Why BANT No Longer Applies for B2B Lead Qualification

Fifteen years ago I worked for a B2B marketing agency that had an outbound call center focused on lead generation.  The goal for the majority of our programs was to have our telemarketers qualify names, gather some information and qualify these prospects by the famed BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe) criteria.  We were quite successful in developing these programs for our clients and the leads were graded based on the answer to the BANT questions.  That was then, this is now.   We are smack in the middle of marketing 2.0, a more “modern” way of marketing that makes BANT no longer effective for several reasons.

Today’s buyer has unprecedented access to information enabling them to make informed buying decisions, short lists and determine the best fit for their needs without ever speaking to a seller.  In fact, recent statistics from Sirius Decisions and Selling Power state that more than 50% of the buying process is completed before a buyer ever engages with a vendor or a sales rep.

If this is the case, one has to wonder why many organizations (especially sales people) still want to include BANT as part of their early stage lead qualification criteria?  Don’t get me wrong; I do believe that in any sales process a sales rep should discuss these key criteria with their prospects.  However, this should come later in the sales cycle, once sales has defined some kind of relationship.

Here are a few reasons why BANT is not relevant for lead qualification:

Traditional Buying is Dead

Not long ago DemandGen Report ran a research report focused on the B2B buyer.  One of the questions was as follows – “Did the buying path follow a traditional path where budget was established, criteria outlined, and then an RFP distributed to a pre-set list of solution providers?”  No surprise that 83.3% of B2B buyers answered “no” to this question, a signal that indeed the traditional ways of buying are a thing of the past.  Now think about these 83.3% in terms of BANT  – while they were in the buying process, all would have been disqualified because of not being able to identify budget.

Buyers Lie

I’ll be honest; I have answered the budget, need and timeframe fields on a form simply to gain access to the information being offered.  If it is a required field, do buyers have a choice?  In a recent study, only 29% of B2B buyers said they “always” supply accurate information on custom questions on a web form.  This means that 7 in 10 are lying about that information and that includes BANT.   By requiring BANT in the early stages of the qualification process, you are inducing false-positives and leaving the buyers no choice but to provide information that is inaccurate.  It is no wonder why Tony Jaros of Sirius Decisions stated, “B-A-N-T are the four most dangerous letters in B2B marketing.”

Implicit is far Better

I recently spent some time with a sales team developing their lead qualification model when the discussion of BANT arose.  As usual some were for it and others had some serious questions.  The EVP of Sales broke the tie when he stated “if we can get the right demographic criteria and understand how they are behaving and interacting with us, I will leave it to my rep’s to help them build the business case, show the need and help their prospect get the needed budget.”  Case closed.

What this EVP of sales understood is that speaking to the right person who has shown through their “digital body language” that they are interested and have a potential need, is far better than having one give a criteria that could be faulty.  This underscores the need for a well-defined lead qualification process between marketing and sales based on implicit and explicit criteria.  Ultimately, this will produce a much more qualified lead than BANT.

Group Thinking

One of the other key characteristics of the B2B buying cycle today is that buyers purchase in groups.  Very rarely is there one sole decision maker who approves buying decisions.  The need to appeal to and message to a buying group including all levels of management is vital.  As a result, each of these group members will have a unique perspective on the buying process and this perspective cannot be identified with BANT as the qualification barometer.

While we have entered this new age of modern marketing and moving away from traditional means of qualification, this is not something that marketers should dread. This change is good!  It allows us to better identify our buyers, provide better information to sales and deliver more relevant content to our buyers enabling them to make a more informed buying process.

If you have not killed BANT in your lead qualification process, do it now. Start smart and begin focusing on the buying signals and behavior to get a more qualified lead and ultimately more conversions for sales. BANT is dead.