Guidelines: Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs)

By: JB Daguené. Reviewed by: Alex Nechoroskovas
The one-size-fits-all approach to sales is dead.

In an ever-competitive environment where prospects are overwhelmed by untargeted solicitations, sales professionals must adopt a customer-centric approach.

The goal of the ICP and persona framework is to align the whole sales team on the type of companies and personas that can benefit from the product(s) they offer. To achieve such results, salespeople must understand how the companies they target operate and how the personas they speak with are successful at their jobs today.

Mapping your different ICPs and Personas will allow you to approach your TAM with a granular approach. The more granular you can be, the better your sales team can have meaningful conversations.

Remember, the key to successful cold outreach is to describe your customers' problems better than they can. This can not be achieved without documented ICPs and personas.

Start understanding your ICP with our ICP Framework Template.

Part 1: Company

The standard company profile is composed but not limited to the following 5 parts:

Regions

According to your sales strategy and geography, regions can be states, countries, regions of the world, etc.

Verticals

Verticals often combine groups of industries together, eg., a tech vertical could combine companies from the IT, computer software, internet industries, etc.

# of employees

The number of employees in one organization will most likely impact the number of decision makers but also the seniority of the decision makers you will be going after. For example, it’s common to go after C-Level executives in SMB but more common to go after VPs or Director level executives in Enterprise businesses.

Size

Data points related to size mostly depend on your business model. Size data points can be related but not limited to: revenue, number of employees, alexa ranking, Similar web traffic estimation, number of downloads, etc.

Most of the time the size data point is correlated with the potential revenue.

Examples:

  • If you sell software licenses to HR professionals the number of employees in the organisation will most likely be the size criteria for your ICP.
  • If you sell a tool to e-commerce marketers the number of visitors that can be estimated by tools like Alexa ranking or Similar web will most likely be the size criteria for your ICP.

Other criteria depending on your business model can be the type of technology the companies use, etc.

Business model

The business model of the company will most likely impact the KPIs of the ideal contacts.

For example, a Retailer, an FMCG brand, and a Telco operator might be targeting the same consumers but the business models of these 3 types of businesses are radically different hence the KPIs of their CMOs are different.

Your value proposition will therefore most likely need to be adjusted based on the business model of the company even for contact with identical expertise.

Part 2: Contacts

We always categorise contacts in every organisation into 3 types:

Decision maker(s)

Decision makers are able to take decisions on behalf of the organisation. You can have multiple decision makers depending on the complexity of your product. One again, the size of the companies you’re targeting will impact the hierarchy level of the contacts you’re targeting.

Decision makers are often concerned with bottom line KPIs that impact the P&L of the business. They’re rarely hands-on on the processes and tools.

Influencer(s)

Influencers are working for the decision makers. They’re typically able to influence decisions and will either be brought to the sales process by the decision maker or bring your product to the decision maker if they need budget approval.

Influencers are typically more involved with processes and tools. How to get from A to B in a more productive way matters to them.

Champion(s)

The champions are the junior employees working for the influencers. They have very limited influence on the decision process but they might get involved in the pilot projects or trial of your product or service.

Also it is often the case that champions are very curious individuals looking for content to learn more about their industry.

If you have a content strategy in place they might be the ones coming to your events and consuming your content. While we do not contact internal champions with outbound, it is wise to map them and have a process in place to loop influencers and/or decision makers into the conversation.

Do not ignore pro-active champions who come as inbound, if they’re good at their job they will one day become influencers and eventually decision makers.

Expertises & Job titles:

Job titles are not unified across companies, industries and regions. We therefore categorize job titles by expertise and list examples of job titles for each expertise separately.

This will help your team to map accounts on Linkedin while searching for the contacts in charge of the listed expertises. We also rank expertise according to the authority they have on the decision process.

Example: Decision maker

  • Expertise: Engineering
  • Title: CTO, VP of engineering, Head of engineering, Head of technology
Example: Influencer
  • Expertise: Marketing
  • Title: Marketing manager, Growth manager, Growth hacker, Digital marketing manager
KPIs vs. Value propositions

The key of B2B sales is to be able to explain your customers’ problem better than they can. If you’re able to do this, they will automatically think that you have the solution.

