The Power of Sales Intelligence #2: Creating an Ideal Customer Profile

Historically, sales professionals and marketers spent a lot of time chasing down prospects with a scant probability of getting an appointment, let alone winning business.

For most of the companies I’ve worked at, the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is has been anecdotal at best … meaning that if you ask sales leader who we sell to, they’ll offer a few key titles, maybe a couple of industries. They might have a company size in mind.

You’ll get different answers from different people across the team, because the idea of a “target buyer” is inconsistent, nebulous, and often based on hunches and feelings – not data.

account-based marketing and salesJoin us as we examine 7 specific ways that this kind of intelligence impacts marketing and sales processes. In Part 1, we took a deep dive into next-level data quality and management. This is Part 2.

… You can also skip our 7-part blog series and go straight our new ebook: The Power of Marketing and Sales Intelligence – 7 Ways to Fuel Faster Growth.

What’s the real “power” of sales Intelligence? It’s not magic (sorry). Sales intelligence allows you to quantify your total addressable market by finding companies that look like your ICP, so you can focus your sales and marketing efforts where it will matter.

The first step in account-based marketing is to identify target accounts. In this the step, decision makers that fit the ICP are identified. The ICP can generally refer to both: What does the ideal company – and the ideal buyer – look like?

See the process in action! We work through our own ABM experiment in Inside Look: A True Story of Executing Account-Based Everything.

Account-based strategy requires a clear ICP

Lacking an ICP, it was like shooting in the dark.

With little data available for meaningful targeting, inaccurate contact information, and lacking insight into needs or signals that might indicate propensity to buy.

More than a contact name and phone number, account-based strategy means we need to identify best-fit accounts, go wider and deeper within organizations, target the right decision makers, and influencers … and personalize it all.

The advent of account-based marketing (ABM) and account-based sales development (ABSD) introduced a need for complete, better-quality data early in the process.

Here’s Episode 2 of Inside Look: Identifying Target Accounts and Contacts:

Today, modern ideal B2B customer profiles incorporate many additional data points that can help determine likelihood to buy: specific technologies the company uses, hiring plans, and research being conducted on particular topics can all help time and inform a pitch.

Creating an ICP is easier with refined intelligence

A traditional ICP uses these standard CRM fields:

  • Department
  • Level
  • Function
  • Industry
  • Size
  • Location

Sales intelligence layers in:

  • Technologies
  • Intent data
  • Business model
  • Ownership

The starting point for any effective sales or marketing strategy is to understand who you’re targeting – both in terms of accounts and contacts. You can then have a deliberate, thoughtful approach to prospecting into those accounts and contacts.

It’s impossible to do that without having meaningful data to prioritize those efforts.

Sales intelligence enables account-based selling (ABS), side-stepping a lot of fruitless cold calling. Closing a cold call looks good in a Hollywood production, but it’s mostly crash-and-burn: A generally accepted win rate for cold calling is around 0.3%.

Marketers, what kind of leads did you earn with your last whitepaper or e-book? Were they the warm leads you needed? Were you lucky enough to reel in brand champions? Such success is rare.

Neat presentation, tight copy, and clever graphics that convey actionable insights mean nothing in the wrong hands.

Get the ebook: The Power of Sales Intelligence: 7 Ways to Fuel Faster Growth

what b2b buyers really wantYou can see why an up-to-date roster of contacts would be a time-saving tool. In addition to having a direct line to your prospect, you can create content specifically for their pain points, and speak their language on social media. The more time you spend engaging on the behalf of a brand, the better your chances of closing business.

Generally, the opportunity for account-based strategy arises once a company reaches a certain level of maturity. Many startups and small to midsized businesses (SMBs) don’t know enough about their target market to know where their niche is and strengths are. At some point, they decide they need to know more about their buyers.

You can’t “boil the ocean.” You have to start somewhere.

An ICP is that starting point.

What does it take to be considered “high growth”? Our Growth Drivers survey makes it clear.

Raw data vs. refined intelligence

Historically, companies had to resort to a complex exercise of analyzing win-loss data in their CRM data.

I’ve been a part of that process at several companies.

It’s typically done by a finance or marketing analyst and can take several weeks or months to do it right. It generally consists of massive Salesforce exports, pivot table exercises (*shudder*), and manually creating charts and PowerPoint slides to present the findings. After presentation to a skeptical leadership group, use of the findings will vary from company to company.

Lots of companies simply skip or gloss over this step, because it is so complicated and time consuming. A lot of startups and small businesses don’t take the time to create an ICP at all. And who can blame them?

ABM provides the “who?” of the sales equation

There’s an easy way (and a hard way) to obtain “who” data.

Think about all the hours involved in making and marketing B2B collateral with the hope of piquing a prospect’s interest. How about the time your sales team spends on LinkedIn or Google, trying to identify prospects and gather contact info? A “win” might be a name and job title … and in a best case scenario, an email address.

A good sales and marketing intelligence tool absolves teams of this investigative busywork.

With ABM, you begin with a win: a ranked list of decision makers based on your ideal customer profile.

Consider the hours saved by this alone.

Intelligence tools can help you identify your ideal customer profile, and identify and rank the accounts and contacts who are most likely to buy – so you start with a prioritized list for your next campaign. When that information is available with a click, time can be better spent generating content and talk tracks to inform and persuade your target audience.

Deep sales and marketing intelligence also provides the resources, or intent data, for doing just that.

When and where your prospect wants to buy

Once you’ve identified the “who,” the rest of the processes falls in place: Who is this customer, and what do they need to hear from me, the vendor? What’s the best format for this messaging? When should I reach out?

Read the study: 30 Ways to Get Inside the Mind of Your Target Buyer

A marketing and sales intelligence tool identifies the topics prospects are researching – and when they’re being researched.

When you know a prospect is looking to invest in a solution like yours in the next six to twelve months, your messaging changes. It can be more targeted, more customized, and more likely to
resonate than if you’d sent a generic email to get a feel for their interest.

With intelligence, you can skip all of that guesswork:

  • You know what is on their radar
    • A problem that needs a solution
  • You know who to call
    • The decision maker and associated influencers
  • You know how to reach them
    • Their direct dial or email address
  • You know what to say
    • Offer your solution to fix their problem

If your prospect could benefit from a little more nurturing, marketing can send messaging or collateral that is on-point and relevant to whatever challenge the prospect faces.

Now when sales takes the reins, that cold call will suddenly be a whole lot warmer.

What are the capabilities for marketing and sales intelligence?Grab our free ebook
Justin Withers

Justin is the Vice President, Product Management and Product Marketing at DiscoverOrg and brings a decade of experience ..read more