The BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) methodology for qualifying leads is well known to most salespeople, and is a useful guide for understanding where a prospect sits within the sales cycle. However, in many cases we see companies applying these criteria overly rigorously too early, restricting their lead pipeline and discounting leads which – given a little time and attention – had the potential to become highly profitable customer accounts. We’ve put together a handy guide on how to use BANT qualification to your advantage.
Often, budget is viewed through a narrow lens; does the prospect have a pot of money which they can dip into for your product or service? Of course, the money they have available is central to understanding whether it’s worth your time, and a couple of key indicators – such as employee size, turnover, the size of the business unit and so on – will give you a good idea as to whether they are the right profile for you. But they may not have a budget for your specific product or service; often that budget will develop as you work with them to define their need (more on which later!).
For example, we worked with one local company who initially claimed they didn’t have any budget for telemarketing; their relatively small marketing budget was fully tied up in email and digital marketing. However, we were able to demonstrate that these were generating a high level of interest that wasn’t resulting in leads and that by spending slightly less on these elements – and a proportion following up the interest over the phone – they would get better results. The massive increase in ROI on their marketing spend ultimately gave them the business case to pump even more money into both elements of their marketing – so both us and the digital marketing company whose budget we were competing for saw an increase. The moral of the story – once a need is defined, if a business has the money, the budget will follow.
Decision making, in most businesses, is complicated. Multiple influencers are involved at different stages, and have competing interests, clashing motives and overlapping budgets. If what you sell is relatively innovative or new to the market, the chances are that there won’t even be a decision maker with specific authority to buy what you sell. You should be involved every step of the way to influence and guide the internal conversations, providing the resources and support needed by your contact to create the momentum and business case.
Yes, ultimately you will need to decide whether you are dealing with someone at the right level, or whether you will be able to get yourself heard at the level; but don’t discount too soon the leverage of a lower level influencer who is eager to push things forward.
With customers more interconnected and well informed than ever before, the whole concept of need in the sales environment has changed. Thirty years ago, a business relied more heavily on sales people to identify the solution which best fitted their need; now, a decision maker will likely have researched potential solutions and have a good idea of what they want before they even get in touch. This can present problems for sales people; if the prospect hasn’t fully identified their need they may have developed a sense of the solution they want, when the alternative you offer is much better suited. Getting involved earlier – before the need is understood – gives you the chance to inform internal discussions and educate prospects on the best way to achieve their objective. By the time they have scoped out their need and settled on a solution, this will have been coloured by you – putting the solution you offer at an advantage, and giving you the chance to go up against the competition on your terms.
It follows that if you are going to forge links with influencers within the business before the need has been fully identified or understood, you’ll be in touch a lot earlier in the process. A purchasing timeframe will not be in place and your efforts to shape their understanding of their need will help flesh this out. Wait until the stage when the timing seems right – and it may be that a competitor has already influenced their view of what they need. You’ll find yourself fighting on your enemy’s territory, the prospect convinced that your competitor’s product or service meshes with their requirements more closely than yours does – even if you have reason to believe otherwise.
Using BANT qualification criteria can be a useful way of scoring leads and understanding where they sit in the sales process. It should inform the kind of resources you use, the collateral you give to them and the sales staff involved. But it should not dictate whether you choose to engage with the prospect, or spend time on the account; to decide this, you need to think beyond BANT.