• Banning BANT: Redefining Lead Criteria

    Both marketers and inside sales reps are familiar with the oft-referenced BANT acronym, whether in identifying qualified leads or handling objections: Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe. However, over the years, the acronym has become outdated, overused and obsolete. Is the criteria even working for marketers looking for qualified leads? How well? Prospects may still be hiding behind these objections, but now that they know prospectors can immediately refute them, how much longer will they continue to use them?

    I recently read two articles about the BANT acronym, Why BANT is Bunk for Today’s B2B Buyer by Ardath Albee and How to Tackle the Most Common B2B Objections by Ginny Soskey. Initially, I thought they were saying different things, one stating that BANT should no longer be used as an acronym for qualifying leads, and the other claiming that BANT is still relevant, and how to handle it when prospects bring up these objections. However, after further consideration, I realized that both articles were similar. The first article said that BANT is rigid criteria for qualified leads, while the second said that BANT are still the most commonly faced objections, and they both offer ways to bypass them.  The first article states that BANT objections no longer hold relevance, while the second article offers advice for what to say to prospects when they insist that they do.

    By clinging to BANT for qualifying leads, B2B businesses are decreasing productivity and in fact misaligning sales and marketing. The dialogue between these two departments with this criteria in mind won’t be fruitful. Marketing needs to send leads that sales needs, not just leads that they desire. There’s no use denying that buyers and markets are changing; they’re more social, more interactive, more relationship-oriented. Our criteria should be dynamic and adaptive to reflect that change, and inside sales reps should know how to convey that difference to prospects who still think BANT has meaning to today’s marketers.

    Let’s take a look at what BANT means today, and then we’ll offer ways to think about each criteria differently.

    Budget

    Budget is how much money a prospect has to allocate towards your product. What most people don’t realize (or choose not to) is that most companies don’t have a budget for your product. They didn’t even know that the problem existed when you called them or that their problem could be solved, let along with your solution. Therefore, this is no longer a static criterion. When facing this objection, stay calm and try to have a valuable conversation with the prospect to obtain further information. Find out why he or she isn’t happy with the product’s price and whether there is actual value in it for the company; then explain how much he or she could save using your product in the long run.

    Instead of thinking in terms of Budget, think in terms of Resources. Would this company be a great fit for this solution? What kind of resources do they have to allocate for it? If they realize that your product will be a beneficial solution for their company, they’ll be resourceful and find the budget for it.

    Authority

    A common objection is: “I don’t know if my superior would sign off on this.” Don’t stop after hearing this sentence. First, validate that this objection even makes sense. It probably doesn’t. Your prospect may not be the CEO who signs on the dotted line, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to gain his or her respect and support as well. Usually a CEO delegates a team to ascertain if a product is a good fit for the company; you could be speaking to a member of that team right now. Build a relationship with the prospect, perhaps try sharing your content, case studies or infographics; he or she may pass it on to the decisionmaker. That way, you can address the third party’s needs and fears about the product before you even speak to them.

    Instead of Authority, think Connections. Can you build a relationship with this person? Is he or she able to sway opinion within the company? Are you able to find the wheels for each member of the buying committee, and turn them towards the same destination? There are a lot of people who might be “the right person” to talk to within the company, so don’t limit your scope to one so-called authority figure.

    Need

    There’s really no reason to get rid of need; it’s still absolutely necessary. If a prospect doesn’t need your product, he or she is not going to buy it, and you shouldn’t be pushing it. However, it’s important to understand the difference between need and want when persuading prospects. How important is the problem in relation to the company objectives? Sometimes, you just have to come at the solution from a different approach or with a different attitude, highlighting a need your prospect may never have considered and offering your product or service as the solution.

    Therefore, we should keep Need, but make sure we understand how to communicate that need to others. Find the reason why they think they may not need it, and then show them an alternative view as to why they may. Give them content such as case studies or guides, summarizing it for them in an email, that offers information on how other companies came to the same conclusion.

    Timeframe

    This is one of the most annoying criteria, because it’s so easy to get around. Do not give up on a qualified lead if there’s no established time line. While sales reps are always worried about closing leads and meeting their quota, forecasting for the future can be beneficial; more leads passed overall, even if it’s over a long period of time, still means more success for you and your company. Remind your prospect of the long-term payout from buying your product or service now so people can get acclimated and have the tools from day one.  If that doesn’t work, don’t make hopeless attempts to pass a prospect who’s not ready.  Instead, show them the value that they’ll be missing out on today, and then schedule a call for a few months in advance.

    Instead of Timeframe, which limits you considerably, think Time Allowance. How far into the budgeting process are you willing to go? Future You may be grateful that you rescheduled this opportunity, and your prospect will surely thank you for not pushing.

    Conclusion and Thoughts for the Future

    Overall, emphasis should be put on understanding the company’s problems or needs before determining if they’re qualified or determining how to handle their objections. Again, this can be done through relationship marketing, building strong bonds between your B2B business and your prospect’s. In the end, this information will be far more reliable than any BANT indications.

    Now that we know that banning BANT may be the best action, we should think further and encourage marketers and inside sales reps to redefine their criteria. BANT may have been valid 5 years ago, but it isn’t today. How can we train new marketers and inside sales reps to think dynamically? Or how can we change their thinking, which is entrenched in tradition, without treading on stubborn toes?

    Allison Tetreault is Digital Content Intern, AG Salesworks.  To view all company blogs go to AG Salesworks blog site.

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