The Complete Guide To BANT Sales Qualification
What is BANT? 🤔
You may have heard of BANT, but what exactly is it? It’s not clear what it could be just by looking at the word, but once you break it down -- it’s an acronym after all -- it begins to make a lot more sense.
B - Budget
A - Authority
N - Needs
T - Timeline
Essentially, this is a sales framework that sales and marketing professionals can use to identify the sales leads that will be most likely to bite at the carrot that you’re dangling. While some approaches adopt a ‘push the product/service at everyone, and see who jumps on board,’ BANT is designed to make the most of time, energy, and money by nudging you towards the most qualified prospects.
Using the BANT method, you’ll view all your potential leads through the criteria set out by the method, and then focus on the ones who will be more likely to purchase.
So let’s begin with budget. There’s not much point in pursuing leads that have a budget that’s much lower than the cost of working with you. Equally, it can also be a little pointless approaching the companies that have a budget that’s much greater than what you’re offering. So it’s important to use the right questions to try and determine what a prospects budget is early on in the talks. You’ll be able to shift the ones that aren’t appropriate to the bottom of the pack and focus your energy and attention on the companies that seem to have a budget in line with what you offer.
It’s important to remember, however, that discovering a prospect with a budget that’s a little lower than you’d like doesn’t necessarily mean that you should discard them. If you’re good enough, and you feel as if there’s potential for them to increase their budget, then it can be worth pursuing.
There’s not much that’s more frustrating than working hard to convince someone of why they should choose you, only to discover at some point that they’re not the ones who make decisions. You’ll just have to go through the process all over again when you are passed to the right person, if indeed you even get a chance to talk to them -- if they reject the proposal right at the beginning, then all your efforts will have been wasted. As such, this aspect of the BANT method involves identifying who that person that makes decisions is as early as possible. As with budget, discovering that you’re not talking with the final decision maker doesn’t mean that you should change your plan of action straight away, but it is good information to have. It’ll help to frame the process more clearly in your mind.
Of course, it’s not as if companies typically make their chain of command freely available on their websites, but with a bit of digging, and just paying attention to your interactions with a company representative, you can usually get an idea of where on the ladder they stand. Once you’ve got this information you’ll be able to figure out who you need to speak to and when.
It’s much easier to sell something to someone who needs what you sell, rather than to someone who doesn’t. You’ll find that it’s much easier to communicate with a company that can’t live without what you have to sell. Sometimes, you’ll find that you’re dealing with companies who just want or who treat your offering as something ‘nice to have,’ but not essential. As part of the BANT method, you should get a sense of where they fall on this spectrum. In the early days of your interactions, try to identify what their needs are -- you might find that even the company itself doesn’t fully understand what they’re missing out on. Sometimes, they’ll have told you one thing they need, but you identify the real thing that they need. Once you have this understanding, you’ll find it easier to figure out how you’ll approach them.
The final part of the BANT process is timeline. Even if everything else is in sync, this last part could prove problematic. They might need something too quickly, in which case you might struggle to deliver the goods on time. Another problem with a timeline that’s too short is that it could impact the budget aspect; you might have a price set for delivery within three months, but if they need it within a month, then it could suddenly become impossible to do, budget-wise. This is something that can be handled relatively swiftly and just requires some communication.
Is BANT Dead? 🤭
OK, now that we’ve outlined what exactly BANT is, it’s time for some potentially bad news: BANT could be dead. Or is it? That’s what some people have been saying, but as we all know, when it comes to anything theory-based, people can -- and often are -- wrong. So what’s the truth of the matter?
First, let’s think about why people are saying that it could soon be a thing of the past.
The most common reason you’ll hear is that it has simply been around too long. It was developed way back in the 1960s by IBM, and there’s little doubt that it was successful: we wouldn’t be talking about it many decades later if that wasn’t the case. The issue is that the world has changed beyond recognition since the 1960s. The entire structure of organizations has been redeveloped, and then there’s the whole matter of the internet and globalization.
Indeed, the nature of the relationship between sellers and buyers has changed significantly in that period. Whereas companies used to be more open and receptive to sweet-talking companies who were nudging their way into the offices, but now the needs are different. Companies work on a more individualistic basis. They’ll do their own research, they want to be treated as the number one business with whichever other company they’re buying from.
