Wouldn’t it be nice if every person on Earth was a potential customer? Unfortunately, that's just not the case. Some people can't afford your product, while others don't want it and have no use for it.
As a result, it's important to do some work to determine whether you should bother pitching an individual at all, or move on to the next person as soon as possible.
And that's where the BANT approach comes in: it's a customer acquisition process that will help you weed out those who are just a waste of time so you can focus only on potential clients who are a good fit.
Whether you rely on inside sales or go door-to-door for clients, BANT qualification can help you be a better salesperson.
Overview: What is BANT?
BANT is a handy acronym that describes a sales qualification process where salespeople identify the four most important things to understand in a client's ability to buy: budget, authority, need, and timing.
Specifically, "budget" refers to how much a prospect is able and willing to spend, "authority" is about whether you're speaking to the decision-maker, "need" tells you whether your product actually solves the customer's problem, and "timing" is about whether there is an urgency to prompt the customer to act now rather than push it off until later.
Every salesperson needs to have the BANT selling process memorized so they can assess a client's readiness to make a purchase decision.
As mentioned, the BANT sales process breaks down into four different criteria. It’s important to know not just what it stands for, but also what kind of strategy you should have for each.
The first consideration under the BANT framework is whether your client can afford your product or service. This is particularly important for businesses that sell high-end products.
If you sell T-shirts, you're probably not as concerned with qualifying prospects over budget because virtually everyone can scrounge up $20 if they fall in love with your shirts.
These sample questions can help you figure out if your product fits within your prospect’s budget:
- Do they have a dedicated budget for this sort of product? This is best for B2B sales, as it gets to whether a business already has a budget or if you're starting from scratch. For B2C, this tactic probably wouldn't make much sense.
- What other concerns do they have about the product beyond cost? This gets to the heart of other objections that are not budget-related and may actually be the true objections that the client is trying to mask. If you can answer these objections, you may find it's no longer necessary to deal with the budget objection.
Asking questions about authority is key to understanding if you’re even talking to the right person. You might have the best sales pitch in the world, but if you deliver it to someone who has no buying authority, you’d be wasting your time.
Even if they promise they’ll talk to the person in charge about your product, the problem you now face is that this person is pitching to the decision-maker rather than you, and most likely, they’re not going to deliver the pitch in the way you know it needs to be delivered to win the sale.
Here’s a couple questions you should ask to flesh out the prospect’s authority:
- Should anyone else join our conversation? This is good to ask before meeting with a client. If you don't ask this question, you might be shooting yourself in the foot and end the meeting with, "let me talk it over with X and get back to you." More times than not, you won't hear from that client ever again.
- How do you typically sign off on budget decisions at your company? This is a B2B sales question which identifies other decision-makers who may be the actual obstacle to a sale rather than the budget itself.
Once you’re confident that the company has a budget you can work with and you’re talking to the decision-maker, you need to establish that this prospect actually needs your product. At this point, you’re not just qualifying the prospect, you’re starting to lay the groundwork for creating interest as well.
Even if the client doesn’t think they need your product now, by asking certain questions you may be able to discover that the client would indeed be interested if you can make the right pitch.
A couple of questions can help you get to the heart of the matter quickly:
- What do you struggle with the most when it comes to X? The power of this question is that it gets the client to essentially start selling your product to themselves. The client will describe their problem in detail and in terms that they understand, which is way better than your trying to do it, giving you an opening to discuss how the product would fix that problem.
- What have you done to fix this? By understanding past actions the client has taken to solve the problem, it's easier for you to anticipate what solution they may be looking for next, which helps you come up with the wording to position your product as that next solution.
Even when the budget, authority, and need portions of the equation click into place, you still face an uphill battle if your product isn’t needed urgently. You need to establish that the client would benefit from buying your product now rather than waiting a few months or even a year or longer.
Otherwise, you’ll be frustrated at repeated failed sales attempts despite everything else looking good.
Ask these questions to figure out where you stand as far as timeline so you can decide on a path forward:
- How soon do you want this problem resolved? This question helps you understand the urgency of the situation. The answer should tell you whether they're ready to buy now or if you will have to introduce some urgency to prompt a purchase decision, such as a limited-time discount.
- How much would it cost you if it went unsolved for another quarter? This is an excellent way to once again get customers to sell products to themselves. Perhaps they hadn't thought of it this way, but now that you've asked, they realize that they could lose, say, thousands of dollars in lost productivity if they don't come up with a solution soon.
