How to Identify prospects

How to Identify Prospects: Decision Makers, Gate-keepers and Influencers

Savvy sales professionals know that the most fruitful lead generation activities come from in-depth knowledge of exactly who you are talking to. That is not just in terms of creating an Ideal Client Profile (ICP). It is also about understanding the difference between decision makers, gate-keepers, and influencers. Knowing the nature of each can make the whole sales process slicker and more effective.

How to Identify Sales Prospects

Decision Makers

Beware of false gods!

Every organization has its fair share of people who promote themselves as having buying decisions, when in fact the final ratification comes further along the line.

Getting intel on who genuinely makes the purchasing decisions in a company is the holy grail of prospecting, and sometimes means working with – or through – the other categories.


The title is pretty self-explanatory. This is the individual within your target organization who is closely associated with the decision-maker, and who can either block your approach or guide your sales message onwards.

It could be a PA or executive assistant for example. Sales approaches may need to be formulated to specifically appeal to their role. Incentives to pass the information on the need to be compelling.

Or, you can simply find away around the gatekeeper, for example using sales activities that approach decision makers “out of office” such as at networking events or in the evening.

Getting to know the gatekeeper is always the preferable route, as they know the decision maker’s priorities, pain points, and schedule – all information you may need to create a favorable response. They also know the internal purchasing procedures and practices; the very thing that you need to be able to understand.


These people are not as easy to identify in your sales process but are often important to enable you to turn a lead into a hot lead.

Who do the stakeholders in the organization listen to, for their own research and decision making? It could be people with specific tasks attached to the product or service you are selling – such as the Compliance or Health & Safety Officer.

In smaller organizations, this role could be external – such as a consultancy they have subcontracted to, or their own specific trade body.

The level of influence this sales target has may change further along the sales process. For example, they can introduce the idea of products and services of merit, but then they don’t have any role in the final purchasing decision.

The basic fact is simple: you need to know the role of your audience, to adjust your sales messages for maximum impact.