October 3, 2023

How to build an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to drive sales

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Understanding your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is the key to knowing who to prioritize in your sales cycle, driving higher conversion rates and knowing who your valuable customers and prospects are.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of ICPs and explore how it can benefit your sales and marketing teams.

What is an ICP in Sales?

According to Gartner, an ideal customer profile (ICP) defines the "firmographic, environmental and behavioral attributes of accounts that are expected to become a company's most valuable customers." It is not to be confused with a target customer, due to its focus on a company's most valued customer and prospects that are also most likely to buy.  This distinction is crucial, as it allows sales teams to focus their efforts on high-value accounts rather than trying to cater to individual personas.

Understanding and utilizing an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is essential for successful sales strategies because it can:

  • Enable businesses to optimize their resource allocation, prioritize leads, and convey value propositions that increase conversion rates.
  • Result in substantial business growth through optimized marketing efforts, enhanced account-based marketing initiatives & improved qualification processes.

Understanding ICP in Sales: The Basics

The ICP framework should be part of your marketing and sales strategy to help you deliver faster sales cycles, higher conversion rates and greater lifetime values.  

How does an ICP work?

An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a detailed representation of a company’s perfect customer, based on multiple characteristics and attributes that indicate a high likelihood of success and revenue generation. When constructing an ICP, you should take the following into account:

  • Industry
  • Company size
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Pain points
  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Buying behaviors

Why does the ICP matter for Sales teams?

Ex Forbes Councils Member Ashley Deibert suggests that good ICP guidelines will basically help your team define who to say 'yes' and who to say 'no' to. ICPs hold significant value in sales as they allow sales teams to focus their efforts on the right prospects, leading to optimized resource allocation and enhanced conversion rates.

It also enables sales teams to:

  • Prioritize accounts that could gain the highest benefits from the company’s products, services or solutions
  • Focus their efforts in an effective manner
  • Leverage the ICP to prioritize the right leads in their sales engagement platform
  • Allocate sales resources accordingly

Targeting customers who align with the ICP enables sales teams to convey compelling value propositions that resonate with these buyers, thereby boosting the likelihood of successful conversions and propelling company revenue.

Building an Effective Sales ICP: Steps and Best Practices

Image Credit: Gartner

Gartner's framework for creating an ideal ICP suggests that a strong ICP is developed by gathering and analyzing qualitative, quantitative and predictive data. They believe that gathering qualitative inputs through close interaction with stakeholders leverages the organization’s diverse expertise and fosters cross-functional buy-in.

They also suggest looking at your ICP as a strategic document and keeping the development of its goals simple.

1. Identify high-value customers by analyzing Existing Quantitative Customer Data

The first step in building an effective sales ICP is analyzing your existing customer data. By examining the data of your best customers, you can identify patterns and trends among high-value accounts, providing valuable insights for shaping your ICP. This includes attributes and characteristics that are common among high-performing customers, as well as any pain points or challenges they may face.

Upon identifying these patterns and trends, this information can be utilized to formulate your ideal customer profile and create effective buyer personas. This will help guide your sales and marketing efforts, ensuring that you’re targeting the right prospects and maximizing your chances of success.

2. Compare customers by conducting customer interviews

Customer interviews are a valuable tool to complement the quantitative data from existing customers and provide qualitative insights into their needs and preferences. These interviews can provide a deeper understanding of your customers:

  • Pain points
  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Buying process
  • Decision-making criteria

By combining the insights gained from customer interviews with the quantitative data you’ve analyzed, you can create a more comprehensive and accurate ICP. This will enable you to tailor your sales and marketing efforts to better address the needs of your ideal customers, ultimately leading to higher conversion rates, increased revenue, and an improved customer lifetime value.

After this, the team at Shopify suggests determining a few attributes that your most valuable customers share and summarising this into a sentence.

