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How to define your ideal sales prospect

Sales teams need healthy pipelines to hit their sales targets and grow. However, chasing anything that moves, casting a wide net with every email marketing or social media marketing campaign and cramming every potential customer into your sales pipeline won’t make it healthy. In fact, that can actually slow sales down significantly and repel potential new customers.

A large number of prospects who don’t fit your ideal customer profile (ICP) will likely jam your pipeline and prevent your team from reaching peak performance.

An excessive number of poorly vetted prospective clients and skimping on key qualifying activities won’t turn anyone into a sales superstar.

In this article, we’ll share how to determine your ideal sales prospects and why a fit pipeline is better than a fat one.

Table of contents


Why defining your ideal sales prospect helps you increase sales

Only in fantasyland do all lead generation activities and referrals turn into qualified prospective buyers that fit your buyer personas like a glove. In reality, weeding out warm from cold leads is a calculated, strategic effort.

Every business owner and sales professional looking to have a more manageable pipeline should consider these statements:

  • Acquiring customers should be at the core of your sales process

  • However, not all customers are created equal

  • There’s a wrong type of customer for your business model

  • Focusing on the right type of customer base makes your business more profitable

The first step is to determine the ideal prospective customer for your business and then focus your company’s time and talent (your most valuable resources) on engaging potential clients who fit the profile.

Here’s what generally happens to your metrics when you focus on reeling in leads that fit your ideal prospective customer definition:

  • Conversion rate improves. Your salespeople have a higher likelihood of closing deals with your customers

  • Sales velocity speeds up. You spend less time leading customers through the stages of the sales cycle, thus improving the buying experience

  • Sales funnel leakage decreases. You have a lower customer attrition rate or the frequency by which new prospects opt out of the sales process


What makes an ideal prospect?

When building up your ideal prospect profile, keep in mind that certain people may need or want your company’s products, but that doesn’t necessarily make them ideal prospect customers.

Many teenagers want a Ferrari and may even feel they need one, but the Italian car maker largely ignores this enthusiastic demographic in favor of a highly niche market they can do business with. This is an exaggerated example, but the point holds true whether your audience segments are easy to differentiate (e.g. teenagers vs. wealthy adults) or more difficult to define (e.g. works at an SME, at a manager level, in X industry, relies on automation to complete daily tasks and workflows, has decision-making power).

Many ideal sales prospects may already know your brand and the problems you solve, while just as many may have never heard of you. As long as they fit your prospective customer definition, previous knowledge shouldn’t matter. That said, the way you approach and build customer relationships may differ, depending on your lead generation strategy, business model and the types of products and services you sell.

Many ideal sales prospects may already know your brand and the problems you solve, while just as many may have never heard of you. As long as they fit your prospective customer definition, previous knowledge shouldn’t matter. That said, the way you approach and build customer relationships may differ, depending on your lead generation strategy, business model and the types of products and services you sell.

The key takeaway? Successful businesses rarely sell to everyone and casting a wide net can cause more harm than good.

As small business guru Ray Silverstein warned in Entrepreneur:

“The bigger your market, the greater the likelihood you’re wasting your time with undesirable prospects.”


How do you determine your ideal sales prospect?

For Pipedrive’s founder Timo Rein, the ideal customer is defined as, “one with whom you have the best strategic fit across the board”. This “fit” represents the sweet spot where:

  • The product meets the customer’s needs.

  • Your team’s sales cycle syncs with the customer’s purchasing behavior.

  • Your pricing strategy aligns with the customers budget.

Begin identifying your ideal customer profile by examining historical data, reviewing your metrics and answering several key questions with everyone on your team. For example:

  • With which type of business prospect do your sales reps experience the highest conversion rates?

  • What are the common attributes (size, location, business model, industry, target market, technologies used, etc.) of your current customers?

  • Which customer needs does your service or product solve best? What type of customers have these needs in common? What are their common pain points?

  • Which type of customers deliver the deals with the highest monetary value?

  • Which customer types or segments have the highest customer lifetime value (CLTV)?

  • How are buying decisions processed by customers you are most successful at selling with? How long does it take these customers on the average to reach a final decision?

A decent customer relationship management tool (CRM) automates your data and will help you answer these questions.

If you are using Pipedrive, you can map your ideal customer profile by tracking won/lost deals directly in the platform.

Pulling up lost deal details can help you identify the main reasons customers fall by the wayside. It also gives you key insights into what influences purchasing decisions.

Extracting won deals will give you a shortlist of customers your team should start profiling in earnest.

Meanwhile, what should a sales team do with prospects who don’t fit their ideal customer profile?

Based on your sales cycle, you can flush qualified but less-than-ideal prospects into a future pipeline or into a current but de-prioritized one.

SeamlessDocs uses Pipedrive to maintain three kinds of pipelines (hot, lukewarm, cold) depending on how close a prospect is to the company’s ideal customer profile.


Final Thoughts

While sales is largely a numbers game, the notion that more is better doesn’t always ring true.

Sure, more prospect customers generally mean the likelihood of more closed deals, but only when they’ve been properly vetted. If they don’t fit your ideal sales profile, a large number of unqualified leads could divert your company’s limited resources in the wrong direction.

A healthy but streamlined pipeline that is full of qualified leads is the key to selling success.

Four Steps to Finding the Right Leads Fast

Make instant improvements to your lead qualification process with this four-step guide full of actionable sales advice.

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