Rupal Nishar recently joined the ‘nuffsaid podcast to talk about how Customer Success should work with other functions to define the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). The following is a summarized version of her advice from the interview.



A common thread throughout my career in Customer Success has been thinking about the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and the CS leader’s role in defining it. My opinion is that the ICP is a strategic initiative that should be embedded in company-level OKRs—it’s not one-and-done, and it’s not something Marketing should go off and create by themselves. 

Landing customers that are a good fit for your product ultimately moves the needle for the company’s growth: it reduces churn, streamlines the customer experience, and helps a company predictably scale. 


Yet most companies still have a lot of work to put in before they can say their ICP process is well established. That’s why I’ve put together 6 steps organizations can take to create cross-functional alignment on the ICP.


6 steps for building cross-functional alignment on the ICP


STEP 1: Decide who has the final decision on the ICP. 

Most often we see Marketing owning the ICP, and I’ll admit it makes sense: Marketing (and specifically Product Marketing) owns the responsibility of understanding current market and competitive trends to define the company’s positioning. The ICP exercise naturally fits within that scope of responsibility. 


Marketing has the final say, but other departments should be intentional about the data they bring to inform the ICP definition. CS will bring stories and data about what successful customers look like, Sales will bring data around time to close and buyer/champion traits, Marketing brings market trends. 


STEP 2: Make a list of your best customers and what makes them your best customers. Then make this resource available internally. 

The list should include common attributes among successful customers: traits like the size of the company, annual revenue, budget, tech stack, geography, size of customer base, maturity, industry, growth rate, historical pain points, etc. Any patterns the team points out should be documented. Pay attention to “when” patterns become noticeable in the customer journey as well. 


It’s useful to also take a step back and think about what a “satisfied” or “successful” customer really is for your business, because that’ll evolve as the product(s) and customer base grow. 


STEP 3: Meet once a month to review the ICP and discuss new trends. 

This group should include a critical mass from customer-facing teams (e.g. Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, Support, Customer Experience, etc.) They should come together to discuss the ICP—how it's morphed quarter by quarter, year over year, and identify and discuss trends. 


STEP 4: Create an ICP cheat sheet based on how individual customers receive value from the product, for Sales reps and CSMs to refer to during their customer interactions.

CSMs on my team track: net new learnings, risks, the DNA of the organization, customer persona, and how a particular customer is an ‘ideal customer.’ These details should be front and center as part of every customer interaction. 


STEP 5: Create a process after every QBR where internal team members take 15 minutes to document what's been learned about the ICP. 

If this practice becomes ingrained into your reps’ workflow, you’ll notice that the regular collection of ICP data points adds up to an amazing org-wide ability to sell and work with the right ICP.


STEP 6: Work with Sales to ensure the right customers are acquired. 

You can spend a lot of time neatly defining an ICP that’s not used. Sales and Marketing teams have quotas and if they don’t have positive incentives around targeting the right ICP, your efforts in defining it will be lost. 


For example, Sales teams who carry a renewal quota are incentivized to find customers that are a longer-term fit for the company. They’ll be more likely to walk away from customers who aren’t likely to renew. 


But there are some Sales leaders who don’t ‘get’ the value of selling to the right ICP. In these situations, Customer Success leaders have to be able to talk numbers. Show your Sales peer the potential NRR if the ICP is used correctly. Show them how selling the proper ICP makes a sale easier and faster. Show them expansion strategies that have led to additional opportunities. Sales leaders are measured on numbers, so if CS leaders can help them meet their numbers, then it'll make conversations much easier. 

Note from Chris:

The ICP topic often leads to the question of whether CS can reject bad fit customers. “Rejecting” or “vetoing” a customer would mean the customer isn't considered in the overall renewal rate and the Salesperson is denied their commission on that customer. 

It’s a polarizing but important topic, so I recently asked about it on LinkedIn—and I’d love to hear your take. Should CS be able to “veto” bad fit customers?


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