Best Practices in ICP Development: Qualitative Analysis

September 11, 2019

These seven questions will finetune strategic selling, promote collaboration and provide actionable insights to develop an ideal customer profile that delivers results.

The original version of this article, authored by Tom Scearce, was published by TOPO, now Gartner. 

The ideal customer profile (ICP) defines the firmographic, environmental and behavioral attributes of accounts expected to become a company’s most valuable customers. It is developed through both qualitative and quantitative analyses, and may also be informed by predictive analytics software.

The ICP aligns marketing, sales, service and executive teams to the highest-value accounts, and focuses on scalable and repeatable strategies and tactics to engage and convert top accounts. It also drives target account list creation, segmentation, organizational structure and other key activities.

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Qualitative ICP data collection

The first step in ICP development is qualitative data collection. Gathering qualitative inputs is done through close interaction with key stakeholders to leverage their diverse expertise and foster cross-functional buy-in.

The goal of qualitative data collection is to uncover insights into what constitutes “good” vs “bad” accounts. These questions are designed to provoke thought, promote collaboration and provide actionable insights to develop an ICP that delivers results. 

Organizations should meet with the following stakeholders to capture real-time results from the qualitative questionnaire:

  • Sales leadership
  • Top sales performers
  • Customer success 
  • Sales development
  • Marketing
  • Product marketing
  • Finance

 7 questions for qualitative ICP data analysis

1. How would you describe your ideal customer/account?

  • Description: Open-ended question to learn how respondents instinctively answer with real account examples
  • Example: “Companies with more than 20 sales reps that have implemented CRM in the past year” or “annual contract value of $300,000+ with products at 40%+ gross margins”

2. What attributes make for an ideal account?

  • Description: Firmographic information such as number of employees, size, annual revenue, vertical, etc.
  • Example: “Manufacturing organizations with 1,000+ employees, over $100 million in revenue, located in the U.S.”

3. What are their key objectives?

  • Description: The ideal customer’s business motivations
  • Example: “They have to be protective of critical customer data” or “have a global customer base”

4. What is the infrastructure or operating environment of ideal customers/accounts?

  • Description: Current infrastructure may include technology, processes and organizational structure
  • Example: “UNIX-based servers” or “multiple remote locations” 

5. What are the key buying triggers that drive these accounts to take action?

  • Description: Key events that will motivate accounts to drive internal change
  • Example: “Overseas expansion,” “recently increased hiring” and “acquisitions” 

6. What are the main reasons accounts don’t buy from us?

  • Description: Sales roadblocks that affect an account’s fit with the ICP
  • Example: “Status quo” or “no pain”

7. What constitutes an account we absolutely can’t sell to? Why?

  • Description: Unworkable accounts/opportunities
  • Example: “If they just bought XX technology in the past 12 months, they will not buy from us”

The qualitative analysis should be aggregated into an initial rendering of the ICP. The next step is quantitative analysis, which may prove/disprove the qualitative findings and identify insights to further refine the ICP definition.

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