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BANT is the sales technique you need to pick the best leads

Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

January 24, 2022

No one likes having their time wasted. So, before we do anything — whether watching a movie or going to the gym — we ask ourselves: is it worth it?

When it comes to choosing a movie, you might read reviews beforehand to lower your chances of spending a few hours watching a dud. And for something that has a bigger payoff, like the gym, you might invest in a personal trainer and commit more time to make sure you achieve your goal.

The same goes for sales. Lead qualification is the process of deciding whether or not a lead — aka your potential customer — is worth the time and money. And BANT is a great way to work this out.

What is BANT?

BANT is an acronym that stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe. It’s a tried-and-tested way of deciding whether a lead is worth the chase. Budget is the most important qualifier. If it’s a ‘no’ for that one, most salespeople will pass on the lead.

What is a sales lead? How does it differ from a sales prospect?

Before we go any further, let’s discuss what we mean by ‘lead.’ A sales lead is someone you’ve identified as a potential customer, but you still haven’t determined whether they’re a good fit for your sales model. You discover leads by collecting basic preliminary information about a company’s goals or needs.

Using the lead-qualification prospect, you can ask questions to determine if a lead is likely to become a quality customer. If you decide a lead is worth pursuing, they become a sales prospect and move further along in your sales pipeline. In other words, a sales prospect is a qualified lead.

Within the BANT framework, a lead should meet at least two other criteria, along with budget, to be considered valuable.

Budget: the financial capacity of a client is a crucial qualifier. Does your lead have money to spend? For example, an advertising agency is better off pitching a large restaurant chain than a small cafe if they want to work with a bigger budget.

Authority: do you have access to the decision-maker, or do you need to speak to more people? It’s no good pitching the latest junior-level staff when the CEO is the one with their hands around the purse strings. An org chart can come in handy here as you work out the roles of key stakeholders in an organization.

Org chart - Created in Cacoo
Created in Cacoo

Need: does your lead actually need what you’re offering? It would be a waste of time trying to sell hay to a farmer. Similarly, a small soap maker probably doesn’t need a multi-truck logistics provider.

Timing: finally, is your lead shopping around right now? For example, you’ll have much more success selling Valentine’s Day cards in February than you would in March.

Why is BANT useful for salespeople?

First and foremost, it saves time. BANT is a straightforward way to narrow your leads until only the most valuable ones are left. That way, you can spend more of your time and effort pursuing prospects with the greatest potential.

To use an analogy, let’s say you’re buying something online. You wouldn’t read the individual reviews of thousands of products that don’t meet your budget, size, or color requirements. You’d filter the results until you have a smaller and more relevant selection to properly examine. The same goes for sales.

Another added benefit of the BANT process is focus. Some people think every lead is an opportunity, but that simply isn’t good business. Chasing after every single prospect will spread your sales team too thin.

As a result, you may miss out on bigger prospects because you’re not able to put enough work into pursuing them. And even if you do win some smaller leads, the payoff will be comparatively smaller. In the end, you may devote too much time to serving clients who don’t really sustain your business.

How are leads generated?

You have a potential lead when you secure someone’s contact details — usually an email or phone number. There are various methods for collecting leads, including research, face-to-face networking, referrals, newsletters, and cold calls.

Other methods involve engaging your audience by giving them something useful, such as a free whitepaper, ebook, or tutorial. Whether or not you can turn these leads into customers is another story, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Once you have a lead, you can ‘qualify’ it by asking questions to learn more about the client’s compatibility with your services. Examples of lead-qualification questions include the following:

  • Do you have a dedicated budget for your project? And what is that budget?
  • If you weren’t limited by a budget, what would you do?
  • Is there anyone else I should speak to?
  • Do you already use products similar to ours? How do you feel about these products?
  • What are the most frustrating things about your job?
  • Are there any other issues we haven’t discussed?
  • What’s getting in the way of you fixing these issues?
  • When are you looking to solve these problems?
  • Are you considering any other services?

5 signs your lead is interested

The following five signs are a good indication that things are heading in the right direction.

  • They show genuine interest and keep asking questions.
  • They’re quick to answer questions about current problems and give well-thought-out answers. This shows you the issue has been on their mind for a while.
  • They offer solutions of their own. Again, this shows that the timing is right, and your prospective client is ready to start working on a solution.
  • Your lead has authority, or they put you in contact with someone who has authority.
  • They respond with urgency. This could include replying quickly to your emails or giving you a specific timeframe. A word of warning with this one, though: be careful to moderate their expectations, and avoid agreeing to anything that sounds unrealistic to you.

