3 min read

Defining Your Ideal Customer Profile, Key to Sales Prospecting Success

Research from Hubspot shows that 40% of salespeople feel that sales prospecting is the most difficult aspect of their job followed by closing (35%) and qualifying (22%). To address this challenge, organizations are investing heavily in their sales tech stack including lead generation and other sales prospecting tools with the goal (hope) ofYoung creative business people at office optimizing sales productivity and accelerating revenue growth. But many staffing owners, CEO’s and CFO’s are asking their sales leaders, where are the results? Where is the ROI on these sales tools?

If this sounds like you or your organization then it may be time to create (or update) your ideal customer profile or ICP.

Accurately defining your ideal customer profile (ICP) is one of the most important, yet overlooked steps in developing and executing a successful sales strategy. No sales tool is going to do you a lick of good without a sales prospecting strategy. And the best place to start for defining your outbound sales prospecting strategy and execute proven sales prospecting techniques is by defining your Ideal Customer Profile.

If you or your sales team doesn’t have an ICP, or you don’t know how to define your ICP, keep reading.

Your ideal customer profile (ICP) defines the demographics (firmographic), business objectives, challenges, and behavioral attributes of accounts that are most likely to become your most valuable customers and refer you to others. Your ICP is developed through both qualitative and quantitative analysis. You can think of your ICP as a hypothetical business that possesses all of the charcacteristics that would make them the “perfect” customer.

Not to be confused with the term “target customer,” which describes any company that may buy your products or services, your ICP defines the most valuable customers and prospects who are also the most likely to buy from you and refer you to others. Defining your ICP is a foundational, strategic decision that impacts all of your downstream sales, marketing, recruiting and delivery efforts. Having a clearly defined ICP allows you to align teams on messaging, and go-to-market strategies, and enables you to build scalable and repeatable strategies to engage and convert highly sought after accounts. It also enables you to build highly scalable and repeatable sales onboarding and sales enablement programs.

Your ICP is what drives your sales prospecting activities including prospect list creation, buyer personas, awareness stage content, account segmentation and these ten sales prospecting techniques you should be executing daily.

For most organizations, the ICP is either poorly defined, poorly understood and/or poorly adopted. Even in companies that have a defined ICP, its application is often overlooked and underutilized. By contrast, in rapidly growing organizations, the ICP serves as the “north star” for sales and marketing strategy and execution.

Why Defining Your ICP is Important

Over 78% of B2B businesses identify quality leads as their top objective. Another survey conducted by Chief Sales Officer Insights revealed that nearly two-thirds (64%) of sales teams need improvement in generating higher quality sales leads.

Without an ICP, salespeople waste time targeting the wrong accounts;  accounts that are not likely to close; accounts that are likely to frustrate your recruiting team; accounts that treat you like a commodity supplier; accounts that are extremely difficult and frustrating to work with.  You get the idea.  And that is all money down the drain!

An ideal customer profile helps you quickly qualify (or disqualify) a prospect which enables you to prioritize your time.  And we all know how salespeople struggle with time management.

Imagine you have one BIG customer who generates annual revenue equivalent to 20 smaller customers. Great customer, right?

But suppose they consume 80% of your account manager’s time. Or, suppose they consume 50% of your account manager’s time and 25% of your recruiting manager’s time and they consume 40% of your recruiting bandwidth. Is this your ideal customer? Do you want to replicate this customer 100 times? Or, is your ideal customer a bit more manageable, one that would allow your company to scale and grow?

It’s easy to get excited over new prospects. However, there is no single organization (or product or service) that can be all things to all customers. Without an ICP guiding your efforts, salespeople can quickly succumb to “puppy dog syndrome,” they chase every shiny object (job order) leaving the business stretched and scattered and a sales pipeline riddled with unqualified opportunities that never close.  

To get started with building your Ideal Customer Profile, consider the following:

  • Identify accounts that are most likely to become high value customers and refer you to others by reviewing the key demographics and behavioral traits of your existing customers. Analyze data from your CRM and ATS and other systems to identify the traits that correlate to the most value, least value or no value.
  • Build an ICP document that defines the key attributes, behaviors and demographics of your ICP. This document should be developed by getting input from stakeholders across your organization. This document should guide all downstream sales and marketing activities.
  • Sales leaders, coach and manage your salespeople to adopt your ICP in all sales prospecting related activities. Your reps shouldn’t be prospecting into new accounts that don’t align with your ICP 
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