What’s Your ICP?

By Heather Baldwin

Do you have clients who are more trouble than they are worth? Maybe you were so anxious to close a sale that you brushed aside your intuition that these would be high-maintenance clients and sealed the deal anyway. Next time, stick with your ideal client profile, or ICP, says Andrea Sittig-Rolf, founder of sales strategy consultancy Sittig Northwest, Inc. and author of Business-to-Business Prospecting: Innovative Techniques to Get Your Foot in the Door with Any Prospect (Aspatore, 2005). Don’t have an ICP? Then start writing, says Sittig-Rolf.

ICPs are just what they sound like – a listing of the factors that make up your ideal client. What is the ideal company size? How many employees does it have? How much does it do in revenue each year? Who are its clients? What is its product or service? How many locations does it have? How much client service is involved when working with your ideal client?

Don’t think it’s worth taking the time to figure these things out and write them down? Consider Sittig-Rolf’s own experience. Two years after starting her own business she was still taking on any clients who were willing to pay – and being forced to start over practically every day to determine where her next paycheck was going to come from. Then she stumbled onto an account that had a large sales team in the form of a dealer network. Her work with the company started small, but word spread so fast throughout the organization that she was forced to hire other sales trainers to keep up with demand. Soon she landed another client with a similar profile – multiple training programs in multiple locations, all based on a single sale – and met with the same success. It got her to thinking: What was it about these two clients that was so different from her other clients?

"That’s when I decided to create a formal process to determine my ICP," says Sittig-Rolf. "By defining the ideal client and then pursuing only those prospects that fit my ICP, I would have an entire business focused on only the best of the best." Once she began accepting only those clients who matched her ICP, her average order went from $2,000 to $17,000. "I actually increased my revenue per order by eight and a half times my average just by determining what it was about those two new accounts that made them so lucrative for my business."

Sittig-Rolf says sales reps should use their ICPs not only to decide which clients to pursue, but also to identify which clients not to pursue. "Think about how much more effective you could be in attracting ideal clients when you’re no longer wasting time with prospects who aren’t the best fit for what you sell, for whatever reason," she explains. So develop your ICP, take a hard look at your pipeline and focus your efforts only on those who meet your ICP criteria. In the long run you’ll be glad you did.

For more information, visit www.sittignw.com.