This may not seem profound, but it will shortly. The way you've been taught to prospect is by narrowing a target list. But what you've been taught to do is narrow a big wrong target list into a small wrong target list. Building an ideal customer profile is the best way to find prospects. But what is a prospect?
Traditional wisdom says that target customers are defined by their job titles, revenue, and company size. That's helpful but it doesn't actually tell you if the company is a prospect. Your true ideal customers are are defined by their problem and how well your solution can solve that problem. These client profile questions are designed to help you build a profile that uncovers their problems. Then you can find and contact only the companies that have the problem precisely suited to your solution.
Start by Narrowing Things Down
Some of the traditional profiling questions are of use. Think about the industries you work with, but then take it further. For instance, you may work with energy companies, except for sustainable energy companies or vice versa. Or you may work with irrigation installers, but only residential installers.
Is there a certain mindset that your best customers share?
Do you only work with residential clients? Commercial? Any other verticals you can think of?
Does your product go in offices, homes, factories or some other specific building type?
What type of company and what industry would NOT benefit from your product?
Then Make Some Observations
Take a second to think about the conversations you've had with your current customers. There were probably some key moments when you realized you could help them. Perhaps it was something they said or maybe this feeling happened while you were looking at their website or social media profile. The questions below should help you zero in on these "eureka moments."
How do you know you’ll be able to solve someone’s problem?
When you look at someone’s website, what makes you think “they need us?”
When you’re talking to potential customers on the phone, what causes you to think “this is a good fit” or “this isn’t going to work out?”
Now Consider Compatibility
Many products pair well together. We've worked with software companies that require certain email servers to go with them. Another fairly common example are manufacturing companies that make a product to protect other equipment. On the other side of that you'll want to think about what technologies you don't work well with. We've helped a coaching company find prospects that don't have a CRM for instance.
Do you have technologies that pair with your product?
What makes your product even better?
What technology or services don’t go well with your product?
Who are you competitors. Is there any way to know if someone is already using your competitor?
If You Can, it Always Helps to Ask!
If you have a good relationship with your clients you should absolutely talk to them about how they chose your product or services. They will likely have a lot to say and it can help you fill in some of the other questions we've included here as well. If that isn't really an option for you, then flip the switch and think about what your customers have asked you over the years. This can help you find out their interests and concerns.
What made your customers choose you?
What questions are you asked the most?
Roll all those beautiful observations you just made into what we call an ideal customer profile. If all is well in the universe, your answers to these questions should have some words that pop up over and over again. These keywords, and their synonyms, are your key to divining motivated prospects.
You can see how we've done this for other companies by skimming through our ideal customer profile worksheet. We've got a section that gives examples of companies answering these exact questions, then how we used that to search for prospects.