Best practices for using BANT
BANT is an excellent lead management method for qualifying a prospect, but there are a few considerations you should keep in mind when employing it to maximize its effectiveness.
1. Be subtle
You’ve got to be subtle when delving into BANT during a conversation with a client. If you just rattle off these questions, you’ll probably put the customer off.
You want to build a friendly rapport with the client. If you suddenly hit him with, “do you have the authority to make a purchase decision” right off the bat, it’s probably not going to go well for you.
Tips for being subtle:
It’s not always easy when you know what information you want but don’t want to ask it right out. Here’s a couple of things you can do to make it easier:
- Gently work it into the conversation: You should be having a two-way conversation with a client. It should be natural and show that you are interested in the company and their needs, so you need to frame any BANT question with that in mind. For example, you might say, “tell me about the challenges you’re facing when it comes to IT security” to get at the “N.”
- Use some of the sample questions above: There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Some variation of the sample questions above is often all you need to get the critical information you’re looking for.
2. Remember that budgets are almost always flexible
“We don’t have the budget” is arguably the most common blow-off response that salespeople get, but most of the time all a customer is really communicating to you is, “you haven’t demonstrated the value of your product yet.”
Think about how many times you’ve splurged on something in violation of your own budget. The reality is that people blow up their budgets all the time if it’s something they think they absolutely have to have, and companies are no different.
So it’s important to keep in mind that while the “ANT” tends to be pretty inflexible, you can generally work around the “B” if you’re clever, even when there are legitimate affordability objections.
Tips for dodging budget objections:
Don’t let a potential customer stop you dead in your tracks with a budget complaint. Here are a couple of ways to find a new avenue and still land that sale:
- Get creative with financing: OK, maybe your client doesn’t want to pay $5,000 up front. Could you instead make it a monthly or even weekly payment plan? It’s a lot easier to agree to pay $100 per week than $5,000 all at once for most people, so explore that possibility before abandoning the sale.
- Rewind your pitch: Again, the majority of the time when you get a budget objection, it’s because you haven’t demonstrated value. Get back to the “N” part of the equation and try to explore your client’s needs a little further, giving you another opportunity to describe how your product would deal with their problem.
3. Consider alternatives to BANT
BANT is a tried and true strategy for lead qualification, but there are other processes out there worth considering. For example, there's ANUM (authority, need, urgency, money) and FAINT (funds, authority, interest, need, timing).
It comes down to which strategy you prefer: ANUM focuses on identifying the decision-maker first, while FAINT is more focused on making sure your client has the funds, which may be helpful for companies selling to large enterprises who don't want to waste time with smaller businesses with small budgets.
Tips for trying out alternatives:
Ultimately, you want a process that works for your business and helps you be more accurate in sales forecasting, and there’s a couple ways to arrive at just the right one:
- Determine what your biggest qualifying factor is: You know your company better than anyone else. Pick a qualifying process that puts your chief qualifying factor at the forefront. If it’s budget, go with one where you first find out what kind of funding your client is working with. If need is the driver, begin there.
- Try a few of them out: Sometimes, it’s better to avoid guesswork and just give a few processes a try. Track how you perform with each method using sales analytics and see which one gets you the best conversion rate out of all the prospects qualified through each process.
Common pitfalls to avoid with BANT
You should be careful when working with BANT, however, as there are a couple of things that many salespeople do that drives potential customers away.
1. Blurting out BANT questions
As mentioned previously, you don’t want to ask blunt questions to quickly get your BANT answers. You need to develop a rapport with the client, and that means treating them like a human being with needs and not your personal ATM that you need to interrogate as quickly as possible so you can move on to the next sale.
Practice with a colleague until you feel like you have mastered the art of naturally introducing these qualifying questions into a normal conversation.
2. Relying too heavily on BANT
Sometimes, you need to trust your gut as a salesperson. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sales, and while BANT is a great guide, you know your clients better than anyone.
See where the conversation guides you, and if you think you won’t need to ask specific BANT questions to get the answers you need, there’s no point in forcing it.
3. Thinking you don’t need software
Just using the BANT system isn’t enough to improve your sales performance. You still need software in order to stay organized and spot opportunities to boost your conversion rate. The best CRM software can help you with doing a better job of optimizing the sales process.
Settle on a sales qualifying process ASAP
You, and your sales team, if you have one, should have a sales qualifying process in place. It's best to use time-tested techniques like BANT rather than just winging it. And if you can use CRM software to track your performance and business metrics, all the better.
It's important that you either implement BANT or one of the other qualifying processes out there within the next quarter in order to achieve an increase in your sales efficiency.