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BANT: Is it Still a Useful Tool for B2B lead Qualification?

Blog post by on September 11, 2013 4 Comments

I just read, and commented on, a thought-provoking article titled Lead Gen: A proposed replacement for BANT. Written by David Green, the premise of the piece is that the BANT formula, for the most part, is no longer relevant. Green’s article has some great advice on how to apply a new model with courtesy and relevance.

To refresh your memory, BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timing. For some time, these factors were considered the four criteria that best demonstrated that a specific individual or company was a qualified lead, and not just a raw inquirer or possible future prospect. In a push marketing environment, BANT is a very useful tool for ensuring that sales reps are working with qualified leads and not wasting their time on those that are not in a position to buy in the near future. Inquirers who are currently unqualified can be put back into the drip marketing pool.

BANT has another virtue in that it gives the marketing and sales departments a good way to measure their B2B lead generation success. Since sales departments shouldn’t be dealing with (or even seeing) raw inquiries, the amount and cost of qualified leads is usually a more important lead metric.

However, one of the primary reasons to drop the BANT formula is because it assumes that you have a telephone conversation with the prospect. In the age of online marketing, this is not always a valid assumption.

For example, you may collect many of your lead responses on a form that contains only the name, company and email address. You don’t collect the phone number and qualification data because you know that every additional piece of data you require will depress response. In this case, you may not have a phone number and likely won’t be able to capture the details necessary to establish whether the prospect has a budget or immediate need for your offer.

So how do you handle lead qualification in a in a world where BANT no longer fits? For some companies, this can be a fairly minor change; others may require a complete overhaul. Here are some ideas on how to make the transition:

  1. Adopt a pull marketing mentality. By this I mean that you switch your focus from outbound to inbound, offer lots of good content, and let your prospects self-qualify. This will require a much higher quantity of inquiries at the top of the funnel, but make the rest of the lead qualification process more efficient. Also, you can use pull marketing to dramatically reduce your cost per lead.
  2. Let your prospects percolate. By this I mean that you don’t try to “push them” into buying something as soon as they respond but rather let them come along at their own pace.
  3. Promote higher-level offers. A higher-level (demo, free trial, gift) offer is something that will entice a prospect to provide his or her phone number, which you can then use to fully qualify the lead.
  4. Always provide options. You can’t predict where a prospect is on the buying cycle, so provide multiple options, including lower-level offers requiring only an email address and higher-level offers requiring a phone number and possibly qualification questions.
  5. Make it easy to get in touch with you. In the pull marketing model, you have no idea when each prospect will be ready to engage with you, but when they are, make sure there is a convenient and easy way to facilitate this process.
  6. Conduct some research. If you are selling a high-ticket item, you can increase your lead qualification and close rates by learning about the company (via their website) and the individual (via LinkedIn) before contacting a prospect.

These B2B lead qualification principles are valid whether or not you choose to switch from the BANT model.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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4 Responses to BANT: Is it Still a Useful Tool for B2B lead Qualification?

  1. Andrew Rudin September 11, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    Christopher – great that you point out a widely-held assumption that might no longer be valid – though I don’t think it makes BANT obsolete. There are other ways to bubble up BANT information even when a phone isn’t part of the communication mix.

    BANT remains relevant because the acronym still covers some of the greatest risks that are present in the early stages (and beyond) for a sales opportunity. How many times have all of us examined lost opportunities and attributed the causes to one or a combination of 1) prospect couldn’t afford it, 2) I didn’t have the right connections, 3) lack of solution fit, and 4) prospect not as motivated to purchase as I was to sell.

    That’s a wide span of risk to cover under one four-letter acronym. I find clients who use BANT, and believe they’re better off than those who use nothing (yes, they are out there!).

    My biggest issue with BANT isn’t that it’s outmoded or irrelevant, but that it doesn’t go far enough, and it gives salespeople a false sense of security. For example, if a prospect has a modus operandi for not sharing information (“We can’t give you any of our operating information – it wouldn’t be fair to your competition,”) or insists that that all contact must be limited to the purchasing department, that opportunity has a snowball’s chance of closing. You can have all the BANT you want, and every effort the sales team makes will be about as pleasant as a root canal for all parties involved.

    If you can, forget the catchy acronyms, and skip the routine of memorizing lists of questions. In my mind, a more useful and flexible qualification strategy involves maintaining an ongoing risk assessment to determine what drives deals off the rails, figuring out the highest likelihood, and highest impact events, and focusing qualification on those elements.

    There’s your BANT, and probably a lot more.

  2. Christopher Ryan September 12, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Andrew, you are exactly correct in stating that BANT is far preferable than the “do nothing” approach of some B2B companies. And BANT is still useful in some environments such as those where push marketing still plays a major role. Despite the limitations that you and I both mentioned, BANT can be useful as a starting framework. But as I talked about in my post, companies that generate all or most of their revenue from pull marketing will probably need to practice a different method of lead qualification. In fact most of our clients use a customized strategy based on factors like sales process, price points, customer buying habits, and so forth.

  3. Andrew Rudin September 12, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Chris: I agree that pull marketing has some benefits – if executed properly. If done wrong, what you really have is a bunch of salespeople and managers sitting around the conference table at the end of the quarter wondering why their prospects didn’t ‘come along at their own pace’ fast enough. Push or pull, that $3.0 million nut on their shoulders didn’t get lighter.

    As compelling as pull marketing is, I’m not sure companies are sophisticated enough with their marketing and sales messages to abdicate qualification to prospects and customers. How would a sales team contend with a prospective customer who thought he or she was qualified, but really wasn’t. The BANT-oriented risks are still present – possibly some lower, but some might be higher – I’m not sure.

    Therefore, the onus remains with the sales organization to be vigilant, and not to assume the prospect understands every nuance of “qualified customer.” They still have to expose the right facts by asking the right questions.

  4. Bryan Richter September 13, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    This is a really interesting debate and very much reflects the need for sales organisations to move away from the concept of the sales cycle to the customers buying cycle. Customers may choose to stay in the marketing funnel longer before being willing to engage with sales. But if you have a B2B direct sales organisation then at some point there is a need to make the decision about whether to hand the lead over from marketing to sales. The difference is that this should be when the customer is ready, not just when they have ticked a number of arbitrary boxes in your lead process.

    Once the potential handover to sales takes place, the sales team still needs to determine if this is a qualified lead that is worthy of them spending time on. BANT is a useful checklist for this but it only goes so far. I have seen many a lead that appears to meet the BANT criteria but that we don’t stand a hope of winning. Someone will win some business, but it’s not us. So BANT needs to be supplemented with other dimensions, including the fit to our ideal customer profile and the alignment of the customers needs to the solutions that our company offers. That combination should result in a better lead conversion rate.

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