If you’re like most sales professionals, you could probably describe your ideal customer profile in your sleep. And you know who is buying your product and why.
What if I told you that you could be completely wrong?
Because we were.
By the time we’d signed 100 paid businesses, we thought we understood who we were selling to and what they cared about. We did this day in and day out, talking to people and learning their pain points. We thought we had it down.
We now call this the “finger in the wind” strategy.
Everyone that interacts with a customer — such as your sales and marketing teams — will come away with a different perspective heavily influenced by the last customer they spoke with. And you make assumptions you don’t even realize you’re making. You ignore facts that don’t fit the neat picture you keep in your head.
It’s hard to get a full and correct picture of a customer unless you use hard data.
Which is what we did.
In this article, we’ll tell you the step-by-step process we use to gather information about our customers — their roles and use cases — and how we organize it to make it more insightful and actionable.
Note: Troops is a Salesforce automation solution that works 100% within Slack. It is designed to help salespeople close more deals. Sign up for a free trial.
1. Use Data to Support Your Ideal Customer Profile Before You Start Outbound Sales Development
All this came about when we wanted to start an outbound sales development program and needed more information about who we should be targeting and what we should be saying to them.
Steven Broudy, Director of Inside Sales and Global Business Operations at Mulesoft, gave us some advice.
He told us that before we start writing emails and making calls, the absolute first thing we need to do is understand our ideal customer profile (ICP) and have data to back it up.
The data part is the most important step in outbound sales development that most companies skip. They use the “finger in the wind” strategy and end up approaching the wrong contacts within an account, with the wrong messages.
2. Grab Information About the Customer and Their Use Cases During the Closing Process
Every time we close a deal, our sales team documents the primary use cases that drove the purchase, as well as the names and roles of the project sponsor, champion, and signer. We also document the “win story” that offers more details about what problem our product is solving.
Because we’re linking to contacts within Salesforce using a VLookup, we’re able to leverage additional data on the contact record like the title and persona of that person which is enriched using Clearbit and an offshore data team to convert the titles to personas we’ve defined (you can have an intern do this).
By the way, if you’re a brand new company and haven’t made enough sales yet to do this, we recommend talking to leads as if they were already paid customers.
If they were to use your product:
- What would be the main problem they’d be trying to solve? (Use case)
- Who on their team is the most likely to buy? (Project sponsor)
You can always go back and replace (or compare) it with real customer info in the future.
3. Identify the REAL Ways Customers Want to Use Your Product
It’s not good enough to simply have data about your customers — you have to actually use it.
We used the data we gathered from our sales conversations to do this. We analyzed the information we obtained during the closing process (you can also do this from talks with potential customers). At first, we tracked the data in Google Sheets, which allowed us to do a quick and dirty analysis before eventually moving this to Salesforce so you can have a living, breathing ICP.
Once we started digging into the information we’d collected about our current customers, we found out that our assumptions about who they were and what they cared about were wrong.
What we originally thought:
- Most common product sponsor: Sales Managers/Directors.
- Most common use cases: Opportunity Management and Lead Management.
What we learned from real customer data from our first 100 "Closed Wons":
- Most common product sponsor: Sales/Business Operations.
- Most common use cases: Opportunity Management and Executive/Organizational Visibility.
We’re primarily selling to folks in different roles than we’d assumed. And organizational visibility, which is one of the top reasons people buy Troops, wasn’t even in our top ten use cases.
The beauty of putting your ICP data into Salesforce as part of your close process is that your definition isn’t static. As we sell to new customers and add new features, the roles and use cases change as well. We wanted this data to be a living, breathing thing so that, as we scale, our understanding of why and who is buying our product is constantly evolving.
So we created a system around it.
4. Integrate with Salesforce
Many sales organizations will grab this information, but they don’t have it in a structured format where it’s reportable. If this is you, you’re losing out on continuous actionable insights.
We use Salesforce for this, and we now have a one-click button in Troops that allows us to quickly capture information for a “Closed Won”.
This all feeds into a dashboard we can run at any time.
Now, everytime we close a new deal, we get more information about our customers and why they are buying.
This Isn’t Just a Report — It’s a Growth Strategy
Knowing who we are selling to and what they are using our product for has changed our sales funnel. It has informed our sales development of entry points into an organization and what we say to them.
Since we now know that sales or business operations, C-suite leaders, and VP’s of sales are the most likely to sponsor Troops, we start with them, using specific messaging that will resonate with people in their roles. This messaging is based on the use cases that have driven past purchases.
This informed, data-driven approach gives us a higher chance of landing a new account. By going after the right people with the right message, we’ve increased our opportunity rate (converting a target account to a sales opportunity) from less than 5% to 14%.
So whether you’re looking to build an outbound strategy or even just better understand your customers, let the data do the talking and start to operationalize this in Salesforce so you can understand your ideal entry point for outbound at scale!
Note: At Troops, we’re building solutions that help salespeople close more deals as a team. Want to know more about how it works? Sign up for a free trial.