One of the keys to successful account-based selling is focusing on the right target customers as well as on not wasting time on prospects who aren’t interested or ready to buy or simply a poor match for your company. Almost every salesperson can tell tales of spending time chasing down unproductive leads. Time that could be spent building relationships with organizations that your business can actually help and that will lead to more, and bigger, closed deals.
Although there are multiple factors that influence successful account-based selling, one of the most important steps is to develop the ideal customer profile, or ICP.
What Is an ICP?
In the simplest terms, an ICP is a description of the type of companies that are a good fit for your business offerings. Unlike a buyer persona, which focuses on the individual contacts within companies, the ICP looks at prospects at the company level. It includes characteristics such as the industry, the company’s place within the industry (i.e., top tier, midlevel, etc.), number of employees, annual revenues and location. Essentially, it’s a way of narrowing down the type of prospects that you want to pursue by creating more focus. In other words, instead of wasting time chasing after major accounts that may not be a good fit for your company’s resources, or on accounts that are too small or outside of your target areas, you’re identifying the companies that most need your products or services, can afford them and most of all, are most likely to be interested in working with you.
Not only does creating an ICP help you identify the companies you need to target, but it also helps you develop the content and sales pitches that are most likely to be effective. When you know exactly who it is you’re targeting, it’s easier to develop content that resonates and easier to build relationships.
Creating the Right Profiles
Creating an ideal customer profile is easier said than done. It is not a “pie in the sky” wish list of perfect customer traits but rather a detailed list of traits based on an analysis of your existing customers, including details on the sales cycle, characteristics of companies that are likely to close sales, events that trigger sales and commonalities among your top-performing accounts.
But before you begin identifying the specific traits of potential customers, it’s important that you understand yourself, and your company. Defining your key characteristics, differentiating factors, strengths and weaknesses and the traits that make your company unique, not only serves as a guide for your content production but also helps pin down those companies that are the best fit for your sales efforts.
Once you have a handle on who you are as a company, it’s time to analyze your existing customer base. It’s important to include stakeholders from all departments in this analysis, as different functions will have different insights into your customer base and will offer details that can contribute to a more well-rounded profile. Again, the ICP process isn’t about individuals and their preferences, pain points and values, but rather it is hard data about the company itself and what the company has done in the past, is doing now and will do in the future.
Identifying the commonalities among your top customers is only the beginning of the ICP process, though. It’s also important to know what products and services the company is currently using, so you can zero in on the limitations of those products and the competitive advantages that your product offers. Uncovering this information often requires more digging, but understanding where you can best fit into the prospect’s needs allows you to make more tailored pitches and ultimately, close more deals.
Finally, predictive analytics also comes into play when creating ICPs. By using advanced data analysis, you can uncover trends and commonalities that you might otherwise have missed and identify prospects that you have the best chance of converting and when and how to reach out. If you don’t have these analytical capabilities, you can still compare your manual research into your existing companies with the prospects identified as the best fit, to create your ideal customer profile.
Creating an ICP is only the first step to a successful account-based selling strategy, but it is a vital one. By specifically detailing who you want to pursue, your pitches will be more tailored, and you’ll create the relationships that lead to ongoing sales and steady revenue.