Sr. Content Marketing Manager
One of the costliest factors in sales is time. And nothing drains your time (and money) faster than targeting the wrong prospects. Enter the ICP for sales, or ideal customer profile. Think of it like your business’s very own “Wanted” poster — it outlines exactly what type of companies you're looking to do business with.
Developing a sales ICP is a proven method to focus on your most qualified sales targets and, in turn, start increasing your conversion rates. And with personalized outreach providing at least a 10-15% increase in revenue, it’s well worth the effort.
We’re getting into the nuts and bolts of how to create an ICP for sales that reflects your ideal customer — so you can drastically improve your targeting game and provide a more personalized customer experience.
What is an ICP in sales?
If you’ve ever wondered why some sales campaigns deliver explosive results and others fizzle out, targeting is likely the answer. And without a well-developed sales ICP, it’s tough to target very effectively. The ICP is your detailed blueprint that spells out exactly what types of companies are most likely to purchase from you. Typically, an ideal customer profile in sales includes demographics, firmographics and psychographics — at least as a starting point.
But isn’t that just a buyer persona? Nope. They may sound similar, but there’s a big difference in scope between an ICP and buyer persona. Where a buyer persona details one type of individual within your target market, your sales ICP describes an entire company (or market segment) that would ideally buy from you.
Here’s a cheat sheet:
ICP: A composite picture of the ideal company you want to sell to
Buyer persona: A semi-fictional character representing an individual who might purchase from your brand
Both tools can be incredibly helpful for marketing and sales initiatives, but the sales ICP can be especially useful for targeted outreach efforts like account-based marketing.
Why a sales ICP matters
Marketing to the masses can feel a little like you’re throwing darts in the dark. It’s hard to know where to aim and which of your throws hit the mark. A well-defined ICP for sales can help you ditch the frustration and find more clarity through:
Enhanced targeting and improved conversion rates. With a solid ICP, you’re not just knocking on everyone’s doors; you’re knocking on the right doors. Imagine improving your conversion rates because you’re speaking directly to the businesses that are actually interested in your solution. This can turn your sales process into more of a well-oiled machine.
Data-backed strategies for approaching potential clients. A focused ideal customer profile provides details that can help you strategically analyze market segments and tailor your messaging to meet the unique needs of your ideal clients, offering a more personalized customer experience.
If you’re ready to start building your ICP for sales, read on.
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3 steps to create a sales ICP
To make it easier, we’ve broken the process down into 3 steps, data gathering, data analysis and creating your ICP for sales.
1. Data gathering: Types of data to collect
Start by looking at your current customer base. Think about who your best customers are, and then drill down into these areas:
Demographics - Company size, location and industry
Behavioral data - Website interactions, purchase history, product data, upsells and more
Needs and pain points - What issues are they trying to solve? What are their biggest challenges?
Once you collect the right data, you're ready to put it to work for you.
2. Data analysis: Forming actionable insights
Now's the time to get your hands dirty and dig deep into the data you collected. Analyze the raw data and look for trends and patterns over time. These two steps are a good starting point:
Segmentation - Break your data into subgroups. For example, you could segment them based on company size from 1-20 employees, to 21-100, and 100+ - or whatever buckets make sense for you.
Pattern recognition - Identify common attributes and behaviors. Here you start seeing trends that will help inform your actual ICP. You may notice that 60% of your customers are mid-sized companies with between 21 and 100 employees, for instance. Digging deeper, you discover that 50% of those mid-size companies are in ecommerce. Now you're getting closer to gleaning some golden insights for your sales ICP.
We like to think of this step like sifting through a treasure chest and discovering which jewels are the most valuable.
3. Finalize your ICP for sales and create enablement resources
At this point, you've finished sifting through all your data gems, gathering enough detailed insights to develop a full company profile to aid in your personalized marketing efforts.
But you might be wondering what a fully developed sales ICP looks like. Let's look at a quick ICP example for a marketing agency:
Depending on the diversity of your customer base, you may need to create more than one profile to capture different ideal customer segments. Once you’ve created all of your ideal customer profiles for sales, now’s the time to develop new sales enablement materials to support your sales team’s efforts so you can personalize your outreach. Consider creating:
ICP one-pager: Create a one-page overview of each sales ICP for your sales team to easily refer to. Elaborate on the ICP example above and write out a narrative to accompany it, including example prospect pain points and responses, or mini sales scripts for your representatives based on your new customer profile.
Example use cases: Craft mini case studies or use case write-ups to demonstrate success stories with customers that fall under that profile.
Schedule a training session with your sales team to introduce these new customer profiles and discuss how to apply them in your sales efforts moving forward. Make sure to share your insights with Marketing and coordinate your initiatives, especially around personalized email marketing and customer segmentation.
As you adjust your sales initiatives and strategy based on your newly developed ICP, it’s important to track your success to determine how effective your efforts are. Let’s look at some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor that can help you fine-tune your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) based on your outcomes. Common metrics to track include:
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). A lower CAC generally means you’re doing something right and are converting prospects more easily with less resources.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV). This metric will tell you if you’re recruiting the right customers and serving them well. A higher CLTV compared to CAC is the real sweet spot.
Conversion Rate. The higher this metric, the more effective your sales pitch is. A conversion rate between 2-5% is considered acceptable in the B2B space. To calculate this metric, divide the total number of sales divided by the total number of qualified leads, and then multiply the number by 100.
If you notice your churn rate go up or your conversion rate go down, it may be time to revisit your sales ICP and go through another round of data collection and analysis to adjust your profiles with new data.
Measuring success is a continuous cycle. Continually monitor your key sales KPIs and plan to revisit your sales ICPs at least once every 6 months. If your business is scaling quickly or if you change your brand positioning or offerings, it’s also important to revisit your ICP at that time.
What will your sales ICP teach you?
Start defining your ICP following the process we’ve outlined here. Once you have your profiles, work with your sales team to plug the information into your sales strategies — and continue to measure and refine your sales targeting over time. Who knows what you’ll discover once you start digging into your current customer data; it just might surprise you.