If you’ve ever seen the Wolf of Wall Street, you’ll remember the pen scene.
That scene encapsulates a lot of unfair sales stereotypes, but the underlying message is on point: successful salespeople know how to send a message that creates urgency.
So what about the less successful salespeople? How do you take the message your top performing reps use, and arm the entire sales team with it?
That’s what sales operations is all about. Sitting at the juncture of marketing, sales, and operations, the sales operations team is in the perfect position to define its company’s ideal customer profile, test what type of message creates the most urgency, and equip the sales team with the tools to consistently deliver that message to the right people at the right time.
These are the three steps to creating a targeted ideal customer profile (ICP), and using it to maximize the efficiency and productivity of your sales team.
1. Develop Your Customer Profile
The key to sending a message that spurs action is to understand who you are delivering the message to. That means, in order to do its job effectively, the sales operations team has to start by developing an ICP.
Going back to the Wolf of Wall Street example, you’ll notice that the message is effective because it’s tailored for the person it’s being delivered to (Jordan Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character).
He’s blunt, impatient, and coarse, so to sell the pen, the “salesperson” (Brad, played by Jon Bernthal) gets right to the pain point: “Write your name down on that napkin for me.” He knows who he’s talking to, he knows what Belfort wants to hear, and he knows exactly what message will get the desired result.
Obviously, getting to that point with your own customer base is much more complicated, but the principle is the same. Lincoln Murphy developed a framework on how to create your ideal customer profile that covers the most essential principles of developing an ICP. At a high level, the customers you’re looking for must:
- Be Ready – Have a problem they need solved
- Be Willing – Be ready to solve that problem by taking action
- Be Able – Have the means to solve the problem
- Have Success Potential – Are likely to achieve success using your product
- Have High Acquisition Efficiency – Are within your means to sell to, onboard, and support
- Have Expansion Potential – Have a high potential for upsells and cross sells
- Have Advocacy Potential – Will help you spread the word about your product.
Once the sales ops team has gone through all the work to create the ICP, the next step is to refine it.
2. Test Your Customer Profile
To refine the customer profile, sales operations needs to test it, and to test it, they need help from both their marketing team and sales reps.
He says the reason for this shift is that companies have changed their approach to buying — they do most of the research on their own, and decentralize the buying process so that individual units can make buying decisions on their own and scale more efficiently.
This means that marketing teams have (or should have) a treasure trove of data about what type of content gets clicks, what topics prospects are most interested in, and what messages move them down the funnel.
However, marketing only gets you half the story. After all, they develop messaging for the upper sections of the funnel — you still need the sales team to figure out what will actually convert customers. Getting the sales team to actively invest in testing ICPs can be quite challenging — this post from Lincoln Murphy does a good job of explaining why.
If sales reps focus on a specific subset of prospects, they risk losing all the opportunities that don’t fall within that subset. Unless the sales team is provided with incentives that encourage experimentation, they aren’t likely to risk missing their number for the sake of refining customer profiles.
So the role that the sales operations team plays in testing the ICP is to coordinate resources from the go-to-market functions.
Sales operations takes the data that marketing collects around what messaging converts leads, develops incentives that encourage the sales team to focus their time around specific subsets of opportunities, analyzes the results of the sales team’s efforts, and uses that information to develop a more targeted ICP.
3. Incorporate the Customer Profile Into Your Sales Process
Once they’ve finally established what the customer profile looks like, the sales operations team can get to work arming the sales team with the tools they need to deliver the right message and drive action.
The customer profile should act as the foundation of the sales process — every stage has to match with the buying process your prospects are likely to take, and the customer profile should inform the message your sales team delivers to compel prospects to move further down the funnel.
All the work the sales operations team does to develop an accurate ICP pays off when the sales process comes into shape, and sales reps are able to consistently deliver the right messages at the right time to prospects.
This is especially important for growing teams. A well developed sales process will ease the pain of onboarding and help new reps to ramp more smoothly. They won’t get stuck trying to reinvent their entire sales script, because both the customer profile and the messaging that moves the needle are built into the sales process.
The ultimate result of well developed customer profiles and timely, targeted messaging is a more efficient sales process and consistent, positive sales performance.