The disadvantages of using BANT to qualify leads

IBM developed the BANT methodology in the 1950s to shorten the sales cycle by quickly ruling out bad leads. Over the years, the sales environment has significantly changed, especially in the tech world.

Buyers are often in the driver’s seat with a clear idea of what they want, and in many companies, decision-making isn’t clear-cut and hierarchical. As a result, many sales professionals view BANT as an outdated technique. While we personally believe the BANT framework still has value, it’s beneficial to understand its limitations.

BANT isn’t meant to be a black-and-white checklist.

In a successful sales interaction, you’re working to establish a natural rapport with the customer so that you can understand their pain points. If you approach it only thinking about what your organization needs, you’ll end up asking questions that shut down the conversation rather than expanding it.

The BANT criteria isn’t suited for in-depth lead qualification.

The budget a client is willing to spend depends on the value of what you’re offering. This amount can change when you present a solution that clearly shows how the benefits outweigh the cost. By ruling out clients based on a shallow assessment of budget and needs, you’re missing the opportunity to sell them on why your solution is worth more.

The ‘decision-maker’ isn’t always an authority.

Many B2B decisions aren’t top-down. If the company is buying a product or software solution for a specific department, the team using it will most likely test the product and recommend the best choices. If you insist on talking to the person in charge of buying, you could actually slow the process and alienate a key stakeholder who’s influential in the decision.

Clients are generally more educated about product solutions.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, sales teams had far fewer competitors and were often approaching clients with limited knowledge of all the solutions on the market. In today’s tech-savvy world, the average client (especially in B2B sectors) completes substantial research before contacting a salesperson. They have an idea of what they need, and their goal is to compare the long-term benefits of different solutions.

Sales teams are more educated about potential leads.

Much like clients, sales teams are more informed. You can easily research public and private companies to find out details such as valuation, VC funding, active and upcoming projects, and current product solutions in use. By the time you speak to someone, you’ll likely know whether the lead meets your company’s basic qualification criteria.

How to make the BANT technique work for you

One thing is certain: you won’t find any sales methodology that was meant to be a foolproof manual. If you use BANT to hastily sift through a high quantity of leads, you’ll miss out on high-quality prospects. Consider these best practices as you develop a lead-qualification process that works for your organization.

  1. Develop well-defined customer profiles. The more effort you put into creating target customer personas, the easier it will be to find prospects that are interested in moving forward.
  2. Put the customer first. Avoid the habit of treating the process like a checklist. Ask open-ended questions that encourage clients to share more about their needs, plans, goals, and challenges. By allowing the conversation to flow organically, you can build trust and incorporate your qualification questions at the right time.
  3. Discover the customer’s core motivation. Clients don’t always communicate their exact goals upfront, so it’s your job to prompt them with the right questions. Instead of just discussing the type of solution the client is looking for, ask about the impact or outcome they’re trying to achieve. That way, you’re better equipped to disqualify the lead or make a sale that can deliver the desired results.
  4. Share relatable stories. Motivate customers to open up by sharing relevant customer success stories. When dealing with outbound leads, bringing up topics like budget and timeframe can quickly halt the sales pitch. Introduce these tougher subjects by explaining challenges and perspectives you’ve encountered in the past. That way, you invite clients to share their own concerns and start thinking seriously about taking action.
  5. Discuss potential consequences. Find out what’s at stake for the client if they don’t implement a solution. Creating a sense of urgency is an effective method of building momentum in a sale.

Final thoughts

The more you refine your lead-generation process, the more accurately you or your sales team will be able to find the right customers.

Diagrams are a useful way to approach this. An org chart can help you work out a company’s hierarchy, Gantt charts can help you map out an initiative’s timeframe, and a flowchart can help you sort your leads into ‘processing’ and ‘qualifying.’ There are plenty of diagrams to explore if you have the right online tool to do it. Your team will appreciate your commitment to transparency, and you’ll find it easier to organize your thoughts.

Nothing is ever guaranteed in sales, and a lead you thought was a sure thing could go cold. This sucks, but knowing you gave it your all and picked wisely saves you from asking yourself, “what if.” BANT makes it easier to evaluate your sales techniques and move on to the next lead with confidence.

 

This post was originally published on February 12, 2020, and updated most recently on January 24, 2022.

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