Ideal Customer Profile: Positive Impact Potential

We are now onto the final of the three categories of attributes that describe your Ideal Customer Profile.

  1. Firmographics: Who should you call? (See here)
  2. Customer Business Problem: What problem do they have? (See here)

This post addresses Positive Impact Potential: Will they be successful?, possibly the most important category of the three for companies who want to build sustainable customer relationships.

(Much of this post is from my latest book: Digital Sales Transformation in a Customer First World)

Your Ideal Customer Profile doesn’t just point to companies that are easy to acquire. You also want to keep them for life. You know that the impact on a customer of a bad buying decision is typically greater than the impact on a salesperson of a lost deal. You also know that selling to customers for whom you can deliver value is an easier thing to do than trying to persuade a customer who is not a good fit to buy your product. This applies for new divisions in an existing customer, new products to an existing customer, as well as for new customers. When you adopt the buyer’s perspective and take the time to consider the positive impact that you can provide, then you’re on a path to mutual success.

Caring about the customer adopting your product successfully means that you care about keeping them as a customer, investing more with you over time, and being an active advocate. If all of this makes sense it follows that you shouldn’t try to acquire customers that don’t have Positive Impact Potential.

If you knowingly pursue customers without Positive Impact Potential, nothing that your Customer Success team does will ever have the result you’re hoping for – and even worse, the customer will never achieve their expected or required results (and they will tell their friends and peers in other companies).

Good Fit customer is one that maps to all your criteria for Positive Impact Potential. They are likely to have a successful experience with your product. It is also probable that they are more ready to consume what you have to offer.

If you are selling a software application that is built on the Salesforce platform, and the customer has just recently deployed Salesforce, it is probable that they will need some time to bed down that implementation before they take on another connected software implementation project. They will need to get the first project out of the way before they have capacity to deal with the next one.

It’s great if you have found a supporter in the customer’s organization who is willing to purchase your solutions, but depending on where they are on their journey, they may not yet be either ready or able to buy from you. If you ignore the fact that customers will occupy different positions on the spectrum of Positive Impact Potential, and instead you normalize targeting or support across all customers, you will fail to unlock that Positive Impact Potential for at least some of those customers. A Good Fit customer that you lose as a customer (but is still in business themselves) is the worst kind of churn. It means you failed them.

To determine if a company will fit your Ideal Customer Profile you should consider:

  • Is there evidence that the company has the requisite internal expertise and competence to adopt your solution successfully? Example: Where a data analytics solution is being deployed, the company will need technically competent personnel with existing expertise in data analysis, or personnel who can be trained to effectively deploy and use your solution.
  • Does the company have the necessary resources available to deploy and sustain successful use of your product? If they do not have the resources to invest (money, time, energy) into everything required to be successful, they are a bad fit. The budget (in financial and / or human resource terms) that a customer has deployed historically for the business area to which your solution applies is a good indicator of the company’s match to your Ideal Customer Profile.
  • Where your solution has a technology component (in a product or related service) is the customer’s technical environment compatible with your offering? Example: If you have a software application that integrates with the Enterprise or Unlimited Editions of Salesforce.com, and your customer only has the Professional Edition, then this company does not fit your Ideal Customer Profile.
  • Does your offering include the level of support and reliability required by the target customer? Example: If you are selling to organizations that respond to and deal with emergencies when they occur, especially those that provide police, ambulance, and firefighting services, it is likely that they will require 24 / 7 support and availability. If your support is available only from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, then emergency services organizations will not fit your Ideal Customer Profile.
  • Is the company culturally aligned with yours? Companies with similar values tend to work better together. Companies, like people, tend to cluster around the same set of values, beliefs, intent and behaviors. Cultural fit – the extent to which the customer’s culture resembles that of your company exhibited by how it operates its business and its behaviors, practice and values – often foretells the length of relationship you can expect to have with that company and how likely it is that they will succeed with your product or solution.

This last point is important. The culture of a company is usually a reflection of the values of the leadership team or the person at the top. The values at Apple were a reflection of Steve Jobs’ drive for perfection. Marc Benioff at Salesforce has instilled a set of customer centric and socially conscious values throughout his company. At Bang & Olufsen, designers rule the world: products are not designed based on extensive market research or focus groups – but on the gut-feel of the designers. At UPS, all process is implemented with militaristic precision. At Cirque de Soleil, each theatrical presentation still bears the critical and creative mark of the founder’s unique perspective. At Nordstrom, customer service reigns supreme.

Where your company’s values and culture align with that of your customer, all interactions will be easier. If the manner in which a customer engages with its suppliers maps to how you want to do business, that company is more ideal for you. A circle of trust is easier to develop between people with similar perspectives. Recognizing the rainbow of perspectives will guide you more effectively to the pot of gold.

Selling to the Trump administration would be very different than selling to the Obama administration. If one administration maps to the Cultural Fit element of your Ideal Customer Profile, it is likely that the other will not.

There are many ways to describe culture. I have used four categories of culture in my book Digital Sales Transformation in a Customer First World to help you decide what best fits your customer engagement.

In summary, when the culture is Bureaucratic, everything will be very structured, and very controlled. Whoever dictates policies and procedure will be the source of power and that’s where you need to focus. The Entrepreneurial culture is fast moving, and revolves around the leader. Unless you’re aligned with the visionary one, your chances of success are slight. When the culture is Collaborative you need to be too. Committees rule; individuals make very few decisions in isolation; and process is across teams with clear measurements. The Individualistic culture is hard to sell to because there’s little centralized decision making. It’s like an amalgam of multiple fiefdoms.

As I said earlier, in a world responding to the Mega Trends of Digital Transformation and Customer First, companies are under pressure to act strategically, collaborate proactively and respond quickly, earning their customer’s business month on month, time over time. Selecting companies who are more likely to be successful with your product, those with a strong Positive Impact Potential, makes that a lot easier.

That checks off the third and final of the three ICP categories:

  • Firmographics: Who should you call?
  • Customer Business Problem: What problem do they have?
  • Positive Impact Potential: Will they be successful?

In the next post I will help you pull it all together in the Ideal Customer Profile Model.

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