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Who is your ideal company to sell to?

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design

11 MINUTE READ
Who is your ideal company to sell to?

When identifying who you are next going to sell to the key element you need is FOCUS and this starts with identifying your Ideal Target Company (ITC). These are the companies with the highest likelihood to buy, deliver the maximum amount of revenue, expending the least amount of capital to acquire, and require the least effort to onboard and support.

In this post I’m going to take you through the steps to identify your bright spot customers. I’ll help you uncover their common characteristics to get a deeper understanding of their business, then identify your ideal prospects who are most likely to be receptive to your value proposition, and close quickly with the highest average order size.

Regardless of whether your company provides you a list of potential targets, or you need to build your own, it is important for a Modern Seller to understand how to profile your target companies. Once you understand your Ideal Company Target (ICT) you can begin to prioritise your time and effort with a customised Value Proposition that will resonate with the business.

This post will help you understand your bright spot customers, define your ICT and use that information to intelligently equip yourself and your team, to pursue the next best target immediately. This is a six step process that includes;

Step 1 — Identify your bright spot customers

Step 2 — Enrich customer data

Step 3 — Conduct analog analytics

Step 4 — Build a list of prospects & populate your CRM

Step 5 — Focus, focus, focus

Let’s get stuck into it!

Step 1: Identify your bright spots

Bright Spots are the companies where you are already having significant success, or where you are going to be able to target prospects in the top right quarter of the magic quadrant. This is the sweet spot of maximum return and ease of transacting.

bright spot

When looking at your existing customers, the bright spots are the ones who are also a joy to work with, we need to look at several factors. Firstly, what makes them a joy to work with? Common attributes are;

  • they purchase the largest deals,
  • they closed in the fastest time with minimal sales touch and barely hassled support,
  • they continually upgrade and tell their friends.

If they are doing all of these things they are a customer well worth replicating!

Once you have identified these bright spots, you are going to be able to use technology to do prescriptive analysis to uncover and score similar companies. This process can also help you identify your total addressable market which gives you an understanding of the market opportunity.

Identifying these spots is different based on your stage of growth. Different stages of growth require a different approach to creating your ‘bright spots’ so we break them down into those who are;

1. Startups entering a market with no customers and no competitors. Identifying prospects by searching for people who are experiencing the problem you solve through forums, communities, events, etc.

2. Entering a new market with no customers but with active competitors. You can leverage your competitors’ bright spots as a starting point.

3. Existing successful customers that are a joy to work with. Use your own customer data to uncover the next best selling opportunity.

Step 2: Enrich the data

Once you have created the list you can begin to enrich the data so you can identify the meaningful characteristics of your bright spot customers to help uncover those ITC’s.

This includes, but goes well beyond just establishing their firmographic information like, location or employee size, to looking at digital markers that can help identify other areas of commonality like;

  • Propensity to adopt new technology
  • Focus on customer acquisition & growth
  • Technology partners

DIGITAL MARKERS EXPLAINED

Propensity to adopt technology. By viewing a prospects technology stack through the lens of Geoffrey Moore’s adoption curve we can identify who the early adopters are of innovative solutions and maybe more aligned to test and evaluate your solutions.

Geoffrey Moore’s adoption curve

Focus on customer growth. You could understand a customer’s’ ad spend across multiple channels — Google, Facebook, etc. Or review the amount of traffic they get directed to their website by using tools like Alexa.

Technology Partners. By understanding which technologies the customer have been deployed on their website you can get a view as to who you may want to target as potential acquisition partners or use that information to create more contextual conversations.

Once you have identified the type of data you would like to enrich, now you can set your sites on filling the holes. There are several options you can pursue depending on the information you require, your budget or ongoing data requirements.

Let’s check out the three options;

  1. Virtual Assistants (VA’s)

Available through a plethora of sites like UpWork, Freelancer, Fiver, VA’s are well adept at scouring the web to manually ascertain the kind of information you require. Depending on which VA you work with, they will use an array of tools to fulfil the task in the shortest amount of time.

They are very useful in establishing information available from the open web, such as information from company reports and getting access to online communities, like LinkedIn Groups or Industry Associations to obtain information. When trained well they are able to add significant value to the process while taking the laborious, time consuming task of web research off your hands.

