Dear Sales Reps - Is BANT dead?

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Dear Sales Reps - Is BANT dead?

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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:

  1. 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”.
  2. 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.  
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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?
  5. 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?

Comments welcome!

David

*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.

Comments
  • Interesting article. The obvious point that springs to mind i that every 'pro-BANT' argument starts with I or My whereas the anti-BANT is all about the customer criteria. There has to be some kind of qualification (I generally wouldn't drive 200 miles to demo a 1 user system) but who knows that the 1 user system won't suddenly become a 100 user system because there is a previously not consider business case at the customer.

    Another interesting point that I have been part of discussions about lately is the knowledge of the person doing the qualification and at what stage the lead actually gets passed to a sales person (rather than telemarketing etc). It may be that a lead never hits the sales team as it fails BANT but as above a real need could be uncovered as part of a move involved sales process.

  • Great comments Daniel, I think this is broadly the conclusion I got to myself looking at the different viewpoints: you will need to ask the BANT questions, it's more the timing of it that can be an issue.Too early and you might rule out some good (but not strictly BANT-qualified) prospects, too late and you may miss the deal altogether to a more proactive competitor.

    From a sales process point of view, the question also arises: who is best-placed to do the early qualification, and is that model scalable. On the one hand, telemarketing or inside sales may be operationally equipped to carry this out early in the cycle, given they are usually based at a large, centralised call-centre style facility. On the other hand, sales reps have the "on the ground" knowledge, skills and experience to pick up on buying triggers that office-based staff may not. Plus they may have more domain knowledge (particularly of the industry).

    The final point is perhaps around the complexity of the product proposition - you can see that relatively straightforward cloud products can be sold remotely via an inside sales team, who use automated marketing campaigns to qualify interest before closing over the phone in one transaction. Conversely, more complex propositions will need experienced sales rep involvement early in the cycle, to identify need, establish requirements and ultimately uncover the ROI in the project.

  • You both pull out possibly the most interesting angle -- which speaks to both corners - what's the customer's roadmap look like?  

    Can they articulate it? Do they need / have a business case? Is the initiative tactical or strategic - or will that evolve?  Can we ever know what we don't know?  [avoiding the Rumsfield redux].

    In my mind, engaging with customers as early as possible and leading  thinking in Quantifiable Terms is vital for all parties.

  • Some more musings of mine that speak to this topic ---

    community.sagecrm.com/.../thinking-in-quantifiable-terms.aspx

    community.sagecrm.com/.../consider-your-crm-drivers-before-embarking-on-your-project.aspx