Start with who – identifying your ideal customers

Within your target market you should be identifying who your ideal customers are, then focusing your sales and marketing efforts on those customers that you prefer to do business with. Getting this right leads to:

  • Increased profitability, as they recognise the value that you offer and will pay the price you ask.
  • Lower customer acquisition costs and higher customer lifetime value
  • More effective use of your sales and marketing spend.
  • Better referrals to more ideal customers


Within the complex environment of B2B sales you should focus your sales efforts on those opportunities that fit your ideal customer profile. It is useful to assess your customers in five key areas:

Can be served efficiently and effectively.

 This is the basics of segmentation, define the ideal customer size, industry type and geographic location

  • The ideal customer has low acquisition costs and high lifetime value.
    • If you need to visit the customer 20 times to convert the sale and involve lots of different departments then it’s probably best if they are not on the other side of the world.
    • But on the other hand, if the end result would be a long term relationship generating significant profitability then this may be worth the investment. Just make sure you balance the two factors.

 Aligned to your strategy and purpose

  • Much better relationships will evolve if you have an understanding of your customers’ strategies and they are aligned with your own. For example, if you are a business developing cutting edge products, then identify the ‘early adopters’ that want to be working at the leading edge with you. This means they will accept the risk that things will not always work out as you planned and will stick with you to iron out the glitches.
  • If you have shared values, then those customers are far more likely to be advocates for your solutions, provide case studies and references that lead to more ideal customers engaging with you.

 Willingness to change

  • A recent survey by the Sales Benchmark Index identified that 60% of B2B tenders resulted in the customer staying with the incumbent supplier. So that’s great if you are the current supplier but not so good if you are the new supplier that is about to commit significant time and resource in to a customer opportunity
  • You need to be probing your prospects and asking questions like
    • Why are you looking to change your supplier now?
    • What are the specific problems which are prompting you to change?
    • What does your ideal supplier look like?

Willing to engage

  • You need to be able to build strong relationships across all the buying influences (or personas). You need engagement with
    • User buyers – the people who live with and use your product or service
    • Technical buyers – the people who ensure that the specification is met and the product does what is expected.
    • Economic buyers – the people who assess the ROI and overall effect on the organization.
    • Coaches – people who will help you navigate through the customer’s organization and want you to succeed
  • Without these relationships you will struggle to progress the opportunity to a successful conclusion. Worse still, you may get surprises through not having enough understanding of your customer’s needs.
  • You may well be supplying your products through distributors or contractors and there may be outside influences that you need to engage with. A willingness from your customer to help you navigate your way through all the buying influences will significantly improve your chances of success.

Urgency to solve a problem (to which you have a solution)

  • We all have too many things to do, your customers are just the same, so make it a priority to identify the problems and opportunities that are most important to them. If the problem you want to help your customer solve is not at the top of your customer’s ‘To Do list’ then you need to work out how to get it there.

Identifying your ideal customers is the starting point for developing your business model and your value proposition. It forms the starting point for my workshop on developing value propositions, have a look at the 7 steps to develop value propositions.