Customer profile analysis: Methods and hacks to boost your sales process
No matter how long the person at the lemonade stand tried to sell me on the superiority of their product, I was never going to purchase.
Why not, you ask? Because I’m allergic to lemons.
I wasn’t the ideal customer for that business, and the seller was wasting their time trying to convince me to buy something I would never use instead of directing their energies towards someone who really likes lemonade.
Do you sometimes feel like you’re trying to sell lemons to people who are allergic?
You can only improve your sales process if you know who you’re selling to.
Developing ideal customer profiles is only the starting point. You need to base those profiles on real data, and then have the means and methods to interpret that data into something actionable.
Want to run your own customer profile analysis with the goal of improving your sales process?
Then let’s discuss:
- Where to gather customer data for your ICPs
- 3 methods to interpret the data you’ve gathered
- How your sales team can use your customer profile to optimize their process
- How to keep your customer profile analysis up-to-date
Where to gather customer data for your ICPs
Before you create an ideal customer profile that fits your business, you need to dive into the data.
Learning about your existing customers is the only way to see what kind of customers are ideal for your product or service.
So, where can you gather this important information?
Existing customer base
Your existing customers are the best source of information about your ideal customer profile. That said, not every customer is an ideal customer.
So, take a few minutes to figure out which of your customers:
- Brings you the most value
- Gets the most value from your product
- Is happiest with your product (We've written about the distinction of happy vs successful customers, and the importance on focusing on the latter.)
This requires you to measure 3 sales metrics for each customer:
- Customer lifetime value
- ROI they’re seeing with your product
- Net promoter score
When you know each of these numbers for all of your customers, you can determine your top 10 customers. These are the customers that are valuable to your company, are seeing significant results from your solution, and are aware of how valuable your product is to them.
Once you have a list of at least 10 successful customers, take a look at the information you’ve already gathered. Inside your CRM software, you probably have information about their company size, main points of contact, purchase process, and more. Take those data points and export them to a spreadsheet (this is where you’ll collect data so you can analyze it later).
To get more information, you’ll need to interview them or have them fill out a survey. This will give you insights into why they purchased your product, who was involved in the process, what other options they were considering, and what really convinced them that your solution was the best.
As you ask questions either in an interview or survey, store the answers in the same spreadsheet so you can dissect the data later. (Keep reading, we’ll show you exactly how to do that.)
If you’re in the pre-launch stage, whether that means launching a new product or breaking into a new market, you may not have 10 successful customers to interview.
In this case, you’ll need to find potential customers to talk with. These are people who are part of your target market or possibly dissatisfied customers of your top competitors.
Where do you find these potential customers?
First, spend some time digging around the internet to see where your target market hangs out. Are there groups on Facebook that cater to this market? Perhaps a Slack channel or space? Do they spend time on Reddit, or ask questions on Quora? Are there LinkedIn groups with an engaged, quality audience?
Next, discover potential customers by searching for negative mentions or reviews of your competition. The search feature on LinkedIn or Twitter should be enough to get you started, but you can also use a tool like Mention to find social media posts of your competition’s dissatisfied customers.
Another place to find potential customers is through referrals. Talk to former colleagues, friends, or really anyone you have a decent relationship with in your professional network. Ask them if they know of anyone with some particular characteristics that fit your target market.
In fact, you can pretty much execute the lean sales approach Steli has outlined a while ago.
But what do you do once you find your potential customers?
Much the same as with current customers, you can conduct interviews or ask these people to fill out a survey. (Check out our Ideal Customer Profile Kit for some ideas on what to ask potential customers in these surveys.)
There’s just one difference: You’ll probably need to offer them something of value in exchange for their help. This could be anything from an Amazon gift card to exclusive access to your product once it’s launched. This little incentive can help you get more potential customers to fill out your survey, giving you a clearer picture of who your ideal customer really is.
Google Analytics and other SaaS analysis tools
Asking questions is great, but you can’t get a full analysis of your ideal customer until you see what they’re actually doing on your website and inside your software.
Start with analytics tools such as Google Analytics or these alternatives for Google Analytics to see how people interact with your website. Where do they normally start, and how do they arrive at the pricing page? Which sales pages do people linger on more? Are there specific features that stand out to them and get more clicks?
If you’re using Google Adsense, you can also see detailed demographics of the users that come to your website. You can learn more about their age, gender, location, interests, and more.
You’ll also want to dig deeper into how users behave inside your product. Use software analysis tools to see which features people use more, which features they don’t use as often, how they interact with menu items, and more.
