You can do all the prospecting you want, but if you’re focused on increasing sales team productivity, there’s no question that giving them more qualified leads is like pouring gasoline on a fire.
What’s constitutes “qualified,” of course, may differ a lot between, say, the marketing department who has nurtured demand through content versus what a sales rep determines is worth their time and energy to chase. In many cases -- whether it’s an official part of the culture or not -- many sales teams will make the call based on the lead’s budget, authority, need and timing. This is known as the BANT framework.
BANT is not necessarily a bad way to quality leads, but experienced sales leaders know there are inherent limitations in how it can be applied from one lead to another. This is why CRM like Sales Cloud can be really helpful in capturing more of the nuances behind BANT’s four components.
Before we get any further, let’s confirm the worst way to apply BANT to the sales process. If you’re simply using BANT as a kind of checklist, you’re almost certainly going to overlook opportunities. BANT is not a series of yes or no questions to answer, but should be considered as a set of building blocks for further investigation as sales reps build opportunities.
In your next team meeting, bring up BANT and see how well it corresponds to how reps are spending their time every day. If it’s not an officially-endorsed way of working, see if you can get at the truth without making reps worry about getting in trouble. Chances are you’ll find variations of this approach in your organization, even if they’ve never heard of the acronym.
Then, once you’ve gotten a baseline on BANT adoption, have a deeper conversation about the following:
Leads always have a budget. It just might not be allocated to whatever the rep is selling.
Some of what helps qualify a lead, for instance, is whether they have made a similar purchase in the past, or have downloaded some kind of content marketing asset, like a white paper, that indicates their interest. In the case of more innovative startups and even larger companies, however, there might not be a dedicated budget for your particular products and services. Instead, closing the sale might require talking to the lead about their organizational structure, the finer points of the procurement process and any funds that are already reserved for similar or complementary products.
In other instances, the budget may be available if the buyer can successfully make the business case, but they could be unsure of how to do that. This is where good sales reps shine, in offering education and guidance to move decisions further up the chain until they get the green light. In other words, the “budget” in BANT should be positioned as creating a strategy to find the budget, rather whether it exists at all.
Sales reps may move away from leads that seem too junior, and for good reason. It likely feels pointless to make a detailed pitch to someone who will only have to brief their boss, or their peers in multiple other departments, or orchestrate a larger meeting where the rep has to make the same pitch all over again.
Unfortunately, this is simply the way the world works now. The rise of account-based marketing has been based on the fact that buying teams are getting larger than ever. This is in part because some purchases represent a major investment, and also because there are several groups that may be involved in deploying or using them.
The “authority” in BANT should not be a question of whether the initial contact for the lead has it or not, but the jumping-off point for delving into who else is part of the decision-making process, and what steps should be taken to reach them over a given period (all of which should go into the CRM). Writing off those who don’t immediately seem capable of saying “yes” on their own could cost a sales team in the long run -- maybe even making the difference between meeting quota or not.
Think of “need” as a spectrum within an individual sales lead. In some cases, for instance, there may be an immediate need for a product or service, based on a major pain point the company has been going through. They might need to get something in place to minimize damage or get back on track.
Then there are the sales leads with what we could call a “benefit need.” These are firms that won’t necessarily lose business or suffer without the product or service, but could grow significantly if they purchased it. Firms that face increased competition in their market will have a much different need than those who are in a smaller niche.
And don’t overlook complementary needs -- where a product could be a means to an end. Make sure the sales lead is focused on cost reduction, or increased productivity, or both. The sales rep needs to make sure they understand and make the connection between what their organization wants, and what they can buy to get them there.
Nobody likes a long sales cycle, particularly those doing the selling. It might seem better, in fact, to try and close a lot of smaller deals with a shorter cycle than take the time and effort required to chase a qualified lead that will require six months or a year before a decision is reached.
Don’t be too quick to ignore such leads, however. The better you’re able to use CRM data to work through the sales process, the more likely you might be able to shorten the sales cycle for the next qualified lead of a similar size, or which operates in a different industry.
If the sales cycle still seems too long, sales teams should feed this data back to their marketing department, who may be able to continue to nurture them with the right content so that they’ll be primed for a purchase the next time they come through the pipeline.
To sum up, BANT should not necessarily be the way leads are qualified via a quick review, but a way of approaching the unanswered questions about a lead -- the answers to which are likely to be found by making better use of CRM like Sales Cloud.