- Has a recognized need that your company can address
- Has the authority to make the buying decision
- Has the budget to purchase the kind of product or service you provide
- Has an identified timeline for purchasing the kind of product or service you provide
In reality, however, BANT is no longer an effective way to qualify sales leads for two reasons.
- Some of the criteria are all but impossible for an individual "lead" to meet. So, a strict use of the BANT criteria will cause you to ignore many valuable leads.
- By the time a lead is fully "BANT-qualified," it's probably too late. Your odds of concluding a sale on your terms are greatly diminished because a competitor has probably established a favored position.
B2B companies no longer budget for many purchases in advance. Surveys by DemandGen Report indicate that only 20% - 30% of purchases are budgeted at the beginning of the year. Between 70% and 80% of survey respondents say they evaluate potential solutions, build a business case for immediate adoption, and then obtain spending approval. Therefore, if you require qualified leads to have established budgets, you will obviously miss out on many sales opportunities. Instead of requiring a specific budget, what you have to do is make a judgment call about whether a prospect has the financial ability to purchase your product or service.
In the 2012 Sales Performance Optimization survey by CSO Insights, 76% of respondents indicated that 3 or more individuals are involved in making the final buying decision. Purchasing by committee is now the norm. In this environment, most of the leads you encounter won't have full purchasing authority, but many of these leads will play a major role in the final buying decision. The right criteria for lead qualification is influence or involvement, not authority.
Of the four BANT criteria, need is still obviously essential. In most cases, if there's no need, there won't be a sale. Even here, however, the idea of "need" is changing. In the past, the goal was to find a lead who recognized the need and understood it. Now we know that a seller can often have greater influence with a lead who does not fully understand the scope or implications of the need, at least at the beginning of the engagement. This can enable the seller to use marketing content and sales messaging to shape and influence how the lead thinks about the need and possible solutions.
The primary problem with using timeline for lead qualification is that by the time a prospect has set a timeline for a significant purchase, the prospect has probably completed most of the buying process. In this sense, timelines have become like budgets. Potential buyers identify needs, evaluate potential solutions, and then get spending approval and set a purchase timeline. In fact, a purchase timeline may not be set until after the supplier has been selected.
For many years, BANT provided a useful framework for qualifying sales leads. Given the new realities of B2B buying, however, BANT no longer works for lead qualification. Today, the BANT criteria develop and evolve as the buying process moves forward. But, you can't expect them to exist at the beginning of a prospect relationship.