This attitude also shifts the power dynamic. A company is less likely to work with you to determine whether they’re a perfect match for your sales team. They’re trying to find a company that’s good for them. An issue with the BANT method is that it focuses too much on the sales team. It’s all about minimizing the amount of time and effort that the sales team has to spend on making a sale, and trying to get the biggest bang for their buck. But companies today are increasingly self-serving, so there’s a disconnect here. It can be argued that the smarter approach these days is to put all the effort into making the buyers happy, rather than trying to also make the sellers happy. It’s not a reciprocal arrangement when the buying business has the power.
Another problem is that the BANT method can seem a little aggressive. This type of tactic used to work well in decades gone by, but people and organizations are much more resistant to hard-sell tactics these days. That’s because in order to follow the BANT method, you have to get a lot of information from the company that you’re dealing with, and while there’ll be times when this information will naturally come up in conversation, there’ll be times when you have to dig it out. At the end of the meeting, you could be happy with how it went, since you got the information that you came for. But the person on the other side of the desk might leave feeling that they’ve just been under interrogation. Perhaps in the modern era, a softer touch is required.
However, though there are some people who are loudly proclaiming that BANT is dead or at least should be, that doesn’t tell the whole picture. Indeed, if you ask the people that have expert opinions about BANT -- the people who are actually involved in sales -- then you’ll find that there’s a lot of life left in the methodology yet. Their basic argument is that if a lead doesn’t meet the bulk of the criteria set out by the methodology, then they’re not a very strong lead. While some people might not like the directness of BANT, there’s little doubt that it has a place in the sales world. It’s just that it might be due an update so that it can be better applied to the modern world.
Reinventing BANT For SaaS 👏🏼
As we discussed above, the business world has changed a lot in recent decades. In the 1960s, when IBM first invented BANT, they were probably thinking about selling technological hardware to companies. But now the world is infinitely more digital. So if you’re a SaaS company, you’ll find that the BANT methodology doesn’t quite fit as well; a little tweaking is needed if it’s still going to be applicable.
One way to do this is to move away from the rigid BANT definition, and make it a little more fluid and relevant in today’s market (which in itself is much less rigid and more fluid).
Let’s begin by thinking about the budget aspect. The old approach doesn’t quite work because back then, companies were more likely to have a set amount of money that they could spend on each aspect of their company. That’s no longer the case -- it’s more about the value these days. If there’s something valuable that a SaaS company can offer, then it’s likely that the buying company will find a way to make it work. Since a company’s budget is more likely to be dynamic these days, they’re increasingly likely to try to find a way to make it work. Another thing to consider is that since SaaS companies largely work on a subscription basis, the money matter is less likely to be a sticking point. It’s one thing to try to sell something worth $10,000, another thing entirely to sell a service that costs just $100 a month. So for this reason, the budget matter should be lower on the priority list -- instead, think about whether you can offer them value.
There’s also some issue when it comes to authority. We tend to think that in the olden days, there was one person sitting behind the desk, mulling over the decision, ready to sign a check if it seems like a good idea. That’s not the arrangement anymore. Today, there aren’t too many modern companies where the big decisions are taken by one person within the organization. As such, the BANT approach must be updated so that it’s ready to touch all the influential people involved in the decision-making process at the right time.
Saas companies usually offer services that are at the cutting edge of what’s hot in the business world. While it’s still important to listen to what a company needs, it’s not going to be the beginning and end of the conversation. Indeed, what you can offer is likely to be more important. Today, expertise is confidence, and a person who arrives at a company’s doors saying they’ll do whatever they need is not showing confidence. Instead, it’s about having faith in what you offer. The company you’re talking with may not even know that they need what you’re selling. It’ll be up to your salespeople to show them the way, to walk them through the service that you offer, and how it can help them.
The information age has, of course, led to increased autonomy and education. As such, companies can be much better prepared when they’re discussing their needs with another company. They may have a strong idea of when they need this to be done by. Indeed, they may even be essentially ready to buy, providing the meeting goes well. At other times, they might be essentially ready, it’s just the timing isn’t right. As such, a deep understanding of the complex nature of modern companies and how they integrate new services and products into their business operations will be essential.
As we’ve shown, BANT isn’t dead; it’s not even on life support. But you will have to modernize it, in a way.