Step back a bit from the fray and you’ll see an interesting evolution in the world of data: from providing lists of people or entities that might be prospects, to lists of people or entities that should be prospects, based on something they have done (think sales triggers). Now we’re beginning to move squarely into what used to be the realm of science fiction: identifying prospects before they have done anything at all.

We’re blazing new trails here, and pre-prospecting (for lack of a better name) depends heavily on lots of input data and Big Data analytics. The 800-pound gorilla in this space right now is a company called InsideSales that calls its analytical secret sauce “Neuralytics.”

All hype, you say? Well some level of hype is a given these days, but the company has raised over $139 million to date, and in particular has fallen hard for the company’s pitch, and actually led its most current funding round, that also included Microsoft.

I don’t have any inside knowledge of what InsideSales is up to, but from the tantalizing tidbits that have surfaced in the press, it seems to be a combination of obvious inputs such as social media feeds, plus less intuitive things such as weather patterns and sports team scores. I can only guess that you’re a somewhat better prospect if it’s sunny out and your team won last night, but perhaps these data are being used in a more subtle and sophisticated way.

The other hint I picked up is that InsideSales depends on “email and phone records” to perform its analytical alchemy. Needless to say, these tend not to be public records, so to deliver the holy grail of sales prospecting, InsideSales apparently depends on the holy grail of input data as well!

I’m not dismissing InsideSales, primarily because I am doing some big league speculating here. But I will say there are data sources available today that get us a long way towards the notion of pre-prospecting. What excites me the most is what is going on today with online ad re-targeting. Ad re-targeting is based on what might be described as networked cookies. Visit a site, and a common cookie is placed on your computer. As you move to other sites that are part of the network, ads can be displayed based on sites you’ve previously visited. More importantly, your travels around the Internet can be centrally stored, creating a wealth of information about you, your interests, your habits and much more. While not easy, it is a straightforward leap to start learning about not only what interests you but also what are the early signs that you are beginning to contemplate a purchase.

Privacy isn’t the issue in re-targeting (at least for now), because nobody needs to know who you are for re-targeting to work. But as your movements around the Internet are recorded and analyzed, it is entirely possible that we’ll someday know when you’re thinking about buying something, and perhaps even a little before.

The next generation of sales insights likely isn’t all that far away, so now is a good time to do some pre-pondering on what it might mean to you and your business.