For every contact you will need to:

  1. List and rank KPIs that your product(s)/service(s) can impact
  2. Address your product value proposition against each KPIs

Note: Remember the difference between features and benefits when addressing your value proposition against your ideal contacts’ KPIs. See Super Mario example below :)

Part 3: Product

In this part we categorise the value proposition strength of your product or service in 3 categories. It is important to pick the strengths for each ICP as they might differ from profile to profile.

Painkiller

A painkiller product or service has a clear return on investment (ROI) structure. It is very easy for decision makers to project when and how they will cover the cost of your product or service and start to generate revenue.

Because the painkiller is directly related to the bottom line of the business you can directly approach the decision makers.

Decision makers might introduce you to influencers; when you get an intro from the top to the bottom you also gain authority.

Vitamin

A vitamin product solves a problem directly related to the influencers’ KPIs which is often related to productivity.

So it is mostly a waste of time to approach the decision makers directly as they will not be able to see the direct impact on their KPIs. A vitamin product is to be sold from the bottom to the top.

When selling a vitamin it is important to design a sales process where the account executive brings the decision maker into the process with the approval of the influencer(s).

For example, a tool for a designer will most probably be a vitamin as it will help the designer to be more effective, but the designer tools’ budget might be part of the marketing budget controlled by the marketing director.

Candy

A candy is not solving any of the decision makers’ or influencers’ direct KPIs.

Typically it is a nice-to-have product with no impact on sales, not generating cross-sell or upsell for the organisation or having an impact on productivity and therefore very hard to position on top of the priority list for the influencer or decision maker.

Candies products or services are often sold on self-service websites with paid aid and controlled acquisition costs, etc.

Part 4: Deal breaker(s) and switching cost

Deal breaker(s)

In a very high level human touch sales process it can be extremely disappointing to lose a deal close to the last step because a potential deal breaker was not identified at the very beginning of the sales process.

Hence the importance of making a list of deal breakers for every ICP. Deal breakers can differ from profile to profile according to verticals, regions and sizes.

For example, it is very common for large organisations to have a no-cloud software policy while it is commonly accepted for SMBs.

Another example of a deal breaker could be that your product requires clients to have constant access to the internet via mobile data; in that case, the region of your ICP might have a different importance to this deal breaker.

Switching cost

he switching cost doesn’t have to be a cost per say. For example, if you are selling a tool like a CRM and you are able to convince the two decision makers involved in the process, the sales and marketing directors, you still have to get on board a team of 50 salespeople and 10 marketers.

These professionals are used to some of the daily processes and workflow with other tools and now have to adapt to your tool.

If you do plan a step in your process where you make the on-boarding and the transfer of data, process and workflow from the old tool to the new one, you might be faced with an anti-champion slowing the deal or eventually pulling it down.

Many opportunities are lost because the switching cost wasn’t addressed. Be part of the solution not the problem, address the switching cost with a switching plan.

Best practice: Data-driven sales & CRM

Account

Add ICP names, size brackets, Verticals, Regions etc. on the account object of your CRM

Contact

Add expertise and type pick lists on the contact object of your CRM.

This will allow you to do data-driven sales reports on which persona you have the most success.

Tips

  • Use your existing clients: If you already have clients you can easily use tools like clearbit to enrich your data or reverse-engineer and research data points manually.
  • Look for job ads: If you are not sure about the KPIs of the decision maker or influencer, look for job offers based on the company data points you defined.

For example, after looking at three or five job offers for the sales director of a software company with 51-200 employees in the United Kingdom, you will be able to see the first patterns of skills that are required every time. It is highly possible that those skills are related to KPIs.

Use this the below template to map your ICP with our data-driven framework:

Article by

JB Daguené

I eat SaaS for breakfast, B2B Sales for lunch, and Data for dinner. I like my food spicy! Since 2014, I've helped 100+ companies to build and scale specialized sales teams with 6 main playbooks.

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