As an early employee at Radius, I had the opportunity to wear multiple hats in marketing and sales (as you do in most startups). One of them, notably, was during my tenure in sales enablement. At this time I was tasked with developing & executing sales account strategy and managing the training of all go-to-market teams.

I found that the most successful SDRs, and sales development teams in general, exhibited one key ability: qualify businesses in or out quickly and act. It’s an approach seen only when reps are compensated on their ability to create pipeline. But even then, many reps struggle to source and identify truly qualified opportunities that their company is likely to close.

In today’s ABSD and account-focused world, this means qualifying a sales account based on how good of a fit they are. Reps have a tendency to make excuses for the prospects they spend time trying to convert and less time being highly exclusive with whom to sell to. This is where marketing and sales can partner to keep both teams hyper-focused and precise by knowing who they’re looking for. And, it’s where a well-defined Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) comes into play.

Identifying Accounts that Don’t Make the Cut

An Ideal Customer Profile. or ICP, is a group of attributes that describe your best customer. Commonly built by sales and marketing leaders, your ICP helps you target the most valuable prospects based on their firmographic, environmental, and behavioral attributes.

We’re not talking about 3 or 4 criteria either – do not make the “we can sell to everyone” mistake. Your ICP could include 20 or more criteria. These are the best of the best prospects – your sweet spot, the bullseye. Not every sales account meets all the attributes, but your tier A sales account should match to around 80% of the criteria that make up your ICP.

The benefits of investing in a well-defined ICP includes faster sales cycles, higher conversion rates, and better customer metrics like the annual contract value and lifetime value.

In fact, it’s such a crucial process that at Radius we make it one of the first exercises in our go-to-market training. New hires are tasked with learning the Radius ICP and then defining it to their colleagues and manager. To further solidify their understanding, we also ask them to identify five accounts that would fit the ICP and explain why they would qualify for it.

Now, why is all of this so important for sales reps in today’s ABSD world?

1) Identify your best sales account using your ICP

If you’re committed to building an efficient sales enablement engine, you need to be able to commit to certain accounts that fit your ICP. By identifying the best accounts with the highest potential to convert into opportunities, you’re ensuring that your sales team can go after the right sales account and that your sales process is highly effective.

2) Use a strategic approach to developing the right accounts

With a great process in place to disqualify businesses that don’t fit your ICP, you can double-down on the target accounts that do make the cut.

Identifying the right sales account is just the first step in the process, you need to invest time into thoughtfully developing your target accounts so they have a higher likelihood of becoming opportunities for your business. Marketing and sales should think in terms of coordinated account-based plays that will raise brand awareness, kickstart engagement, and progress buyers into meaningful conversations.

Account-based plays look different than typical prospecting and marketing campaigns. Read 12 examples from TOPO of the highly personalized touches made possible when focusing on your ICP.

3) Adopt a top-down and bottom-up approach

Depending on which analyst firm you talk to, there are anywhere from 5 to 18 stakeholders in every modern buying cycle. Too often our sales and marketing efforts only target executive-level roles. Why? Because they sign the checks AND because reps have 500 other accounts they’re “actively pursuing”.

Even if the C-suite does commit to a meeting and later a proof-of-concept, it is incredibly impactful if the other stakeholder – who are often the actual users – have also been highly engaged with you and your brand.

Working thoughtfully, and comprehensively, on only your ideal prospects opens the door for you and marketing to go to the top, but be sure to also invest in the bottom early on.

4) Achieve marketing & sales alignment – finally

Cross-departmental alignment has long been organizational-nirvana. Agreement between you and your counterparts on who you both are going to actively invest time & resources into creates a joint mission toward revenue. And when marketing and sales are both contributing to the bottom line, many pressures subside.

Transparency and starting early is key. Everyone on your go-to-market teams should know the target accounts, who owns them, and what activities are live or planned to engage them. Also, every new hire should be given documentation and training about your ICP on their first day. Buyers equal revenue – the lifeblood of every growing company. Everyone should know the buyers and should be committed to converting them together.

Your ICP is the first step to long-term ABSD success

These are just some activities that a tightly-defined ICP can help you achieve, but ultimately, you need to start by truly understanding your customers and prospects.

The modernization of B2B organizations calls for a high-yield, revenue generating sales engine that is dialed into your best opportunities. Building lead lists and boosting the quantity of emails sent are outdated approaches. Sales development teams nowadays must know who to target, how to capture their attention, and where to engage them – criteria that all require a complete understanding of your target accounts.

Remember: You don’t have to go at it alone. Tools like predictive can help you build an ICP and better segment your target audiences. Learn about ICPs and more in How To Sharpen Targeting with Micro-Segmentation.

This post was written by John Hurley, Director of Demand Gen & Content at RadiusWith 5+ years experience in building startups, John specializes in empowering growth at technology companies by coupling superior marketing intuition with a data-driven customer understanding.

Learn more about Account-based Sales Development by downloading your free copy of our latest ebook, “The Essential Guide To Account-Based Sales Development,” and get started with account-based sales development with confidence!