These sales analytics will help you understand more clearly who you’re actually selling to. But make sure to look critically at the data. Most importantly, try to isolate the segment of website visitors and users who actually pay for your product, otherwise you might end up optimizing for the "non-paying majority" simply because the data told you so. Here's an example: Google Analytics might tell you that 80% of your website visitors come from Europe, but if only 5% of your paying customers are in Europe, then that's probably not who you should optimize for.
Questions during sales calls
Sales reps often have unique insights into the aspects of an ideal customer based on the conversations they’re having with prospects every single day.
Asking the right discovery questions, reps can understand more about the businesses they’re selling to, the processes they use daily, the people involved in purchase decisions, and the key challenges and motivators.
If you’re still looking for more information, there are plenty of third-party services that help you gather information about your customers quickly. Using these services will allow you to gather important data without asking your customers directly, and saves you time on research and interviews.
Here are three tools you could use to discover more about your ideal customers:
- Clearbit: Scrapes public information sources to fill out full profiles based on an email or domain, as well as using web traffic info to tell you who is on your website and what they’re doing.
- PayScale: Tells you what a person’s salary is based on demographics, role, location, etc.
- UserTesting: Real-time testing for your product, app, website, and more. Watch real users test your solution and hear exactly what they think of it.
With these kinds of services, you can get even more insights into customers and prospects, as well as how they use your product.
Customer profile analysis: 3 easy methods to interpret the data gathered
Once you’ve gathered the data you need, the rest is easy, right?
Unfortunately, no. If you’ve ever tried to do customer profile analysis before, you know that gathering data is just the beginning.
Now, you need to understand the data.
Right now, you probably have a giant spreadsheet with tons of data points on tens if not hundreds of customers and prospects.
That’s an overwhelming amount of data to sort through.
So, let’s talk about three easy hacks you can use in Google Sheets to decipher and analyze customer profile data in your spreadsheet.
1. Create charts in Google Sheets
Charts are a great way to analyze data points in a spreadsheet.
For example, let’s say you’ve collected data on the main challenge your customers and prospects are looking to solve with your product. Now, which of these answers is most popular?
In your spreadsheet, highlight the row that you want to analyze. Then click Insert > Chart.
Google Sheets then creates an automatic chart that you can customize as you wish. It will show you the data points you highlighted, giving you a visual view of the most popular answers.
2. Use ‘Explore’ to get answers to specific questions
In Google Sheets, the ‘Explore’ feature allows you to ask questions about your data and get clear answers.
Start by highlighting the rows and columns you want to analyze (this could be just some of the data in your spreadsheet, or all of it).
Then, ask your question. For example, you could ask, “Most frequent company size”, and Google Sheets will give you an answer based on the data in your spreadsheet.
If you want to get more detailed information, try comparing different data points.
In the example above, the most common company size was 100+. So, we could ask, “Most frequent main challenge when company size is 100+.”
This tells us that in a company that has 100+ employees, the most common challenge they’re facing is low customer retention rates.
By analyzing this data, you already have a clearer understanding of your ideal customer profile: In this case, a company that has at least 100 employees and is trying to solve issues with low customer retention rates.
3. Create pivot tables to see certain data points
Pivot tables are a great way to take a large amount of data and see the relationships between different data points.
For example, you could use a pivot table to see which roles are commonly working to solve which common challenges.
Start by highlighting the cells you want to analyze in your spreadsheet. Then click Data > Pivot table.
This will create a new sheet, which you can click into.
From here, you’ll need to add values into your rows and columns based on the data you want to see.
Once you have the data you need, you can change how it’s sorted or filter it based on what you want to see. You can also include custom calculations to analyze the data in your pivot table.
Using these three Google Sheets hacks, you can quickly analyze customer data and find the most common traits of your top customers. This data then gives you a clear direction for your ideal customer profiles.
But how can customer profile analysis help your sales team?
How your sales team can use your customer profile analysis to optimize their process
You’ve got the data, and you’ve done your customer profile analysis: Now, it’s time to put that information to work for your sales team.
Here are some ideas on how you can use customer profile data to improve your sales process and close more deals:
Build ideal customer profiles that are sales-specific
An ideal customer profile is a great tool for all different teams.
But if you want your sales reps to use those ICPs you’ve created, you need to give them easy access to the aspects of those profiles that matter most.
First, make sure those profiles capture the right data and show reps what to do with prospects that fit a certain profile. This means including information such as a one-sentence elevator pitch designed specifically for this profile, as well as important data on the typical purchase process for this type of customer.
That will help sales reps to adapt their selling style and their pitch to fit the needs of this customer.
