The idea that you can use a prospect’s past to predict their future buying decisions is an increasingly common subject in business.  You have to wonder, though: can the past truly be the ultimate crystal ball that marketers and salespeople have searched for centuries? The answer is an obvious no.

It’s neither idealistic nor realistic to say that the past shouldn’t always dictate the future. Not be all guru and philosophical on you but it makes logical sense.

Let’s start at the individual level. Say youidentified a prospect who graduated from a good medical school and has been working at a prestigious hospital. Sounds good, right? You get them qualified, get in touch on LinkedIn or make a call. Things seem going pretty smooth. He’s interested in your product and might even arrange a real appointment sometime in the future.past-future-prediction

Suddenly, the good doctor disappears without a trace. You phone their assistant and to your shock, the doctor suddenly went ‘soul-searching’ somewhere and cannot say when they’ll return. What started out as good B2B prospecting was turning into a waste of time.

Say a prospect company has had a long history of buying from your company. You decide to run a retention campaign and get in touch with company’s target decision maker as usual (e.g. IT manager, CIO etc).

You know what’s one of the biggest obstacles to long-term business relationships? It’s the fact that hierarchies change in prospect companies. The decision maker who answered your call last year may not be the same one in the year (or perhaps three years) after that. In fact, job hopping has been a serious issue of late and indirectly increases the odds of ever-changing job positions. Does this still sound unrealistic?

So while you can still look to a prospect’s buying history for insight, you need to brace yourself in case a prospect might just start acting in ways that just seem contrary to what you’ve learned:

  • Have a contingency plan – Now contingency plan doesn’t necessarily have to mean immediate disqualification. It simply means a set course of action in case the unexpected happens.
  • Let it change what you know – Ironically, sudden changes in behavior still ends becoming past behavior and may change the way you predict what they might do next.
  • Blaster, if you can – Be ever on the lookout for opportunities to prevent lesser guess work. If a prospect sounds like a good lead, see to it that it’s acted on immediately.