Everyone has that “dream client” they love to work with. They value what you do. They trust your expertise. They have big ambitions and are willing to invest in their success. They rarely quibble over invoices. And they’re an absolute pleasure to work with, which encourages you to deliver your best to keep them happy. With clients like this, you feel like you’re part of the same team.

On the other hand, we’ve all encountered those hyper-demanding, soul-sucking clients who are continually questioning your team and the value you bring. They come to the table with a sense of mistrust. They take up a disproportionate amount of your time and energy. In many cases, they’re the type of client that can slowly erode the passion you have for your job.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of your clients could be dream clients?

As your business matures, it’s important to establish your Ideal Client Profile (ICP). Your ICP will steer your sales team’s prospecting strategy to ensure your clients are aligned with the goals and values that you uphold as a company.

What is an ideal client profile (ICP)?

An Ideal Client Profile (ICP) is a set of key elements that a company must hold to be a fit for your offering. This supports your sales strategy by allowing you to focus on prospects that will most benefit from working with your company – which will result in a positive and rewarding partnership.

So, how do you determine your ideal client profile?

Here are six steps that will help you identify and define your Ideal Client Profile:

  1. ANALYZE YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS – Review your current client base and identify the clients that are the most profitable, easiest to work with and most satisfied with your products or services.  This can help to identify common characteristics such as company size and industry.
  2. CONDUCT MARKET RESEARCH – By identifying the needs and pain points of your target audiences through surveys or competitive analysis, you can see which customers are the best fit for your offering.
  3. IDENTIFY COMPANY DEMOGRAPHIC AND PSYCHOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS – Use the data from your current customers to identify common characteristics shared by your top clients. This can include factors such as company size, vertical, buying needs, management structure, core values and pain points.
  4. CREATE BUYER PERSONAS – The data you collect can help you create buyer personas: fictional representations of your ideal clients. Each persona will include demographic and psychographic information as well as information on their goals, challenges, hesitations, and buyer behaviours. When you see multiple buyer personas side-by-side, it makes it easier to determine which ones should be your primary focus and which are of lower value.
  5. REVISIT AND/OR REFINE YOUR OWN COMPANY VALUES – For new businesses, it’s pretty hard to turn down work. But as you grow and become more successful, you have greater flexibility to pick and choose your clients. This may give you the luxury to re-examine your values based on your priorities.

    Working with clients that don’t align with your company values can cause unnecessary friction in your internal team and your commitment to other clients. That’s why it’s important to ensure your values are well-defined. This allows you to gauge whether or not your clients share those values.

    For new prospects, consider a Values Checklist. Companies often share their values on their website. If you sense friction in one of their values it’s worth seeing if it is a dealbreaker.
  6. DEFINE YOUR IDEAL CLIENT PROFILE (ICP) – Once you’ve created your buyer personas, use them to develop an ideal client profile for your business. It’s important to take pride in your non-negotiables and how you are able to instill your values across all team members by staying true to your ICP.

    Your ICP can be big or small but needs to include key parameters such as:
    • Company Revenue – what is the minimum revenue your clients should have?

    • Longevity of relationship – is your prospect looking for a long-term partnership?

    • Vertical – does your team have direct experience and knowledge in this vertical?

    Alternatively, your ICP may also include things that might serve as “red flags.” For example, you may decide not to take on clients that:
    • Have unrealistic goals and expectations,

    • Are struggling or in survival mode,

    • Are cost/budget obsessed, or

    • Are not aligned with your values.

    Once your ICP is created, your sales team can be more focused and discerning in identifying which prospects to prioritize and which to avoid.

How do you evaluate potential prospects?

One effective way is to use an ICP scorecard. If a prospect doesn’t align with the ICP scorecard, they don’t have a place at your table.

Sample ICP Scorecard: Here is an example of an ICP scorecard that requires a minimum score of 7 to ensure the prospect is a fit.

 No Fit (0)Workable Fit (1)Complete Fit (2)Score
NeedThe prospect doesn’t acknowledge the problem you solve.The prospect acknowledges the problem but doesn’t consider a solution a priority.The problem exists and prospects are searching for a solution.1
Time (Runway to succeed:
6-12 months)
Success can’t be achieved by the prospects or your deadline.There is time to deploy your solution but little to no buffer.There is time to deploy your solution and there is buffer for the unexpected.2
Success (Measurable goals set) (Experience with Agencies)The prospect has no direct or related success in this area.Prospect has no relevant success but knows they’re hiring you to learn.Prospect has relevant experience necessary to assess your performance.1
BudgetProspect cannot afford your solution and has no buffer for error.Client can afford your profitable solution but has little to no buffer for error.Prospect can afford your profitable solution and has buffer for the unexpected.2
Winners (Buy-in from all decision makers)Can’t identify personal wins for Decision Makers and Influencers.Personal wins are clear but Decision Makers or Influencers lose if you win.Personal wins identified for all Decision Makers and Influencers.1
ValuesThe prospect has clearly demonstrated that they do not align with 2 or more of our values.The prospect showcases some of the company values but not all.The prospect showcases clear alignment with the company values.2
Total (Must be 7 or higher)9

As your business changes, so will your ICP.

Remember that an Ideal Client Profile is not set in stone and may change over time. Regularly revisiting and refining your ICP can help ensure that your sales and marketing efforts remain effective and aligned with your business goals.

The more dream clients you find, the happier and more profitable you’ll be.

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