A Rant About BANT!

Darren Brain
Darren Brain

General Manager APAC at Selling Simplified Published on November 17, 2020

I doubt there’s a B2B marketer out there that hasn’t heard of BANT qualification for leads. Hardly surprising when you consider it’s arguably the oldest known lead qualification method, developed by IBM in the 1950’s. Yes, you read that right, the 1950’s.

Given this makes the BANT method around 70 years old, I have to wonder how it’s managed to stay relevant all the way through to the 21st century. It’s actually kind of impressive, when you consider that every few months there is an article published announcing that the BANT method is dead.

(The kind of IT gear that BANT was designed to help sell)

I’m not going to jump on that particular bandwagon (not this time, anyway), but rather talk about weighting BANT lead scores appropriately.

But first, as I’m sure you know, BANT is an acronym for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe (although it’s worth mentioning that I do hear it used, incorrectly, as a synonym for “HQL” or “Highly Qualified Lead” from time to time). The basic idea of BANT being, if you uncover a lead that states they have allocated Budget, the Authority to sign a PO, a Need for the product or service, and a Timeframe for purchase, you’ve got a hot lead for your sales team.

Not all letters are created equal!

The thing is, I think it’s worth discussing how much weight we put on each of the four criteria. I have, many times, worked on lead generation briefs that place equal weight on each. “The lead MUST be the Authority; they MUST disclose their budget” and so on. Permit me to explain why I think that’s a little misguided.

1. Budget. Let me first direct this one at the thousands of Inside Salespeople out there. How often do you hear a variation of the phrase “Budget is available for the right solution”? A lot, right? Probably about as frequently as “I’m not going to discuss budget with someone I don’t know, over the telephone”. My point being; if there’s a genuine need for something, budget will be forthcoming.

2. Authority. For literally decades now, I’ve heard marketers speak at events about “buying committees” and “influencers”, and generally acknowledge the fact that, in large businesses, the most senior manager in the business is NOT the sole decision maker in a purchase. And then walk out and brief their lead generation partner to target C-Level titles exclusively. I promise you—the CIO of an enterprise business is NOT waiting for your inside sales team to call them to pitch a branch office printer. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh, but the point is valid. C-Levels generally delegate this kind of research, and then have options presented internally for approval. Find out who in the organization is typically tasked with the research and target them. They are more likely to read your content, more likely to be receptive to a call, and more likely to influence a purchase. Don’t believe me? Ask your IT team.

3. Timeframe. I understand why this is important. If you know when a prospect needs your product, you can more accurately forecast pipeline, allocate resources, even tailor marketing messaging to align with the projected project timeline. However, a common trap is to fail to consider the timeline of an enterprise B2B buyer. The more expensive and complex your solution is, the longer the prospect will spend considering market options. Don’t expect much success if your lead generation campaign specifications define timeline as “within 3 months”, and your solution is $500k worth of virtualised storage for a data centre. 3 months out, the prospect has already decided what they want, and any engagement from another vendor at this stage is probably only for the sake of leveraging the chosen vendor’s price.

Yet ascertaining Need often seems to be almost an afterthought, with focus instead being disproportionately placed on receiving the CIO’s phone number in a lead report.

4. Need. Yes, I listed them out of order to make a point, because Need is so very, very important. More so than B, A, and T combined. If I don’t Need what you’re selling, there’s approximately zero chance of purchase. Yet ascertaining Need often seems to be almost an afterthought, with focus instead being disproportionately placed on receiving the CIO’s phone number in a lead report. Sure, determining if a business Needs your solution can be difficult, and discussing how to do this is a whole other article, but this is where really cool technology that uses Intent data, Install Base data, and web analytics wrapped around a content hub can be put to excellent use.

No, BANT isn’t dead, but it’s aging in its original form

In summary—no, BANT isn’t dead. But it’s ageing in its original form, and like all business practices that have been commonplace for over half a century, begs reevaluation. BANT came about long before big data allowed us to automatically identify these purchasing characteristics and cues among our leads, as a way of ascertaining information that we mainly have at our fingertips today. Today, while it holds some value, it often serves just as much as a distraction from more riveting customer insights. And if any generation of marketers is capable of disrupting our industry’s blind fealty to an outdated model, it’s the current one—equipped with more data points, customer insights, and analytics tools than ever before.

What do you think? Should we be re-evaluating how we approach lead qualification, or was BANT the peak of evaluation evolution?

Darren Brain
Darren Brain

General Manager APAC at Selling Simplified Published on November 17, 2020