Defining Sales Development Target Segments

horseshoesAlmost works in horseshoes and hand grenades, but not outbound sales development.  In outbound, it’s crucially important to clearly define who you are trying to target.

Why is it important to define segments?

Unless you’ve already nailed your target segment profile — in which case this post might be a great refresher — it might be best to start with a broad definition and then work your way down.  You really don’t need to know everything in the world about your target segment to get started, but you do need to clearly understand:

  1. the pain your product / service addresses
  2. who is going to have this pain.
  3. who will hurt enough to respond to an outbound email.

By the way — until you have #1 nailed (or at least clearly hypothesized), then you’re gonna have a tough time with #2 and #3.

Start by casting a wide net but make sure you move in the direction of a narrow target prospect profile — this helps you narrow the “pain” and will help craft hyper-targeted messaging later.   A broad target allows you to explore different company flavors and track which lead to sales success. Same thing with people in the organization — start with a broad target to get your foot in the door, but be ready to shift up or down, left or right in the org chart.

Narrow your guidelines based on your learnings — change and test one variable at a time until you find the most optimal combination. Depending on your offering, you may only have one specific target or a few with different use cases.

The important thing is to remain curious and to purposefully learn along the way.  A ~15 minute convo with someone who may not seem like the perfect prospect may lead to a different perspective and have different insight to share.  Make sure you don’t get too distracted by prospects that show interest but don’t advance… but at the outset anyone that is raising their hand to say “tell me more” is probably worth a convo.  You’ll get excited by the interested but stay focused on the goal. =)

Over time, advancing convos and closing deals will get easier.  More convos will lead to better targeting, which will lead to a higher hit rate, which will lead to more wins, which will lead to more social proof that you can use to generate more convos.  The sales development virtuous cycle!

So how do you define segments?

You started your company with a customer in mind, so start there!

If you don’t have any customers yet, make some educated guesses.  Is there a well known industry who has the pain you are trying to solve? Look at your competitor’s customers. Is there a certain pattern that they all share?

If you’re a little further along and do have some customers, take a deeper look there. Do you have some customers that feel like a better fit over some others? What is different about them? Categorize your customers, the good, bad, and ugly and reflect on if they are a good fit for you. If so, great. Ask yourself what makes them different and hone in on that.

So how do you look at what makes them different? Is it the company, people in it, location?  Probably all of the above to some degree, so start by defining the right company and work your way to the right person.

Right Company:

There’s a lot you can break down here but these are some good go to’s:

  • What types of companies are they — B2C, B2B?
  • What industry / category?
  • Where are the located?  Country, State, City?
  • How big or small are they?  # Employee?  $ Revenue?  Social presence?
  • How much funding have they raised?
  • Do they have a mobile app?

Right Person:

For some people this is the easy part…you just need the CFO and that’s it. For others this will take some time to learn the best way to get your foot in the door.

  • Who are the people in those companies that should care about what you’re doing?
  • Are there other people that might care or be a part of the decision making process?
  • What are their specific job titles?
  • Who is the final decision maker?  Who do they report to?  Who reports to them?
  • Are there keywords in their job titles that are a good indicator that they are a good fit?

Right Indicators:

Maybe after some initial testing you notice that finding the right company and right person isn’t enough. So in addition to right company, right person, you can look at other criteria that can help define your target.

  • Are they using certain software that is complementary to your offering?
  • Are they  using software that indicates that they might have a problem that you can solve?
  • Are they hiring for certain roles?
  • Do they have a “donate” button or not on their site?
  • Do they have a mobile site or not?

The conversations that you generate should help you uncover more indicators to consider.

What next?

If you’re testing, keep it small to start. You don’t want to source too much of one target if they end up not being a good fit. Run small test to validate your assumptions and grow from there. If you’re at the stage of just executing, push big and stay consistent.

Once you have learned enough about who is it you need to target, explore prospecting software to help get you there faster. =)


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ryan_mugshot Ryan O'Donnell, Founder & CEO,, Employus
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