J. David Green

Lead Gen: A proposed replacement for BANT

According to the MarketingSherpa  2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report, 24% of marketers ask a timeline-to-purchase question on their lead capture forms.

Q: Please select the most important fields that you need to collect from your leads on the lead generation form.

Another 17% ask budget-related questions. I suspect marketers do so because they have heard about “BANT qualified leads” and apply these criteria to Web forms. For the uninitiated, BANT is an acronym:

  • B = Budget
  • A = Authority
  • N = Need
  • T= Timing

It’s time to move BANT methodology into retirement.

As I wrote in my previous B2B Lead Roundtable Blog post, BANT is not feasible without someone having a conversation with a prospect. For marketing departments, it’s impossible to deliver BANT qualified leads unless marketing owns an inside sales function.

Making matters worse, BANT does not align with customer buying behavior early in the decision process when Marketing and Sales generally need to engage prospects to win new business. So, even if Marketing owns an inside sales operation, asking the reps to use BANT criteria is misguided.

Lead qualification in a post-BANT world

Now, before introducing an alternative to BANT, I would ask you to think about the mindset of business prospects when they first express interest by sharing their identity.

We have all downloaded a white paper or attended a webinar. Think back on that experience. Now imagine after having done so, the vendor tries to call you. You go through a series of decisions, which we call “micro-yeses.”

The micro-yes decisions depend on the channel but the thought sequence of the customer is actually quite similar, for each channel:

What’s obvious is that we want to qualify the companies who solicit us every bit as much as they want to qualify us.

At each step of the decision process, we decide not only whether to keep going, but whether to do so now using all manner of mental machinery to answer these questions for ourselves.

In the case of email, if we don’t know the sender, then we’re trying to see if the email is junk mail. The “from” field might be a clue. For example, if that field contains the name of a company, we suspect it’s some kind of advertisement or triggered email. We then look at the subject line. And so on.

With a voicemail or an outbound call, we’re listening to the accent, the clarity, the tone, not just the meaning of the words. All of these factors and more can influence how someone might react.

The decisions we make are not just “yes or no.” Often, they are “if/then” scenarios. If the call is from my agency, then X, or if it’s from overseas, then Y, and so on. Those who engage customers need to be mindful and respectful of this filtering process that all of us use.

Lead qualification does not start with prospects

Given this desire we all have to be guarded with strangers, how should we qualify prospects once we decide to speak to them?

First, you need to be polite, not rude or disrespectful. I know that sounds obvious, but we all know how low the bar is. People call without an appointment, without asking if you are busy, without knowing much about you. Rarely do they offer to add value.

So, before you start qualifying them, maybe ask if you’ve called at a bad time. Before asking them questions, do some research on LinkedIn to see if it sounds like they are responsible for what you sell. In other words, you want to establish your authority and credibility, partly through your respectfulness and professionalism.

With this as a context, let me propose a replacement for BANT. I call it PAM – Persona qualification, Account qualification, Motivation.

Persona Qualification

One thing that is disrespectful is rattling on about something irrelevant to the prospect. The first point of phone qualification is making sure the person is one of the buying personas you hunt for. It’s usually not about the title, although a title is highly indicative. Really, it’s about the charter the person has.

But, how do you determine the charter?

First, provide a process-level and a prospect-level value proposition.

The process-level value proposition answers the question, “Why should I listen to you at all?” The prospect-level value proposition frames your value proposition from a buyer-persona perspective.

For example, you might say, “We have some new research that marketing executives faced with lead follow-up and lead conversion challenges find very helpful. With this new approach, companies are seeing 30% to 40% increases in lead conversion.”

Now you have possibly earned the right to ask them a question or two. Explain that you don’t want to waste their time and so you’d like to ask two questions. Ask what their role is in the company and how the company makes decisions about the kinds of solutions you sell.

Most of the time, if the person you are speaking with is not involved, he or she will give you the name of the person you might want to speak with, if they are at all aware of the challenge. If the person is involved, then he or she may want to learn more before getting others involved.

Account Qualification

Next, make sure the account meets the criteria you look for. Again, frame your questions in terms of not wanting to waste the time of the prospect.

If the person you are speaking to is not the right person, qualify the account in order to know whether you should be talking to someone else. That said, one of my pet peeves is needless qualification.

For example, if you sell to large retail chains, do you really need to qualify Wal-Mart? It’s important not be like the actor Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day,” doomed to repeat the same qualification questions with the same account over and over.

A good database marketing strategy and solid CRM implementation is critical.

Secondly, if you can find out an answer without asking, do so. Confirming what you think you know gives you credibility and is respectful. Not doing your homework isn’t.

Account qualification often varies by solution area. The key here is finding the answer to one or two questions that give you enough directional confidence to continue interacting with the account, now and in the future.

