Tough Talks Made Easy: How to Explain Ideal Customer Profiles to Sales and Marketing

Tough Talks Made Easy: How to Explain Ideal Customer Profiles to Sales and Marketing

Written by Trent Cross and Mihai Bejgu

 

TLDR: Ideal customer profiles (ICPs) are characterizations of the customer groups who best fit your services. The objective of ICPs is to help businesses sign more profitable deals, with shorter close times. Sales and Marketing create ICPs by analyzing data from past customer engagements and deals, coalescing around a shared set of customer profiles to target. MOPs helps Sales and Marketing evaluate whether the data supports the personas created and guide them to refine the ICPs with each reporting cycle.

 

Ideal customer profiles (ICPs) are sketches of the buyers who best fit your services. ICPs are very similar to personas, though they tend to characterize groups of customers rather than individual buyers. In theory, these groups are the easiest to close deals from and the most productive ones for Sales and Marketing to focus on in their initiatives.

Accurate ICPs help Revenue teams do more deals in larger sizes and with shorter times to close. But when Sales and Marketing teams create ICPs in poor alignment with each other, guided by personal biases over data, they risk approaching the wrong prospects with disjointed campaigns and processes that don’t attract business.

In this Tough Talks Made Easy, you’ll learn to explain to Sales and Marketing what it takes to create ICPs that work—a data-driven approach with 100% alignment.

 

ICP 101

ICPs begin with data. By analyzing past customer engagements and deals, Sales and Marketing can identify the most common traits of customers interested in your products and services. Using a variety of behavioral (e.g. types and topics of content engagement, webinars and events registered) and demographic identifiers (e.g. job title, region, company, industry) to craft ICPs along with sales data, Sales and Marketing can then personalize content, messaging, and processes to attract increased business from these groups. 

The objective of ICPs is to help businesses sign as many deals as quickly as possible, as profitable as possible. Factoring in additional metrics like monthly recurring revenue, time to close, retention rates, and deal size can help Sales and Marketing succeed by focusing on the prospects most likely to engage positively with the business and return sustainable profits over time.

There’s no magic recipe for crafting ICPs, but if Sales and Marketing are coming up with many disparate profiles, it suggests that your targeting efforts aren’t specific enough. To get results, both teams should coalesce around a shared set of ICPs. Without close alignment, Sales and Marketing might have completely different ideas about which customer groups to pursue. When Marketing’s campaigns and messaging aren’t in sync with Sales’ processes and understanding of the buyer journey, it’s unlikely that your efforts will strike a chord with any particular customer profile.

Between your Sales reps and Marketing colleagues, your Revenue team might be a broad tent of past experience and expertise with different industries and customer segments. Personal experience can lead your team to infer the best customer traits and groups to target, but the only reliable basis for your ICPs is data. Past success stories and sector-specific knowledge can be helpful starting points for creating ICPs, but Sales and Marketing need to validate any assumptions by looking at past engagements and deals.

The overall theme with creating ICPs: more alignment means more success. Sales and Marketing should use the same bedrock of data to target shared customer groups with campaigns and processes that complement each other.

Continuous success

Ideally, ICPs lead Sales and Marketing to meet and exceed their targets—Marketing’s targeted campaigns generate MQLs, and Sales develops these into higher rates of opportunities, conversions, and accelerated conversations. To validate that your ICPs are working, encourage your team to think of ICPs as projects of continuous refinement, where each new reporting cycle is an opportunity to reevaluate if the data justifies the personas that Sales and Marketing have created.

MOPs comes to the table as a valuable source of guidance. By analyzing the composition of your database and where deals come from, MOPs can pinpoint the percentage of leads, opportunities, and closed sales that meet your teams’ profile criteria and advise on the most optimal ways to segment your customer base. 

Consulting Sales and Marketing at regular intervals, with the latest data, can help answer a range of decisive questions, big picture and granular. How are particular ICPs performing at different stages of the sales cycle? What profile characteristics can you tweak? How might you account for ICPs in industries (e.g. government, education) that are significant seasonal buyers? Are there any metrics not currently accounted for that are emerging as influential? 

Whatever your reporting cadence—weekly, biweekly, monthly—a continuous process of analysis and adaptation is how your ICPs stay relevant. Sit down with Sales and Marketing regularly to go through the reports, and you can encourage a well-informed and agile process of decision-making, where teams can pivot fast in response to ICPs that aren’t yielding results.

 

The takeaway

ICPs are valuable for Sales and Marketing to identify and refine how they target customer segments, but executing them effectively requires 100% alignment between teams and continuous analysis of engagement and deal data. By working closely with MOPs to arrive at data-driven decisions, Revenue teams can create campaigns and processes that win more lucrative deals with shorter close times. 

For any guidance with creating and executing ICPs, Revenue Pulse is here to help.