Rethinking BANT: How to better define a qualified lead

Part one of a three-part blog Four commonly accepted parameters are almost universally used to define a qualified lead.  The folks at IBM are widely credited for the development of an acronym for those parameters – BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe).

More formally, the acronym is applied as follows:

  • Is there a Budget allocated for a solution (and is it sufficient for your solution)?
  • Has the Authority for the purchasing process been identified (and are you in touch)?
  • Is the Need for a solution well defined (and does it match your capabilities)?
  • What is the Timeframe for purchasing and implementing a solution?  Is it in the next six months, 12 months, or over a year?

Many companies use this paradigm as the heart of their lead scoring process.  It helps them decide how and where to focus their resources to bring revenue into the pipeline.  So it’s important to confirm that the BANT approach is both valid and sufficient to meet that need.

I plan on exploring these issues in detail in this three-part blog.  You can think of it as my three-part BANT rant, starting with this segment as an overview.

From my vantage point, there are two obvious problems with BANT.  First and foremost, it is seller-centric.  And, as every successful sales person with experience knows, it’s never about you (the seller), it’s ALWAYS about them (the prospect).

If you fail to look at the relationship from the prospect’s (buyer’s) perspective, the likelihood of making a sale is diminished – unless, of course, your offering is so far superior to the competition that the decision is a no-brainer.  But if that were the case, then your closing ratio would be very close to 100%!  Correct?

The second problem is that this seller vs. prospect perspective pushes BANT off the mark.  You do need money, a decision-making process, a need and (assuming it’s important), a time frame for making a decision and implementing a solution.  But the BANT parameters themselves are only tangential to what’s truly important in selling.  And, as a whole, while these parameters are arguably necessary, by themselves they are not sufficient as qualifying criteria.  They lack essential characteristics that are, perhaps, even more important than those four.

Let me offer one simple example as “food for thought” (sorry in advance for this).

Food is a universal need for all living things.  No argument there, I presume.  We can survive without food for a reasonably long time; maybe even weeks.  But, without food, we will end up just a dead as we would without oxygen.  There’s the “N” in BANT.

So let’s consider this scenario:

You’re walking down a busy city street around lunchtime.  You’re hungry, but you’re also on your way to a very important meeting with a new client or a hot prospect.  You’ve got plenty of money in your pocket and a budget reserved for lunch (there’s the “B”) and you need to make a decision (you are obviously the “A”) as to whether or not to stop to eat before the meeting.  You’ve got 30 minutes until your meeting starts and you’re five minutes away from the location, so time is more than sufficient (“T”).

You pass a multitude of restaurants and street vendors along the way.  How can the owner of a food establishment predict how likely you are to stop and eat?  And, what, if anything, can the proprietor do to get you to eat at his or her establishment?  (By the way, this example would be just a valid if there were only one food source along the route – and it was your favorite.)

If you think about this dilemma from the perspective of the proprietor as well as your own, you’ll begin to understand the case I plan to make over the next two weeks.  I plan to focus more directly on why I think BANT is only part of the story and, specifically, what those shortcomings are.  And then, I’ll explore ways to add value to BANT so that you are more aligned with the buyer’s perspective.

Finally, I’ll offer an alternative viewpoint on how to better define a qualified lead – identifying the factors that are both necessary and sufficient – and one that should enable sales people to focus their energy on opportunities with greater potential for success.


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