BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Time) is a framework that salespeople have been using to qualify opportunities for several decades. I still regularly come across it to this day, sometimes even as part of the lead management process between sales and marketing. Unfortunately, however, this tool is no longer as relevant as it once was. And it’s not relevant at all anymore for complex buying processes. This is therefore a good reason to provide an explanation and find an alternative that still works in today’s environment.
We all know that most of the information that customers look up can be found on the internet. This means they only tend to involve salespeople later in the process, by which time they’ll have already formed a clear opinion and are just seeking confirmation before actually making a decision to buy. But there’s a lot of information available on the internet, and much of it can be conflicting, so the role of the salesperson has shifted to influencing the customer in a way that validates their information.
This requires commercial insights into the customer situation (business acumen), which help the salesperson find solutions for possibly latent requirements, meaning that the budget mostly isn’t known or allocated yet. Taking the budget allocation into account therefore means your salespeople are joining the buying process too late, resulting in a lower hit rate and tighter margins.
The concept of validation based on having the authority to make a decision was intended to ‘not waste any time’ by trying to sell to people who couldn’t make a purchase. Unfortunately, most B2B decisions aren’t taken by one person these days; buying decisions have evolved into being a consensus which also take users’ opinions into account. I can give examples of customer situations where there are more than ten people in a meeting, and each one can veto a decision, but also not be prepared to advocate a supplier until a consensus is reached.
Focusing on people who already have a problem sounds logical and a very appealing way to increase a salesperson’s productivity, but unfortunately the reality is quite different. Recent research has shown that up to 60% of opportunities ultimately disappear without the customer buying anything or changing supplier. This has been confirmed to us both by our customers and in a survey taken during a webinar together with the Vlerick Business School.
Salespeople need to be able to increase the customer’s willingness to change more now than ever before. In other words, they need to convince the customer to change rather than convincing them to choose us, and a customer isn’t open to hearing this message if they’re not planning to change. This is why traditional prospection methods are becoming less and less effective. The message and how it’s conveyed no longer corresponds with the customer’s expectation.
In light of the above, it’s clear that qualification based on when the decision is made has become irrelevant. These days it comes down to marketing and sales doing the right thing at the right time with the right message to facilitate the customer’s buying process. So the question’s no longer about when the customer’s going to make a decision, but about how willing the customer is to change. The salesperson needs to combine the answer to this question with the potential to decide when to engage with what message. It’s also their task to keep marketing informed to ensure they can help influence the customer using digital interactions to increase the probability of a sale for the lowest possible cost.
Conclusion: from BANT to JIT
The concept of just-in-time logistics has been around for quite a while already. Nowadays, our salespeople also need to be just-in-time salespeople. Qualification of the potential and purpose of their contact means it’s their job to do the right thing at the right time with the right message. The digital revolution means that marketing has a major role to play. Depending on the size, complexity and importance of your products and services for the customer, the right balance needs to be found so that digital touchpoints and interactions with sales reinforce each other.
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