The answers should also help you prioritize your efforts to determine if the account is a minnow or a whale.

These two areas of qualification tell you the person and the account may buy at some point. They also help you figure out the size of the account, authority and charter of the decision maker, and may also indicate how much potential revenue is at stake.

But persona and account qualification say nothing about when the account might actually buy, and that’s the reason for the final area of qualification.

Motivation

Is the person you’re talking to motivated enough to help you get to the people or person who matters?

What pain do they have that maps to what you sell? I like the word pain because I can live with a problem, but pain is much harder to ignore.

Pain can and should happen at the account or department level and at the individual level. But, your first job is to see if it’s happening somewhere in the account.

How big of a priority is eliminating that pain, both for the person you are speaking with and for the others involved in the decision process? Insight into motivations can tell you a lot about the probability of a purchase and timeline for purchase.

It’s all about crafting a true sales-ready engagement

With the right answers to the questions in these three areas of qualification, you have a lead that is usually worthy of sales engagement.

The questions for marketers is what they can do upstream of live conversations to tee up people and accounts that are more likely to convert into sales-ready leads. There are many things.

But for now, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for improvement on the PAM model in the comments section below.

Related Resources:

Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco (September 30 – October 3, 2013)

The Lament of the Inside Sales Team: Data, Data Everywhere, but Who’s Ready to Buy?

How to Use Lead Scoring to Drive the Highest Return on Your Trade Show Investment

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Lead Generation



  1. September 9th, 2013 at 14:57 | #1

    The sooner we move BANT into retirement the better. The way it is used, or maybe abused would be the better word, is a hindrance to create empathy and leads to a lot of lost business.

  2. September 10th, 2013 at 08:41 | #2

    I agree: BANT has to move into retirement. But many people, specially in sales, use it.

  3. September 10th, 2013 at 11:58 | #3

    David, excellent article. The B2B marketing landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade and we need to create new strategies for nurturing B2B leads and measuring success. This is especially important for those of us who practice “pull marketing” and not the traditional push marketing models.

    Best,

    Chris Ryan

  4. September 10th, 2013 at 21:46 | #4

    Hello Christian,

    I have recently started my one woman business and as you can imagine I have to wear all hats. Most I enjoy and some I hate like bookkeeping. Even though I know my craft, I have also had to learn new things like selling. The knowledge I lack is once I have gathered a list of possible leads, how do I make contact without seeming pushy, sleazy or cheezy?

    The other problem here in Australia is that our SPAM laws are some of the strictest in the world and the penalties are very harsh. We are not allowed to approach companies by email without getting prior permission from the recipient. So cold calling emails are out of the question. The other issue we have is that the Australian public are so jaded by cold phone calls due to the influx of companies engaging in telemarketing practices with the call centres located in India or the Philippines. You can see our dilemma when it comes to reaching out to new prospects – especially for people like myself who aren’t professional sales people.

    Your is helpful to a point and I’m glad I never learnt or practised the BANT formula. My approach to selling is at first entirely selfish in that I think about my own reactions when someone is trying to sell something to me. Pushy techniques such as asking too many personal questions and diving straight in to ask for the sale is a huge turn off. I like to feel that I have come to an informed decision on my own. With that in mind I assume other people feel the same way and therefore I apply a strong emphasis on empathy and developing a professional relationship that leads to trust. It’s a long process but worth it.

    I feel your PAM model fits in very well with today’s educated consumer and plays very well to the approach of empathy. My missing link however is how to get from the list of prospects I have developed and my initial contact. The gap between the list and the appointment feels like trying to cross a river without a bridge.

  5. Dave Green
    September 12th, 2013 at 21:35 | #5

    @Christian Maurer
    Christian, thanks for joining the conversation. I agree.

  6. Dave Green
    September 12th, 2013 at 21:38 | #6

    @Marino
    Marino
    Sales people who use BANT as a basis of deciding whether to speak to someone won’t sell much unless they are selling pure commodities.

  7. Dave Green
    September 12th, 2013 at 21:40 | #7

    @Chris Ryan
    Chris
    Thanks for the kind words. The more we put ourselves in the shoes of the customer, the better we’ll do.

  8. September 16th, 2013 at 02:03 | #8

    Online Lead Generation has become a great system to gather online leads and then followup the prospect to make him a potential customer.

  9. Zahra Ardehali
    September 18th, 2013 at 17:32 | #9

    Great article and perspective. I agree with you about retiring BANT. For lead qualifying and nurturing programs, I always put myself on the other side of the fence and think how would I respond, if I was the customer. That means the user and lead experience should be well thought for every step of lead generation, lead nurturing and lead qualification process.

  10. February 11th, 2014 at 16:02 | #10

    Great analysis David, thank you.