Second, make sure all profiles are easily accessible to your reps. (In other words, don’t let your carefully crafted profiles get lost in a Slack channel or email thread.) Keep them in a shared Google Drive folder, or in your sales enablement software.
That way, reps can easily take a look at the profile as they craft pitches, create proposals, write emails, build sales decks, or plan their strategy.
Segment leads by profile in your CRM
Your CRM is where your sales team lives and breathes, and it should be set up in a way that helps them boost their productivity and keep pushing for more sales.
Want to give them a head start when contacting new leads? Then segment those leads from the get-go.
Normally, MQLs already go through some sort of segmentation depending on how they came into your pipeline or how they answered certain questions on your lead gen forms. But rather than just segment those leads for marketing, take your process to the next level by including lead segmentation in your CRM.
For example, in Close, you can create Smart Views that automatically group certain leads together based on data points that you choose. For example, if your ICPs are based mainly on the size of the company, you can sort new leads into different Smart Views based on that custom data point in the lead view.
When you segment leads by profile, your sales team will have a clear view of who they’re talking to, what role they should be speaking to, what the common goals of these leads are, and how best to convince them to purchase.
Build follow-up email templates for different profiles
Creating templates is a great way to maximize the time your reps spend sending emails. But don’t settle for great: go for gold by creating email templates that are customized to each ideal customer profile you’ve created.
How you sell to each profile is different. The features they care about, their main challenges and motivators, and the role you’re reaching out to all changes. By creating templates based on your ICPs, you can keep your sales team laser-focused on the people they’re selling to, and save them the effort of adapting generic templates to each type of profile.
Create separate pipelines to fit the sales process to each profile
Sometimes, the purchase process changes drastically from profile to profile. For example, if your business sells to both SMBs and enterprise businesses, your sales reps will be dealing with very different buyer journeys.
In this case, you may want to create separate sales pipelines to match the process your customers take to purchase.
For example, an SMB has a much shorter sales cycle, fewer approvals to get, and fewer meetings and demos. On the other hand, when selling to enterprise companies, you need to be prepared for a much longer sales cycle, multiple meetings with different stakeholders, demos, approvals from different departments, and more in-depth onboarding.
A good customer profile should tell you what the typical buying process looks like for each type of customer. When you have this clear in mind, you can adapt your sales process to the steps that customers must take to purchase your product.
When you have your sales pipeline set up to match the purchase process of your customers, sales reps get a clear overview of what’s involved in closing the deal and are prepared for the next steps before they even come up.
How to keep your customer profile analysis up-to-date
Customer profile analysis isn’t once and done. If you want your sales team to be fully in-tune with the needs and motivations of your customers, it’s essential to keep this analysis up-to-date over time.
What kind of schedule should you follow to keep your ICPs updated? Here’s an example of a schedule that you can follow to analyze your customer profiles successfully and keep your business on track with the market:
Every three months
- Review the results of the changes you’ve made: As you implement new strategies based on data gathered from customers, check the results during each quarter. Are your new email templates getting better open rates? Has the conversion rate improved in your sales pipeline?
Every six months
- Conduct interviews with new successful customers: Just like you interviewed your top customer at the beginning, set some time aside every six months to interview new customers who are seeing success with your product. Then, add their data to your spreadsheet.
- Clean up data in your spreadsheet: Don’t allow your spreadsheet to be clouded by outdated information. Remove data from companies who are no longer customers, or who don’t fit the criteria of a successful customer.
- Talk with your top 10 customers: Take the top 10 most successful customers and get on a call with them. See what’s changed in their businesses or lives, how they’re using your product, and the current ROI they’re seeing with it.
- Re-analyze the data: Based on updated information in your spreadsheet, create new charts and pivot tables to explore important data points.
- Update your ICPs, templates, and pipelines: When you see significant changes in the data, make the necessary changes to your ideal customer profiles, as well as any other resources that are being used regularly in your sales process.
Use customer profile analysis to build a better sales process over time
With so much data and analysis going on, there is a trap you need to be aware of.
The goal of this customer profile analysis isn’t simply to see data: Your goal should be to see the people behind the data.
So, don’t get caught up in metrics, KPIs, and scores. Take that data and turn it into something actionable using the methods we discussed above.
Create profiles that tell a story about the people you’re selling to. This will keep your team laser-focused, not on the numbers, but on the personalities, needs, wishes, hopes, and dreams of your customers.
When you’re focused on the people, a more successful sales process will automatically follow.
You can only improve your sales process if you know who you’re selling to. Download our free kit and start developing your ideal customer profile today!