If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym BANT, it stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe and it’s an age-old way of identifying the best quality leads. Quite simply, your chances of success are magnified if the prospect has:
- the budget to spend
- the decision maker status to make the decision to purchase
- a challenge that compels them to act and
- a timetable for implementation.
You also sometimes hear the term SQL, or Sales Qualified Leads. This is another way of identifying those leads with deeper qualification that are more likely to be those that your sales team will feast upon.
Is there an over-reliance on BANT?
Having been in lead generation for over 20 years and in Sales and Marketing for nearly 40 years (yes, really), I worry about the over-reliance on such supposedly deeply qualified leads. That’s not to say that they aren’t what we all want. Or, indeed, that deeply qualified leads are a bad thing. They aren’t. Of course, the hotter the lead, the better it is. Yet, it often feels like, in the pursuit of the ‘perfect’ lead, sales teams almost abdicate the work that’s necessary to bring a new prospect to the boil.
Strong words perhaps, and I’m being somewhat controversial. The comments aren’t meant to offend. But, the point is that there is an expectation that the marketing department will deliver leads through their efforts in advertising, content development and social media engagement. These are usually unqualified. The next step is that internal or external resources will qualify them further to take them to the BANT level before handing them over to a skilled salesperson.
It’s Far From Easy to Identify BANT leads
Latterly, marketing nurturing and automation systems such as Hubspot or Marketo have emerged to support this qualification process. CRM systems help sales teams to manage large or smaller pools of prospect data. Scoring, based on engagement, increases the importance and relevance of certain leads. This qualification could be based on email opens or click throughs or LinkedIn connections or some other action. The addition of artificial intelligence to identify intent certainly enhances the ability of marketing teams to prioritise and target more effectively.
What Role Should Sales Adopt?
In many respects, I feel that a lot of the above removes the core role of a salesperson. That is to take a prospect from interest to conversion. Marketing should, indeed, support the process whether that’s running an event, producing a white paper or attending an exhibition. But, few prospects that arrive at your door are ready to buy. A recent survey by Ehrenberg-Bass, published in Marketing Week, concluded that only 5% of prospects are ready to buy at any given time.
Thus, the core role of a salesperson is to build rapport, establish the relationship and to flesh out the need. They then need to nurture that relationship until there is evidence of genuine interest or lack thereof.
But, We all Love BANT
We all love BANT. But, BANT also tends to be where the prospect is in the market and you can bet that they will be looking at competing offerings at the same time that they are looking at yours. That begs the question about the ability to ‘create’ the need.
There will generally be a large pool of ‘’potential’ targets in the market. However, as mentioned above, it’s likely that, at any time, 95% won’t be in the market for your services. That’s not to say that they won’t need them at some time in the future. You could argue that this is where the nurturing and automation comes in as described earlier. However, marketing can only profile so far. There’s only so much a machine can do to discern intent from online activity.
There is no Substitute for Conversation.
Whilst no sales person has the free time to chat with everyone and anyone, effective sales people carefully select those prospects with which they want to do business and they nurture those relationships. That often starts before they’ve been qualified at BANT level.
So, what’s my recommendation? In today’s lean organisations, division of labour is the answer. The marketing department still needs to do its job to identify and profile target audiences. They need to define the proposition and drive demand. Systems that support that activity are essential. However, sales teams also need to recognise that no marketing is perfect. Wastage happens. You will always see some prospects that don’t fit your model. You only need to look at LinkedIn to see how out of date ‘self administered ’ data can be. Accuracy is a work in progress.
A Final Plea to Sales
So, my plea to sales is to work hand in hand with your marketing colleagues to tightly define your targets. Don’t abdicate responsibility. We all want BANT. Be rigorous with how you apply your time. However, that should absolutely not reduce your activity level. Run with some leads that aren’t ready to buy now. Build those relationships. The results may surprise you.