2. Scraping the open web

Performed by web scrapers who write a script which automates the scraping of information off the web. This is fantastic for when you are looking to extract the logo’s from your competitors websites, understand who is sponsoring a conference, understand who is listing open roles on job boards or perhaps identify the thought leaders of an industry. If it is on the web in a structured format it can be scraped.

If you don’t have the skill set in house there are plenty of people with this skill set at the VA sites I mentioned earlier.

3. Technology

Probably my favourite way to extract company information is through technology. It has advanced considerably over the last two years and there are more vendors in the market offering different views of data from varying data sources, with an increasing analytical intelligence. The huge benefit is it allows you to cast your net of discovery wider, which can fuel an unexpected area of commonality.

The path you choose is dependent on your budget and data requirements and search locations. Here are a couple of different companies worth checking out

  • GetSlik.com — a new entrant in the data market is able to provide you with basic company data in a short tinme
  • Import.io — allows you to create and run scripts without any coding ability
  • ClearBit.io — a more established player in the market can provide you the information through adhoc searches and also provides extensive API’s so that you can automate the process and consistently have updated data in your SRM
  • Datanyze.com — One of the premium vendors in the space, their basic service is similar to Clearbit but they offer several premium features, the most powerful is their predictive analytics that automates the majority of the process we are discussing in this blog post! Very exciting technology that enables sales teams.
  • BuiltWith.com — an Australian company that can analyse a company’s website, the technology they use and where they have deployed it
  • WhatRunsWhere.com This tool enabes you to identify how much companies are investing on promoting themselves by digital channels

Step 3: Use clustering and scoring to create your own analog analytical engine

As discussed earlier, there are many tools that can help review your enriched data to help you identify who is your next best customer.

Outside of Clearbit there are other tools like Infer, InsideSales, 6Sense, Fliptop and Lattice which can do a predictive analysis on your existing company data and make informed decisions on the next best company to target..

For those with enough data on their Bright Spot customers, and enough capital, I strongly recommend pursuing these tools.

I did mention that this was Analog predictive analytics so for those who don’t have either the data or the cash, here is what you can do.

The first step is to ascertain the key characteristics from the bright customers you are going to use to rank your bright spot prospects. There are three elements to think about in this stage, first to identify the markers to rank other prospects, then use them to create custom messages to engage the ITC’s.

Identify

To identify the commonalities you are going to use the sorting functions within your spreadsheet function to group particular data sets and try to identify clusters of commonalities. This requires that you start with a hypothesis of the common ground and start testing, maybe it’s geography, employee size or industry. In the below example we are pursuing startups that have recently raised capital.

spreadsheet 1
spreadsheet 2

Breaking this down, further look at the digital markers that are available, go to those columns, sort A-Z and try to identify the commonalities across the technology and firmographics information. Once these are identified you need to rank the importance of these characteristics.

Rank

Not all prospects are created equal. For example if 8/10 of your bright spot customers use Marketo, although it may not be aligned with your offering, it is a strong correlation between your current customers and the particular solution they value and adopt. In this instance Marketo would score quite high. Each of the defined commonalities need to be ranked to provide an objective view of your ITC’s.

Once you have scored and ranked all of the companies you now need to segment them into logical groups, taking into account their score, the number of companies, and sales strategy.

The next step is to create logical segmentation that separates your A, B & C grade leads, which will enable you to test your messaging against the lower quality leads while allocating the appropriate prospecting time to the higher quality prospects.

Engage

Not only is this information going to help you identify other companies of equal company size, same geo location, or propensity to adopt technology, the information can also be used to better engage your prospects by presenting them with targeted messaging.

Instead of generic sales message like;

letter

You can now craft a message that appeals directly to the company;

Or maybe leverage the fact that they are early adopters;

letter

Hopefully you can see how these digital markers can not only help you identify potential customers but also have richer conversations with the prospects you are trying to engage.

The other element to take into account is the customer’s buying journey, as different markers are going to identify different items about the customer. E.g the buying process for a customer of 25 people is going to be very different to a 500 person organisation. A company in Toronto is going to review and purchase software very different than a company in Tokyo.

