One of the most common mistakes made by salespeople is chasing a bad lead.
Just because someone is formally considered a lead and expresses interest in buying your product or service, doesn’t mean they’re actually going to follow through with it. It’s also possible that they might be interested in buying what you’re selling, but they aren’t a good fit for your solution at this time.
As a part of a business development team, this reality makes it necessary to establish processes for qualifying leads that help determine which ones are actually worth your time. Although qualification criteria may vary from one business to another, there is one popular methodology that’s familiar to most sales teams: BANT
BANT is a framework used for qualifying sales leads to determine which ones are most likely to buy. It is an acronym that stands for budget, authority, needs and timing.
In this article, we’ll discuss the key elements of BANT, why it’s useful, and potential drawbacks to using the framework.
What is BANT?
Originally created by IBM, the BANT framework is intended to act as a general guideline for identifying legitimate sales opportunities. In other words, these factors are what a sales rep should take into consideration when trying to determine if their prospect is serious about buying. By IBM’s standards, a prospect needs to meet three of the four items in order to be considered a validated opportunity.
The BANT method is also applicable to qualifying leads. The same four elements of BANT are also true when trying to determine whether or not a lead can become a viable prospect. As you can see, this framework can be used throughout multiple phases in the sales process.
Nowadays, many sales teams automate parts of their qualification process with lead scoring software. But if your team hasn't made the move to automation just yet, using the BANT method can be an equally effective option.
Key elements of BANT
Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s look at each element of BANT more in-depth.
At the end of the day, the primary goal of a sales team is to generate revenue - right? So, a lead needs to have budget in order to be considered a legitimate buyer. No matter how interested they may be, if they don’t have the budget they will not be able to buy from you.
If they do have available budget, it’s a salesperson's job to dig deeper. Getting more budget-related details is instrumental in shaping the rest of that lead’s journey through the funnel.
Here a few questions to consider:
Do you have existing budget for this initiative or will it be an ad-hoc spend?
Does your team own this budget or will it impact the budget of other teams?
What is your average spend on projects like this one? How does this compare?
Asking these in-depth questions allows you to gauge how serious your lead is about buying, and whether or not they have legitimate insight into the budgeting and decision-making process. If their pricing expectations are not in line with your pricing model, use your best judgement to decide whether it’s best to move on from the lead or try to convince them otherwise.
It’s simple – you need to know whether or not your lead has authority to buy what you’re selling. They could love your product, but if they’re not a decision maker it could prolong the sales process significantly. In some cases, you could even be speaking with an authoritative figure but require buy-in from other team members to complete the sale. This is your opportunity to gain a clear understanding of where your lead falls internally within their organization, and how that will affect your ability to sell them something.
Consider asking the buyer these questions:
Who else is usually involved in the buying process?
Have you purchased a solution like this before? What was that decision-making process like?
Our customers usually find it helpful to include [X role] on the next call, does it make sense to invite them?
By asking these types of questions, you’re able to determine whether or not your lead is ready to move to the next step in the sales process, or if you need to get other people involved.
Tip: Remember to make every lead feel valuable, even if they don’t have buying power. If they’re not the decision-maker, it’s likely that your point of contact still has some level of influence within the organization. You don’t want to make them feel undervalued and risk tarnishing that relationship.
The third item in the BANT framework brings up the question of necessity. In order for a lead to be qualified, they have to be a good fit to buy what you’re selling. This means you need to have an idea of what their main problems are, and how they expect your solution to help fix them. On the flip side, you also need to determine whether or not your solution is capable of meeting those needs and expectations.
To get an idea of how to get those answers, here are some questions to ask the buyer:
What prompted you to consider our product or service?
What problems are you mainly looking to solve?
What solutions have you tried in the past? Did they work? Why or why not?
Asking these questions allows you to be completely transparent with the prospective buyer with what you can do for them, and disqualify them if you realize that they have unrealistic expectations of your offering.
The fourth and final factor you’ll want to consider is timing. In order for a lead to be considered qualified, they need to have realistic expectations of when they can make the purchase. They could tick all the right boxes to move forward in the sales process, but if they don’t see themselves buying for six more months, you need to make a note of that.
To get an idea of their timeline, ask the following questions:
How soon are you looking to implement a solution like this?
Where does this project fall on your current list of priorities?
Are you working with any time constraints for making this purchase?
The “right” answers to these questions will vary based on your sales model and process. It’s important to lay out clear expectations as to what timeline is considered too far out and should disqualify the lead from moving forward.
Benefits of using BANT
In general, BANT is applicable to all different kinds of buyer personas so it’s an easy framework to implement at almost any sales organization. Whether you work for a SaaS company or at a marketing agency, these rules are broad enough where they’ll likely apply to the types of leads your team is working with.
Additionally, setting up a formal framework for your team to follow ensures that everyone is on the same page and working to improve the quality of leads that flow through your sales funnel.
Drawbacks to using BANT
BANT has been around for a long time. Although this means the method is tried-and-true, it also means it might be outdated. Critics of the framework believe it to be too focused on the seller, and not enough on the prospective buyer. As digital resources become more readily available, buyers have done most of their research prior to filling out a contact form and becoming a formal lead. This means that they don’t want to justify to a salesperson why they are qualified to buy, and could be put off by the kinds of questions that fall within BANT.
Ultimately, whether or not you want to adopt BANT as the primary qualification framework for your sales team is up to you. That being said, it’s clear that this method of qualifying leads has proven successful in the past, and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Looking for more related sales content? Check our definitive guide to sales prospecting to learn how to bring more quality leads into your funnel.