Lead qualification is one of the trickiest parts of a sales rep’s job.
Even though we have all kinds of lead qualification software available today, there are still good old-fashioned lead qualification questions a sales rep should ask during a call.
Well, to be honest, prospects may sometimes share inaccurate information to get a demo or pricing information.
Fortunately, there are specific lead qualification frameworks you can use to structure your information-gathering process in a way that makes sense for your sales cycle.
One of those frameworks is the tried-and-true methodology called BANT.
What is BANT?
BANT is the straightforward lead qualification process IBM created in the ‘50s and is still included in the company’s Business Agility Solution Identification Guide. BANT stands for budget, authority, need, and timeline — all of which help determine how your leads are qualified and should be prioritized.
Old-fashioned you say?
You’d be surprised how many sales reps still use BANT today.
Let’s take a look at the different criteria:
- Budget: Determine whether there’s a budget for your solution — the first order of business upon engaging a lead
- Authority: Establish whether your lead has enough authority to decide and sign off on purchasing
- Need: Identify whether there’s a problem your solution can solve and how it’s impacting the prospect’s bottom line or business operations
- Timeline: Understand if the need for your solution is immediate or not — what’s driving the timeline?
Most teams consider a lead “sales qualified” if it satisfies at least three out of the four BANT criteria, but tends to vary depending on the organization.
Engaging the lead with the right qualifying questions — and a greater number of them — is key.
BANT qualifying questions
The key to making BANT work for you is to ask thoughtful questions that flow together in a conversation. Ask probing questions that drive engagement and information sharing.
Here are some of the best questions to ask a prospect for each criterion. Remember, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re having a conversation, so vary the order and the wording as you need to.
Is there a dedicated budget range for the type of product (or service) we provide?
A standard budget question to determine if your prospect has done the research on the price range for your product or service category.
What is your targeted ROI?
This question is helpful to position your product in a way that meets the prospect’s goals.
What team’s budget would our product fall within?
Knowing the answer to this question will help you determine if there are potential stakeholders you’ll need to speak with later on in the sales process.
Will anyone else be involved in this decision?
This question opens up yet another opportunity to invite additional stakeholders into the conversation early on.
This is normally the stage where my customers bring in other stakeholders. Do you want to invite them to our next meeting?
This question will save you both time. Instead of discovering you don’t have the right stakeholders on the call, you’ll be able to work around their schedule in advance.
Who will be using the product?
You won’t always uncover the decision-maker, but it will tell you who else might be involved in the buying decision.
When did you first identify this problem (or opportunity)?
A simple question that’ll help you learn how long the prospect has been experiencing this problem.
How are you currently addressing these challenges?
You can assess whether your solution will be successful, if they need to use your product in tandem with another one, or if they’re better off with a different solution entirely.
What happens to your team’s goals if you don’t address this need?
This question helps you and your prospect understand the urgency of the decision to make a purchase.
Are there any deadlines or upcoming events that you’d like to have a solution in place by?
On many occasions, urgency doesn’t have to come from you as a salesperson, it can be an internal deadline that you and your prospect will need to meet.
What’s your revenue (or lead generation, retention, etc.) goal for next month (or, quarter, year, etc.)?
Use the answer to this question to position your product as a solution that can help your prospect meet those goals.
So, working backward from the date you gave me, we’d need to finalize our agreement by (date). Does that sound doable?
A final firm question to determine if your prospect is able to make a decision based on the information they’ve provided. Use this date later on to plan your pipeline.
How to use BANT to qualify leads
A strict BANT isn’t representative of the modern sales landscape.
For example, part of the sales process often involves helping leads build a compelling business case for your solution, then finding the budget dollars to pay for it.
Successful sales reps today understand that a more flexible approach is crucial.
With that in mind, here’s how to use the BANT methodology today.
1. Look beyond the budget
In the olden days, it made sense to qualify based on budget. Sales reps were most likely selling licenses.
But today, if you’re using a subscription model, it’s probably not going to be a huge roadblock.
You need to go deeper and look beyond. Try to understand the lead’s pain points and how it impacts their business. Then, and only then, can you get into the details of how they plan on paying for it.
On top of that, you’ll want to determine where these dollars are coming from, which departments are contributing, and how they plan to justify the expenditure.
2. Pin down the decision-makers
Decisions today are often made by a group rather than one person — especially in complex B2B sales.
We suggest tracing out everyone involved in the process. Write down their job titles, decision-making roles, priorities, and how you can get access to them.
Think about it, the more contacts you have, the more control you’ll possess and the less likely this sales opportunity will slip away.
3. Understand the importance of the problem
You must develop a deep understanding of how this problem or challenge is impacting your prospect’s business.
For example, a lead might convey they have a problem, but the executive leadership’s priorities may be different. Avoid these kinks in the sales process as soon as possible.
Try your best to unearth the needs your lead, their team, and their leaders have.
4. Sketch out a timeline for the purchase process
Now you must learn how quickly their business needs to make a decision.
Understanding every step of your prospect’s purchase process will allow you to work backward to plan your pipeline and prepare for the close.
Plus, it helps to know early on if you’re looking at a simple pitch-type of deal or months of paper shuffling and approvals.
How not to use BANT
BANT is still useful today if used properly. The order of the framework isn’t an issue and the information gathered is certainly helpful.
However, BANT fails when sales reps use it as a checklist.
We’ve seen it happen before. Instead of having natural conversations, a rep will ask leads a series of unrelated questions without truly listening to their answers.
Unfortunately, BANT tends to do this — it causes reps to memorize the list instead of asking layered questions that build on each other.
Conversations should be natural. A two-way dialogue. Not an interrogation.
Think of BANT as a framework, not a to-do list.
You should qualify prospects based on all four characteristics, but you don’t need to do them in a particular order. If you see an opportunity to dig deeper, go ahead. In fact, you should tailor the process to every lead you qualify.
The bottom line
When BANT was first introduced, digital marketing didn’t exist. But in spite of that, BANT has lasted through the ages because it’s applicable, memorable, and effective.
It’s a great starting point and best used collectively with other thoughtful questions that flow naturally in a two-way conversation.
If you’ve never used BANT before, or you think it’s outdated, try it. Follow the framework in your next call and see just how much information you uncover. You might be surprised.
But remember, probe deeper, make a real effort, collaborate with your prospect, have a meaningful conversation to uncover the real problem and its impact on the organization.
As a matter of fact, evolve your BANT strategy. Make it your own and include even more questions you can ask to qualify more leads and close better deals.