3. Go-to-market alignment

Once your ICP is created, it's time to make sure it aligns with your company's go-to-market strategy. Segmenting your ICP will allow you to customize it to your go-to-market plan based on expected value. Do so by assigning accounts to tiers based on expected Annual Contract Value, which is the average amount of money a customer is charged per annum, and Lifetime Value, which is the average amount of money a customer is charged across the entire time they're a customer.

Leveraging ICP Sales for Business Growth

Leveraging ICP sales can result in substantial business growth by:

  • Aligning sales and marketing efforts
  • Enhancing account-based marketing
  • Optimizing sales enablement
  • Targeting outbound and inbound strategies

In this section, we’ll explore the various ways in which leveraging ICP sales can contribute to business growth, from aligning sales and marketing efforts to improving the inbound qualification process.

Aligning Sales and Marketing Efforts

Aligning marketing and sales efforts around a well-defined ICP helps ensure that both teams are working towards the same objectives, thereby enhancing efficiency and generating increased revenue and avoiding stylos. When both teams aim for the same ideal customers, their endeavors likely synergize, resulting in a seamless customer experience and increased conversion rates.

Having a clearly defined ICP also assists the marketing team in crafting relevant online campaigns that appeal to the right potential customers, resulting in higher-quality leads and smoother sales. By working together and focusing on the same high-value accounts, sales and marketing teams can capitalize on the power of the ICP to drive business growth.

Enhancing Account-Based Marketing

ABM is a strategy in which a supplier targets a select group of accounts that represent significantly higher expansion or growth opportunities with tailored marketing and sales support. In other words, it aims at targeting specific accounts that can generate revenue. ICPs play a crucial role in enhancing account-based marketing (ABM) strategies by helping to prioritize and identify the right accounts you should target.

By focusing on accounts that align with your ICP, you can customize your marketing efforts to cater to the distinct needs and preferences of these high-value accounts, ultimately fostering successful conversions.

In addition to improving the targeting of your marketing efforts, using an ICP can also help you create more personalized and relevant content for your ABM campaigns. By understanding the specific pain points, goals, and challenges of your ideal customers, you can develop messaging that resonates with them and drives engagement.

Optimizing Sales Enablement

Enhancing sales enablement through ICPs ensures the provision of appropriate tools and resources for sales teams to target ideal customers effectively. This includes providing sales reps with access to customer data, market research, and customer interviews that can help them better understand the needs and preferences of their target audience.

By equipping sales teams with the necessary skills and knowledge to accurately target prospective customers, training, and coaching can aid them in comprehending customer requirements and devising strategies to fulfill those needs. With an optimized sales enablement strategy in place, sales teams can focus their efforts on high-value accounts and increase their chances of success.

Targeting in Outbound

Outbound efforts targeted based on the ICP assist sales teams in focusing on high-value prospects, thereby boosting the probability of successful conversions. By prioritizing leads that match the ICP, sales teams can allocate their resources more effectively and engage in meaningful conversations with customers that are more likely to result in successful conversions.

To target outbound efforts based on an ICP, sales teams can utilize customer data to identify potential customers that match the ICP, as well as market research to discover new prospects that fit the ICP. By focusing on the right customers, sales teams can improve their chances of success and drive company revenue.

Improving your inbound qualification process

Enhancing the inbound qualification process through the ICP allows you to focus on high-value leads, resulting in optimized resource allocation and elevated conversion rates. By using the ICP to qualify leads, sales teams can quickly determine which prospects are worth their time and resources, allowing them to focus on the most valuable accounts.

One way to improve the inbound qualification process is by incorporating specific qualifying questions into forms for gated content. These questions can help sales teams quickly determine whether a lead matches the ICP and is worth pursuing. Additionally, prioritizing leads that appear promising and are a good match can be done by assigning them a higher lead score.


Through the creation and continuous refinement of an ICP, businesses can align their sales and marketing efforts, enhance account-based marketing, optimize sales enablement, and target outbound and inbound strategies to achieve maximum success. As your sales team navigates the sales cycle, use folk to manage your pipeline. Try folk today, free.

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