some are not. The key for a marketer is to respect my boundaries and barriers. For them to break through requires a certain degree of sensitivity. They must build trust and empathy. It will take time and it will require proof. I’m unlikely to reach out to peers for advice or recommendations, so my social interaction is kept to a minimum. But once an organization has earned my trust, I will be loyal to the core.

10. Fifty Plus
I may be over the age of 50, but that’s just a number. Being over 50 is a mindset. I have daily reminders that I am aging. There are the daily physical reminders, but as I reach middle age, I recognize that my priorities are changing. My family is growing up. Grandchildren remind me that there is a circle of life. Career aspirations change and retirement looms ahead.

Honestly, I’m tired. There may be other baby boomers who are invigorated, just like the ads I see on TV, but deep down inside, I think it’s a front. I wish I could go back in time, as I evoke memories of my youth. I feel that I am on the edge to being beyond the middle age curve. Priorities can change overnight. Suddenly children are young adults and have moved out of the house. My parents are aging, and I see a role reversal, where I am now their caregiver. 

Life is often stressful and frightening. My basic survival is front and center. Once upon a time, I imagined enjoyment of later years in my life as I got closer to retirement. But the realities of health, finances, and relationships are a jolting reminder that it’s not all happy news. I have come to terms with my reality. I am aging, and there is no turning back the clock.

11. Business 8 to 5
By day, I take on a different persona from that of my personal life. It’s all about business. I work in an office. I have people around me all day long. I have a boss and co-workers. It’s not necessarily how I would choose to live my time Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, but it’s what I do to make a living.

Sometimes I am tasked with making decisions that involve purchasing products for my company. I’m not always the final person to make the decision, but I will have input on it. The money is not my own. And my job can be on the line for how I spend the company’s money. So I need to make smart decisions that will help improve the profitability of my organization.

Deep down, I am most concerned about my job security. So for that reason, I am very protective and thoughtful when it comes to spending the company’s money.

12. Did I Matter?
I have found my purpose in life, and I want to leave a legacy that fulfills that purpose. I continually work toward fulfilling my mission while I’m alive. I would like to see my legacy remembered now, while I can see how my money is put to good use, as well as after I’m gone. 

I make decisions about what organizations I contribute to based on the alignment of their passion and purpose with my own. I’m not an overly wealthy individual, but I have financial resources that enable me to leave a legacy. 

I want my family to enjoy money that I have worked to earn, but I also want to share it beyond my family. I would like something that furthers a part of my life story. It would be affirming to know that my money is being used now and then after I’m gone for something positive. I feel an enormous sense of pride and goodwill, knowing that my money is being used for a good cause.


As you meet prospective buyers, chances are good that in a few minutes you’ll recognize their persona. Your opportunity is to tailor your message and style to them.