Traditionally, marketing has been tasked with producing BANT quality leads for key accounts. The individual identified is confirmed to have Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe. Good Lord! What sales team wouldn’t spec their wished-for leads that way? Why not add that they’re also willing to provide coffee for every meeting and promise to be a reference should things work out?
In today’s business climate is BANT the best measure of lead qualification? Let’s look at the individual elements:
Budget – Budget for what? Many teams are selling cutting-edge solutions. Imagine a salesperson calling you [at dinnertime] and asking, “What is your budget for devices that will make your bed while you’re away at work?” There is no budget for that. And what if the lead is truly interested in your service, has the authority but not budget. Sales cycles are long, often extending beyond 12 months, particularly if the solution costs six figures. Should sales dismiss those opportunities?
Authority – In many organizations only one person has the authority to approve a six-figure sale. Or it gets bumped up to the Board level. What you should really want is a champion, someone who’s so enthusiastic that they’ll find the authority to approve the purchase.
Need – This one is, perhaps, the most valuable element to uncover. Are they, indeed, in pain and need help? I’ll take “need” over all the other BANT criteria. But perhaps the depth of the need is what needs to be revealed. We all have needs. Would you like to increase your IT department’s performance by 2%? Of course, but at what cost? The qualifying question, “What keeps you up at night?” helps uncover the intensity of the need, but I prefer what I refer to as “nuts and bolts” questions, such as, “Are you aware that X-Soft is discontinuing service next year?” or “New Federal regulations mandate compliance by 2013.” You can’t escape those.
Timeframe – Sure, it would be great the make the quarter’s numbers with a big honking sale but that’s luck, not methodical sales effort. Some leads have tighter time horizons than others (isn’t that another way of defining “need”?), but disqualifying a lead because of some unacceptability of the timeframe is crazy. I hear this one a lot: “What we hate is when our competitor lands a deal we didn’t even know about.” Well, if you fail to pursue a lead because the timeframe is too far out, shame on your acting surprised when a competitor eventually closes it.
BANT absolutely has value, but it’s an aspiration. It defines the ideal. I prefer to think about finding pragmatic triggers, those factors in an account that your intelligence uncovers and justifies it appearing on sales’ radar screen. For example:
– The IT department admits to budgets being slashed. (Explain how greater IT efficiencies can mitigate this)
– A competitor just had a high-visibility security breech. (Time to question the integrity of their current security solutions).
So how can marketing help find the triggers? Here are 3 suggestions:
1) Identify the key issues affecting the prospects type of business or industry and provide sales with the relevant intelligence. For example: Are there any new regulations? How does the market leader’s strategy affect the rest of the competitors in that market? What impact is the economy having on buying trends within that industry?
2) Identify the “big trend” issues and help sales understand how they may be impacting their prospects and the demand for your solutions. For example: Cloud computing, Virtualization, Doing more with less, big data, mobile computing, increasing popularity of video for business information etc.
3) Survey the target market or target key accounts to find out specific issues that they face relating to your product, service or solution. For example: What software do they currently use? How is it delivered (license or Saas)? What challenges have they faced with implementation/operation? How do they manage their operation? Etc. These questions will be very specific to the business and prospects will likely need an incentive to participate but the knowledge gained can be invaluable.
Armed with the right questions, and definitely not “What keeps you up at night?”, your sales team can become true partners to their prospects, helping them evaluate solutions to their challenges and letting them know how others have solved the problems. Plus they’ll also be discovering what are the hot buttons, the “triggers” that can drive a sale to close – despite the lack of BANT qualification.
Sometimes, all you’re looking for is a door-opener. Or a way to establish you and your firm as authoritatively possessing relevant remedies. All sales begin with that first conversation and – unless management is desperate for a short-term sale – many organizations would do better lowering their qualifying threshold in order to be able to engage with their targeted accounts.
For more on how to penetrate key accounts, download our Account Penetration Report.