Improper Use of BANT Will Cause You to Kill Opportunities

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I received an email asking me to check out an article on the Salesforce.com blog that features an infographic they hoped I would promote.

The article focuses on the middle of the funnel and the handoff between marketing and sales.  In doing so, they discuss MQL’s (Marketing Qualified Leads) and SQL’s (Sales Qualified Leads).  While I don’t have an issue with the infographic, I have huge issues with the content of the article and if you follow the advice in this article, you’ll have far fewer MQL’s that your salespeople can turn into SQL’s.

Here’s why.

They are promoting the use of an adapted form of BANT – in this case, BANTA.  BANT was introduced by IBM in the 60’s as a way to qualify opportunities.  It stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline.  This article adds Attitude.  These are important milestones in the sales cycle so what’s wrong with BANT?  As a tool for qualifying, there is nothing wrong with BANT.  My issue is with WHEN BANT is used.

Most of you are familiar with Solution Selling.  That was one of the earlier sales processes for selling consultatively.  Technology companies loved Solution Selling but every time my company was asked to help a tech company the second thing we always had to do was replace Solution Selling as the standard sales process. (The first thing is evaluate the sales force) Why?  Solution Selling called for salespeople to qualify too early in the sales process and that was still AFTER the opportunity had been handed off from Marketing. 

This short video explains the importance of sequence and timing in the sales process and especially why you can’t qualify too early.

The second stage of the sales process is too early for salespeople to qualify an opportunity because at this point the potential customer has no incentive to answer any qualification questions!  YOU WILL LOSE AN OPPORTUNITY IF YOU ATTEMPT TO QUALIFY TOO EARLY!  If that is true, then what business do we have asking Marketing to qualify opportunities before turning them over to sales?  

There are 2 sets of qualifiers required:

  1. Are they qualified to meet with us?
  2. Are they qualified to buy from us?

These are two completely different issues.  In the first case, we want to know how close the opportunity is to the profile of our ideal customer.  In the second case, we want to know if they can actually buy from us.  BANT provides a framework for the second and as you no doubt saw in the video, the components of BANT don’t come into play until the third stage of the sales process.

This is simply the latest from several years of fake news declaring that:

  • Cold calling is dead
  • Consultative Selling is dead
  • SPIN Selling is dead
  • Salespeople are dead
  • Sales process is dead
  • Inbound is King

So who comes up with this crap?  Usually it’s marketers with something to sell, who have little actual expertise in sales, sales strategy or sales process in all their variations.

What should you do? 

You can’t go wrong if you focus on perfecting sales process and consultative selling. As for Marketing, let marketing do what they do best and generate leads.  If there are too many crappy leads for your salespeople to waste time on, add dedicated BDR’s (Business Development Reps) to identify the good ones and hand them off which brings us back to MQL.  What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?  They are willing to have a conversation about whether we can help.  Period.  Let your salespeople convert interest to opportunities.

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