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Get Rid of BANT and Go to NOW!

by Trish Bertuzzi on Tue, Mar 23, 2010

We recently had a long conversation with one of our clients on why BANT is not always an optimal lead rating system. For those of you unfamiliar with the term:

B             Budget
A             Authority
N             Need
T             Timeframe

This system has been around since the beginning of time and used to be the defacto standard to define a qualified lead. So, what has changed? A better question might be: what hasn't changed?

The selling environment now places the initial stages of the sales cycle in the hands of the buyer. They can google, twitter, LinkedIn and blogify their way to just about any piece of information about you and your solution. That means by the time they get to you they are well versed in what you have to offer and also in what your competitors offer. This being the case, do you really want their first conversation with your Inside Sales team to be about BANT?

We use an analogy:

Trying to get to BANT on a qualification call is like asking to see a W2 on a first date.

Yes, the information is great and lets you determine if the person is “worthy” of your effort, but you will probably miss a lot of other fabulous things about this person (read prospect) if you are too narrowly focused.

Here are some additional viewpoints:

Andrew Gaffney, of the DemandGenReport, wrote When BANT Becomes AINT: The New Realities Of Buying Requires Scoring Refresh. He contends that in this fluid economy you have to drop the budget question altogether as it is no longer relevant.

Susan Fantle, of B2BMarketingSmarts, wrote How marketers can help prevent lost sales. She contends that "‘sales-ready’ is NOT ‘purchase-ready.’ The BANT questions are the ones that should be asked by Sales, not Marketing." What Susan infers is that sales ready and purchase ready are actually two different things and should be handled by appropriate resources.

Kevin Joyce, of Market2Lead, wrote The SCOTSMAN vs. BANT for Effective Lead Management. In it, he states that “Putting these questions in a form to prospects that is just in the research phase at the time is ineffective. You may as well ask:"Would you like me to set a Sales Rep on your tail like a Rottweiler looking for a steak?" LOL!

Buyers are educated today. While BANT was question 1 in the past, now it is question 3-4 or even off the table altogether during the initial stages of the conversation.

So, what is the answer? Well, the answer is that there's no one answer because not every sales organization is in the same place as it pertains to pipeline. Most assuredly you have to qualify the prospect to make sure they fit your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP),  but beyond that your qualification questions should be based on the requirements of the sales organization.

Let me give you a couple examples:

  • Sales Force “A” is a team of experienced reps that have longevity with the company.
    They are working on large deals with long sales cycles that require buy-in from 4 functional areas. Realistically they can effectively manage 8 opportunities at any point in time.
    The key to a win for them is in identifying the right person in all 4 functional areas and having an understanding of their technical environment as well as their current challenges and openness to change.

    A qualified lead for them is based on having this level of information. Once you give it to them they can launch the sales process and either engage or disqualify the prospect. Collecting this information isn’t something you can do on a web form or in one call but is the first and most crucial step in the sales process and does lay the foundation for an opportunity to develop.
     
  • Sales Force “B” is a team of newbies.
    They are all fairly new to their territories and to the company. What is the fastest way to ramp them?
    The fastest way is to have them talk to as many prospects as possible so why get in the way of their doing so? Create a lead rating system that ensures (ICP) fit and then throw the lead over the fence. Let the sales team have at them.

    As the team builds pipeline and needs to become more discriminating then you fine tune your lead rating system based on their new requirements.
     

Summary: The important thing to remember here is that you can’t just pick a lead rating system from out of a book or one that was provided by your marketing automation vendor. You have to define the system with your sales partners and base it on the realities of where the sales organization is NOW and what they need NOW.

PS – NOW also means that you will review your lead rating system twice a year and fine tune it as appropriate. Otherwise NOW becomes THEN.

Thanks for listening. Your thoughts?

(Photo credit: billaday)

Topics: inside sales strategy, lead qualification

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