Everyone wants to spend more time talking to qualified prospects and less time chasing down tire-kickers. Not only is it better for your business, it’s also best for unqualified leads when they find out fast your offerings might not be the best fit for them.
Unfortunately, sales and marketing pros alike often have trouble figuring out how to get the right info from leads to make sure they’re really prepared to move forward with a buy. That means ensuring a cultural fit and aligning key internal and external factors.
That might not sound like a lot of fun, but there’s a way to make sales qualification easy.
(Well, easier, anyway!)
It’s called BANT, and it’s a sales qualification methodology developed by IBM.
Identify Opportunities with BANT
Like so many of us, IBM was facing the challenge of optimizing time spent developing their sales pipeline. The solution they came up with was to build repeatable processes around a clear sales qualification framework.
BANT stands for:
BANT is an amazing approach to sales qualification because it takes the long, complex, messy process of getting to a sale and distills it, ensuring you can eliminate the key roadblocks. When you have this information from a lead, you know that he or she can not only benefit from your solution, but has the ability to work with you – all on a timeline that meets your goals.
Let’s look at the four parts:
While you can get an idea about a company’s cash flow through outside research, only a well-positioned stakeholder can really tell you what the budget is like. Ideally, leads will have funds on hand to commit to a solution right away. If there are frequent mismatches between customer budgets and your solutions, leads may be coming from the wrong size category or industry.
Authority is a thorny question in today’s environment of complex consensus sales. Still, there’s usually one person who has the ultimate authority to sign off on a purchase. That stakeholder may delegate initial work to a designated product researcher, so make sure you’re talking to the right person early on – and try to escalate the conversation if you aren’t.
In B2B selling, established businesses generally don’t start researching a solution seriously until there is a defined need. Still, this is intricately bound up in questions of budget and authority. A buy that the HR or IT department “needs,” for example, might not be considered a major priority depending on the organization’s outlook at the time.
Not only do you need to define the need and make sure it aligns with your sales goals – the “B” and “A” parts of the equation – but you should also double-check to be sure your products or services will really meet the customer’s expectations. Ideally, a detailed discovery call will give you a last opportunity to steer clear of leads with unrealistic requirements.
A sale six months from now is better than nothing, but the closer you can get to the moment of final decision, the better. Cultivating a relationship for months before a sale even happens is a time-consuming undertaking, though inbound marketing gives you the tools to do it.
Many large B2B purchases don’t get made until the pain caused by the need becomes pressing to the decision-makers. If it seems like the timing is open-ended, you can find ways to remind your contact about the opportunity costs of lost ROI.
Next Level BANT: Automating Sales Qualification for Fun and Profit
BANT is a great time-saver for qualifying leads over the phone or in face to face meetings. Its full power is unlocked, however, when it leverages marketing automation. When your whole team knows BANT, you can embed it into the qualification process beginning on your website.
Both sales and marketing pros have roles to play here, reinforcing each other’s efforts.
One of the best ways to make use of BANT is through progressive profiling of your leads. This is a method of motivating leads to volunteer key information about themselves as they move through your content-fueled buyer experience.
For example, upon their initial conversion – signing up for your subscription list in exchange for your lead magnet – they might confirm their job title. This may seem like a relatively minor piece of information to them, something they’ll be happier to share than, for example, budget.
As the relationship deepens and trust develops, you can begin asking bigger questions that will situate you in the buying process. Not only will BANT save you time, but you can even integrate it into a complete lead scoring system as you gather data and observe trends.
In a fully optimized sales funnel, you also have the opportunity to get clues about a prospect’s intention and qualifications by making inferences based on their behavior. For example, the type of offer a prospect responds to can tell you more about how they see your solution and what use case they are pursuing. This helps you customize an agreement to meet their requirements.
Done right, BANT can save you weeks or even months of frustration by helping you zero in on the most important questions to clarify your relationship with leads quickly. In coordination with a customer-focused website, it can even steer less qualified prospects toward solutions that they may be more likely to pursue – either right away or in the medium term.
There are many ways to use BANT, but it starts by mastering its four basic points and applying them whenever you can. Before you know it, you might find your schedule is less crowded with “maybes” so you can focus more attention on those most likely to say “yes.”
When BANT is used by an entire team, it has a synergistic effect that means you can get more done with a greater volume of qualified leads in a focused, powerful way. That makes it the ultimate sales qualification framework!