Rethinking the Value of BANT (It's Not as Outdated as Some Suggest)
Last fall, I published a post here titled Why BANT No Longer Works for Qualifying Leads. In that post, I argued rather strongly that BANT (the acronym for Budget-Authority-Need-Timeframe) is no longer an effective way to qualify sales leads because of changes in how B2B buyers make purchase decisions.
My post was neither the first nor the last discussion of BANT to appear in the blogosphere. Here are a few of the blog articles that have been published this year.
- Why BANT is Bunk for Today's B2B Buyer by Ardath Albee
- Banning BANT: Redefining Quality Lead Criteria and Handling Moot Objections by Allison Tetreault
- All Real Salespeople Love Sales Leads (but there is a tiny caveat) by James Obermayer
- BANT is Dead - Find the Authority by Mike Damphousse
- Lead Scoring: Don't BANT On It by Sarah Hums
- BANT Isn't Enough Anymore: A New Framework for Qualifying Prospects by Pete Caputa
As you can tell from these titles, the weight of opinion in the blogosphere is clearly anti-BANT.
While I stand by what I wrote last fall, I also now believe that my criticisms of BANT were probably too broad and that the BANT criteria are still relevant and useful for evaluating sales leads if they're used at the right times to answer the right questions. In the typical demand generation process, there are three major points at which you need to evaluate the quality of a sales lead.
Qualification of New Leads
The first is when you initially acquire a lead, and the issue is whether the lead should be added to your nurturing program. BANT criteria have little role to play in this decision. At this stage, the only information about the lead that you're likely to have is a name, a company affiliation, and a job title. Company affiliation and job title may allow you to infer something about potential need, financial ability to purchase, and buying authority, but that's it. For this decision, the primary criteria should be that the lead is affiliated with an organization that fits your company's target market and has a job title that indicates a reasonable connection with the products or services you sell.
Identification of Sales-Ready Leads
The next point at which you need to evaluate lead quality is when you are deciding whether a lead is ready to engage with a sales rep. A modified version of BANT should be part of the criteria you use to make this decision. For example:
- Need - A sales-ready lead will have acknowledged the existence of a need that your product or service can address.
- Authority - A sales-ready lead will be a member of the buying group that will make the purchase decision. The lead doesn't need to be the classic "economic buyer" or have sole buying authority, but he or she should be a member of the decision-making group.
- Timeframe - A sales-ready lead will be actively evaluating possible solutions for the recognized need. Your lead may not have a firm schedule for making a purchase decision, but he or she should have acknowledged that addressing the need has become a priority for his or her organization.
- Budget - A lead doesn't need to have an established budget to be considered sales ready. As I wrote in my earlier post, research by DemandGen Report has shown that between 70% and 80% of business buyers evaluate potential solutions, build a business case for immediate adoption, and then obtain spending approval. However, you should be fairly confident that the prospect organization has the financial wherewithal to purchase your product or service.
Identification of Sales Opportunities
The third point at which you need to evaluate lead quality is when you are determining whether you have a legitimate sales opportunity. By sales opportunity, I mean a potential deal that has progressed far enough to be included in your revenue forecast. For this decision, the focus of lead qualification is on the prospect organization rather than on an individual "lead" within the organization, and the BANT criteria are particularly relevant. For example:
- Need - To qualify as a sales opportunity, your sales rep should have confirmed that the prospect has a need that your product or service can address and that all members of the buying group have acknowledged the need.
- Authority - Your sales rep should have identified and established relationships will all members of the buying group. In addition, you sales rep must understand what process will be used to make the buying decision and what role each "buyer" plays in that process.
- Timeframe - To qualify as a sales opportunity, the buying process must have progressed to the point that the prospect is committed to making a purchase decision within a defined period of time.
- Budget - While it is not essential to have a specific budget line item for the proposed purchase, your sales rep should have confirmed that the prospect's buying group has access to sufficient funds to make the purchase and the ability to commit those funds when the purchase decision is made.
BANT should never be the only criteria used to qualify sales leads. As noted earlier, BANT is not appropriate for qualifying early-stage leads, and it provides only some of the criteria for identifying when a lead is sales ready. However, BANT is not nearly as useless or outdated as some of us may have thought.