I felt compelled to write this blog article based on a fascinating discussion I took part in recently with top German business partners on lead generation and qualification. The question proposed was this:
Is BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) a necessary requirement for qualifying a lead before it should be passed on to a sales rep*?
Having listened intently and done a bit of subsequent research, it is clear to me that there are two opposing camps in this debate – I’ve included a link to a 3rd party article for each that reflects these views:
In the red corner: Anti-BANT
To summarise this position: While you should include the BANT questions in some form during the sales process, it should come later in the cycle, and not as a pre-qualifying criteria. Key points:
- Traditional buying is dead – businesses today often can’t establish a budget because they don’t have a business case to hand, or are trying to establish what solutions out there might solve the business problem they have (assuming they’ve identified the business problem to begin with). The buying logic goes a little something like this: “if a vendor can put forward a compelling solution and create the business case with me, then I will likely get the budget I need from the key decision makers”.
- Buyers lie! – If a prospect wants access to information on a particular solution, they will sometimes (often?) lie, at least on the budget and timeline questions, in order to get that information.
- BANT is too short-term in its thinking – this is a controversial one, particularly if you have a quota to meet! The view here is that longer term prospects (in the “nurture” category) may present greater profitability downstream, but this requires upfront investment in the relationship (often at the cost of the reps time, but with little/no short-term gain). Playing the “long game” through upfront engagement is inherently risky, however it may open greater possibilities, shape business needs and potentially influence the design and content of the RFP. Plus – in theory – it should boost conversion rates.
- Buying “groups” are more prevalent now than individual buyers – because the buying group members may each have a different view on the buying cycle and criteria, it can be impossible to reach a common BANT criteria set that would “qualify” them for a sales rep follow-on call. Further, if you are only dealing with one contact, there is no guarantee that this person accurately reflects the views of the group. This can only be uncovered by engaging in a consultative approach as part of the selling process to identify all the stakeholders.
Some sources: http://annuitas.com/2012/08/28/why-bant-no-longer-applies-for-b2b-lead-qualification/; http://demanddrive.com/demanddrive-blog/driving-success-in-lead-generation/bant-is-dead
In the blue corner: Pro-BANT
To summarise this position: The “anti-BANT brigade” are usually led by marketers, and not by salespeople, so they don’t have a clue! Salespeople need some form of pre-qualification to help them decide where to best spend their limited time, and they need some idea what the best opportunities are in order to meet (immovable) sales forecasts. Key points:
- I need to know if the prospect has the money – if they don’t have money available or a budget, then it’s a waste of my time. The deal is dead before it even starts.
- I need to be talking to the right person – I will talk to anyone necessary to get the deal done, but they must be in a position to make (or influence) the buying decision. It doesn’t need to be an exec, but I need their job title to make an assessment on their ability to create the conditions for buying.
- My prospect needs to have a “need” to begin with – otherwise what’s the compulsion to buy? How do I know they aren’t fishing for information to complete a project for some college course? This wastes my time!
- I need to know a timeframe – otherwise I can’t possibly forecast for the following month, let alone the quarter or the full year. Unless of course you don’t mind getting inaccurate forecasts from me?
- Also – while I recognise buyers can and will lie, not all do and they don’t always lie. And I will end up having to ask the questions anyway even if you don’t, so help me out!
Some sources: http://blog.salesleadmgmtassn.com/2013/07/bant-is-not-dead.html
What is your view? Is BANT dead? Or does it need simply to be adapted to each individual sales cycle? What level of qualification do you think is adequate, or would you like to do it all yourself as part of your sales process?
*NB Don’t get too hung up on terminology here, some people would use BANT to move a lead to a “Qualified Sales Opportunity”, others would use BANT to move a contact or cold lead to a “Qualified Marketing Lead”. The semantics aren’t important, more the process and when the technique is used in a cycle.