Building An Ideal Client/Customer Profile (ICP)

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When building sales strategies and plans, it’s helpful to identify the kinds of clients or customers who are right for you. It’s common for companies to feel that everyone can benefit from their offerings, and while that might be true, it doesn’t mean everyone is a good fit. It’s good to have an Ideal Client/Customer Profile (ICP) to prioritize where to focus selling and marketing efforts. Within the ICP, I look for five things. Does the customer have:

  • NEED for your product or service?
  • TIME to deploy and get the benefit from your offering?
  • SUCCESS experience in your solution area?
  • BUDGET to deal with the unexpected?
  • WINNERS who get personal benefit when you win?

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(The ICP tool facilitates a standardized approach to prioritize your selling focus. It is customized for each seller situation.)

Need has to be acknowledged by decision makers or you don’t have the foundation for a sale. This is an obvious statement yet too often, I’ve seen sales people launch into proposals without first establishing that the customer knows they have a need. If you have a short prospect list or you decide, based on the other criteria below, that you need the customer, you have to create need by articulating a significant threat or opportunity along with the personal wins that come with your solution (more below).

The Determining Factors


Time can be the difference between success and failure. High cost, strategic solutions typically have a lengthy deployment cycle. If the customer’s timeline doesn’t allow for successful deployment or, if missing the deployment deadline eliminates the need, step back to consider the viability of your offering. At minimum, get agreement on the timeline with the customer both to validate this isn’t an issue and to reduce chances for surprise.

​Success in the area in which you’re providing the solution, is a want, not necessarily a need. However, it’s still a determining factor in deciding the customer’s fit for your offering.

Is this the right project?

It’s helpful when the customer is able to assess your proposal, and work, from a position of experience. They’ll give you better guidance and their expectations will be realistic. Of course, there will always be cases where customers need your offering and it’s the first time they’ve taken on the problem. In those situations, set the expectation so they know that part of your deliverable is to impart education to them.

Budget seems like an obvious need. Certainly, the customer needs to be able to pay for your product. However, more than that, you need to know if the customer has the capacity for adjustments. If any deviation from the original plan will cause the customer added costs or missed savings, they can’t absorb, you need to know this up front. You typically won’t learn this by asking the customer directly but if you have a customer who’s asking for guarantees or fixed costs, you will have to decide what’s driving this and if this is a project you want to take on.

Winners are important to identify within the decision maker and influencer population. These are people who personally win when you win. As I said in another blog, winners are looking for one of five things: Safety, Simplicity, Reward, Recognition, and Revolution.

If you haven’t identified anyone who clearly wins when you’re chosen you risk having no internal champions to coach you when the unexpected happens. Winners are an extension of your sales team and are needed for ultimate success.

Having a clear picture of your ICP will help you choose the right prospects and keep your precious resource focused on the customers or clients, with which you have the highest probability of success. Take a few minutes to figure out your ICP today and contact us if you’d like help with this important part of the sales process.

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