Lead Qualification: Rethinking BANT in the Modern B2B Sales Cycle
In today’s complex B2B sales cycle, it’s important that an organization’s sales and marketing teams create a clearly defined and agreed upon, definition of a qualified lead. Distinctly identifying where the lead handoff happens is the first step in creating a seamless transition between sales and marketing.
In the past, most organizations have followed the BANT model of qualifying leads. BANT – which stands for Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline – was developed by IBM as a way to identify new opportunities. But with the buyer’s journey changing so dramatically in the past decade, and with marketing, sales, and now the customer success departments (the Team Trifecta) working closely to cover every stage of the lead lifecycle, it’s time that we reevaluate how we qualify leads in order to keep up with those changes.
Why is BANT Failing Marketers?
While we do think that prospect data about budget, authority, need, and timeline is great information to help determine sales-readiness, these are not the four most important things to consider.
Budget: By exclusively focusing on organizations you know to have a clearly defined budget, you may be ignoring a large portion of your target market who are willing and able to purchase your product. The catch here is that many organizations DO have the budget, even when they believe they don’t. The budget to purchase a new product or service should come from the money your product will save (or earn) the organization. If you’re overlooking organizations who don’t have the budget – you’re not doing your job. Your job is to show your prospects how your product can save time, money, or job- related pains, thus decreasing costs, or how your product can increase revenue. This is ultimately how budget is carved out.
Authority: Average B2B purchasing decisions involve anywhere from seven to 20 people. That’s seven to 20 people that you need on your side as a seller. If you’re focusing on a top-down approach, and ignoring those with no defined purchasing authority, you’re missing an opportunity to build internal champions, influencers who advocate for purchasing your product to those with authority. Qualifying leads based solely on purchasing authority is a huge missed opportunity.
Need: We will keep Need in the list of most important qualifying factors, but we’re going to discuss it in the context of the next section, “Factors to Consider Instead.”
Timing: We get it, you have your quota to hit. And if a lead wants to write a check to someone tomorrow, you should pay attention today. But overall, qualifying leads based on immediate needs is a short-term solution for a long-term problem. With SiriusDecisions reporting that 67% of the buyer’s journey is done before a buyer reaches out to a vendor, we think that “timing” is a less important qualifying factor than ever (unless you have a really short sales cycle, but for most of us the cycle is getting loooonger). Along with qualifying leads who have a known timeline for purchasing, put more emphasis on nurturing leads who do not. These leads will be the ones who continue to consume your content and will keep you top-of-mind when they are ready to purchase. Educating and nurturing those prospects and helping them move towards a purchasing decision will result in a steady flow of highly qualified leads that your sales team can follow up on and close the deal.
4 Factors to Consider, Instead, When Creating Lead Qualification Processes:
1. Buyer personas: Building out buyer personas and using them as a reference point for your leads is a great way to qualify a lead, and give your sales (and customer success) team the highest probability of creating a happy, long-lasting customer. It also help you pinpoint the customers who are the best match for your product or service. Happy customers stick with you and provide recurring revenue. Unhappy customers cost more support time and can damage your reputation.
2. Demographics & firmographics: Demographics is the data most marketers already have, such as a lead’s location, name, job title, etc. Firmographics are the same thing, only for companies. These might be data points like company size, current technology stack, and annual revenue. The psychographic layer you should be interested in looking at is interests, pain points, and departmental/organizational goals. In order to choose the most important factors, take a look at your best customers – what company size or revenue do they generally fall into? Do your biggest sales happen on the East Coast? What problems are you solving for them? What opportunities are you creating for them? (This is where the “Need” aspect from BANT comes in.)
3. Behavioral data: Prospects are constantly leaving us hints about their readiness to buy. It’s important to look at what sort of “online body language” a prospect shows. Examples include website visits, responses to email offers, marketing content downloads, and a willingness to complete online registration forms. What pages are they visiting? How deep do they drill down into product information? Did they watch a demo? Did they read the datasheet you sent them? Did they give up an hour to watch a webinar on a problem your product addresses? These kinds of actions indicate serious interest.
Lead scoring uses a points system to assign values based on a person’s online and offline behavior, such as actions that suggest growing sales-readiness. When prospects score enough points – based on how your organization defines a quality lead – they can be flagged as ready to be passed to sales. According to MarketingSherpa, organizations that use lead scoring see a 77% lift in their lead generation ROI.
4. Your sales and customer success teams: Although marketing is typically the first department to communicate with a lead, it’s (most often) a one-way conversation. Your sales reps are the ones having the one-to-one, real-time conversations with prospects – and therefore have the best understanding of what makes a lead qualified. Have conversations with your sales team about what they are experiencing. Ask them: “What is a qualified lead for you?” or “What leads are the easiest for you to call into and qualify?” or “Which actions are a sure sign that someone will buy?”
In the same way, your customer success reps are the ones having the one-to-one, real-time conversations with customers. They know who’s happy, and who’s unhappy, and why. Have conversations with them; ask “What qualities make up your best customers?” and “Which customers bring in the most revenue, or are most likely to renew their contracts?” This information should absolutely be factored into qualifying your leads. It’s a great indicator of not only a lead’s readiness to buy, but also their likeliness to convert into a successful customer. You can also measure your buyer personas against this information as a reality check, so the next campaigns you build have a better chance to reach the likeliest buyers.
We’re not saying that BANT is outdated or irrelevant. What we do believe is that digital marketing has made it possible to know much, much more about your customers and prospects than ever before. This new knowledge, in the framework of personas, demographics/firmographics, and data has made it easier (and much more important) for marketing, sales, and customer success to work together.
What do you think? Do you have criteria for qualification that works really well that we haven’t covered? Please share!