You need to use these markers to help you identify the customers in that top right hand quadrant, a high likelihood to buy with the minimum effort.

Step 4: Build the Total Addressable Market of ITC’s & Populate your CRM

Now you have identified a limited number of data points that will clearly identify bright spot prospects, you need to scour the web to understand how many companies have similar characteristics. This will uncover all of the potential companies who fit your profile.

This involves taking the digital markers you identified as core for your bright spot customers, and building lists of your intelligent ITC’s. In the past you had to purchase a book of lists, a bunch of emails, or even the yellow pages, and start to prospect and hypothesise on their potential fit to your ITC profile. Now you can be a lot more intelligent and get a picture of your Total Addressable Market (TAM).

So how you do you go about it?

By using the three resources outlined above, VA’s, scraping or technology. Technology easily delivers you the greatest return and highest accuracy, in the least amount of time. Using software like Clearbit can easily identify the other companies and begin to populate your spreadsheet with the information you need to effectively identify and engage these prospects.

Populate your CRM

You now have a spreadsheet with all of this rich company data and it is tempting to throw it into the hands of your sales team, but information overload can cause analysis paralysis for sales reps. If there is too much company information it may propel your lead into a long, unnecessary research vortex. Additionally, a variety of digital markers may provide a distraction rather than helping to craft a customised message that increases engagement success.

Identify the smallest amount of data points you can provide the rep to succeed at their jobs. This will include firmographic data and 2 or 3 digital markers. Enter them into your CRM as unique fields under the company’s record. This means when the rep is customising the messaging they can utilise these individual records to create customised messaging at scale.

This doesn’t have to be a batch effort, that is the old way of sales. Now that you have a new understanding of your target prospects you can have your CRM automatically populated with prospect data or have your inbound data automatically enriched. The technologies mentioned above can help you.

If you are interested in learning more, read here.

Step 5: FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS

So now your CRM is loaded with prospects that fit your Ideal Target Company and your reps are raring to go. Do you just let them go after it? No.

You need to take a hyper focused approach to give yourself the maximum chance of success while not burning through your prospect list with ineffective messaging or lack of persistence.

  1. FOCUS — Segment based on bright spot customers

Firmographic data and digital markers will enable you to identify the best fit prospects to your bright spot customers. These are your gold plated, Glen Garry leads. Don’t burn these by testing out your messaging on these prospects.

2. FOCUS — Time for your rifle not your shotgun.

Now that you have separated out your gold plated leads, it is not the time to spray the rest of your prospects with generic messaging and pray that you hit the mark. Instead you need to choose your laser sighted rifle, identify a particular subset of customers and pursue them with a very specific and targeted message. By focusing on a very narrow customer subset you can obtain conversational intelligence within the industry and validate messaging within the broader market.

3. FOCUS — Go deep with confidence

You have qualified all of these prospects as a good fit, segmented them by similarity to your bright spot companies and taken a laser focused approach to your prospecting activity. Now, don’t give up if they don’t respond to your first, call, email, InMail or social post. You carefully selected these ITC’s, you owe it to them to help them solve their business challenges.

According to InsideSales.com you increase your chances of connecting with your prospect by 95% if you make 12 contact attempts

Conclusion

Only by truly understanding the unique characteristics of your current customers can you begin to start building intelligent lists of your ITC. If you are taking a different approach you are wasting quality selling time speaking to companies that aren’t a good fit.

Now remember, this is not a quick fix solution and it takes time. As the genius Albert Einstein once said, if I had 60 minutes to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes solving it. The same is true of your customer acquisition, the tighter you define your customer the better your chance for sales success.

Although it may be the company’s money, it is the indivdual who writes the cheques. Keep an eye out for my next post where I will help you truly understand and build your your Ideal Customer Profiles.

Happy Selling!

As part of Winning by Design we have helped 150+ companies to design a scalable sales team and train their sales teams to execute them with a customer centric methdology.

If you are looking for insights on how to create your Ideal Target Companies just let me know, we think every great partnership starts with a a conversation and some free advice

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