When you first meet with a sales prospect, you have to qualify them in terms of BANT: Budget, Authority, Need, Timing. Here's how.
Your best opportunity to eliminate the specter of churn, turn renewal decisions into foregone conclusions, and create brand ambassadors
BANT is an acronym for the sales opportunity qualification criteria IBM developed in the 1950s. Today, BANT is one of the most popular methodologies for lead qualification.
And while tech sales at IBM 70 years ago looked quite different from today, BANT is indispensable as a mental model in discussions with sales prospects.
In this post, you’ll learn:
To wrap up, I’ll provide a downloadable agenda template and best practices for AEs and SDRs, along with bonus sample qualification questions.
Ready to streamline your sales qualification process? Let’s get to it.
BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, Timing. Though many organizations adapt the model to mean slightly different things, the original model looks like this:
According to IBM’s guidance, an opportunity is worth pursuing if the prospect meets three of the four criteria. And it’s up to the team to decide if they’d like to use a more lenient or stricter version by requiring prospects to meet less or more than three criteria.
BANT is effective, both as a structure for discovery calls and as a mindset, because of its emphasis on simplicity and efficiency.
The simplicity of a catchy, four-letter acronym also makes it easy for new sales reps to remember. And it ensures your team identifies potential deal-breakers, which helps to minimize time wasted on leads that:
But BANT, as IBM initially conceived it, has its limitations.
As Jacco Van Der Kooij from Sales Hacker explained, BANT was conceived in a “sales-centric world.” And today, we live in a customer-centric world, which necessitates a modernization of BANT.
Though it does need to be modernized, and despite bold proclamations to the contrary, BANT is not dead.
Its components just need to be revisited and applied to modern sales processes, which we’ll do in this and the next section.
But before SaaS was popularized, traditional, on-premise software packages could easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Today, that same software delivered as SaaS could be available for $7000 per month. In other words, even before factoring in the lower switching cost, the SaaS model makes software less expensive to buy.
As a result, whether the problem your solution is solving is a high or low priority has a much larger impact on budget availability than it used to. This means understanding budget in the context of your customer’s priorities is more useful than budget alone.
But purchasing decisions are increasingly made by a large group of stakeholders across a broad range of functions. To this end, Sales Hacker recommends determining “what kind of decision process” is being followed, rather than focusing on finding the solitary decision-maker.
This is as true today as it was decades ago. The subtle difference today is the extent to which a more pressing need can unlock budget.
For this reason, Van Der Kooij recommends focusing not just on need but impact. He suggests digging further than the customer’s expressed need and asking questions to uncover the extent of a solution’s impact.
Your customer’s timeline is, and always has been, a potential deal-breaker that BANT is meant to uncover.
Just make sure you’re starting with the customer’s needs in mind. Rather than focusing on when the solution needs to be live, determine when the client needs the desired impact, and work back from there. That way, you can determine if the timeline is realistic.
Once you’ve updated your understanding of BANT to fit modern sales processes, you can put it to use. For that, the first tool you’ll need is the following agenda template:
How does this solution fit in with other priorities that may impact your budget? Is this solution a nice-to-have, need-to-have, or a must-have?
Who are the key stakeholders (i.e., users, managers, execs) in this buying decision?
What problems are you hoping for this solution to solve? What impact might solving these problems have on your business?
What are your time constraints for implementing this solution? When do you need this service to be live? What happens if it’s not live by then?
The downloadable agenda above lists several qualification questions you can ask, but here are a few more, organized by subject.
BANT is, by design, a flexible model. IBM granted sales teams leeway to use more or less strict iterations of BANT for their sales qualification processes.
And the same leeway should be granted today.
Some sales experts argue for even looser interpretations of BANT that reorder the acronym into Need, Time, Authority, and Budget (NTAB).
The idea with this alternate order is that the relative importance of each letter in BANT has changed due to the evolution of technology from on-premise to cloud-based.
Regardless of your interpretation, implementing BANT requires close alignment between account executives (AEs) and sales development representatives (SDRs). This is primarily because of how typical sales teams are structured—with SDRs and AEs playing complementary roles in the discovery process.
For example, if an SDR uses one interpretation of BANT, and an AE uses another or a completely different model, miscommunication is inevitable.
The SDR will have one idea of what a qualified prospect is, and the AE will have another. Customers will get confused. And you’ll be spinning your wheels.
So, as you start to implement BANT, make sure your team moves from the same interpretation and understanding. Even if you disagree on specific points, following a similar process will provide the consistency you need to find the ideal approach to qualifying sales prospects.
Ready to put BANT into action? Crush your next sales meeting with a smartly-created agenda designed to maximize your ability to assess your prospect's budget, authority, need, and timing. 👇
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