August 20

B2B Marketing: Why Marketing shouldn’t promise BANT qualified leads for Sales

Lead Generation

29  comments

Many marketers use a model for lead qualification based on these four key characteristics:

  • B = Budget
  • A = Authority
  • N = Need
  • T= Timing

The approach is dubbed BANT. In a recent article, Ardath Albee said, “Salespeople are adamant about these criteria.” She believes the criteria are not customer-centric, and she’s right.

Before we start another unproductive war between Sales and Marketing, maybe we should focus on building bridges of understanding between these two departments. They need each other. They can help each other.

What’s the problem with BANT leads?

Let’s start by creating a common language for lead qualification that makes more sense than BANT.

With all due respect to Ardath, I have interviewed hundreds of elite salespeople and have rarely heard any of them demand BANT criteria. Their critiques of marketing leads are much more fundamental.

Yet far too often, marketers send every lead to Sales and very few of those leads ever convert. In fact, Sales can rarely have a single conversation with these prospects because they’re just not ready to make a purchase.

So, let’s get real.

Unless Marketing owns an inside sales operation (and few marketing teams do), delivering BANT leads is completely impossible. Even with an inside sales operation doing lead qualification, delivering BANT qualified leads is unwise. There are two key reasons:

  1. The best salespeople want to start the conversation before the buyer defines the criteria too deeply.
  2. Prospects need to speak to salespeople in order to develop budgets.

Yet, we have all seen timeline questions and budget questions on lead forms.

Customer-centric lead qualification

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

For example, if you were a customer just starting to consider buying a marketing automation solution, what would you enter into a lead form about your timeline to buy or your budget?

Early on, you probably aren’t sure you will buy a marketing automation system.

Of course, “not sure” isn’t one of the answers in the drop-down menu. Even if it was, you might be reluctant to tell the truth because you’re afraid you wouldn’t be able to get the information you need.

You also don’t know what kind of budget you need. You’re not clear yet on who will need to weigh in on a solution. In fact, you aren’t even sure the problems you have lined up with the category of marketing automation.

Now, let’s assume you are a little further along.

You’ve got a short list. You’ve talked to a couple of marketing automation vendors and are starting to get clarity on the solution. How do you answer a timeline question?

The answer is usually, “It depends.” It depends on what fires come up or how much internal pushback you get.

It can also depend on what timeline you’re asking about:

  • Budget approval?
  • Signing a contract?
  • Starting implementation?

No matter what timeline you want or what you predict will happen, a complex sale will probably take longer than you expect.

How can your customers know their budget before the solution?

Then there’s the budget question …

As a customer, even if I have a budget, I wouldn’t tell you because you haven’t earned the right to ask that question. Plus, even if I do respect you, I still might be afraid you will overcharge me if I tell you how much I have to spend.

Also, what budget are you asking about?

  • Budget for the software?
  • The content budget for lead nurturing?
  • The budget for resources I need to create campaigns in the software?

Furthermore, do any of the answers to these questions really mean these prospects are not worth having a conversation with?

Many prospects aren’t ready to talk to Sales early in their consideration. Sales might not want to talk to them. And that’s OK, that’s why we have lead nurturing.

The limits of lead qualification and marketing automation

Instead of promising sales leadership the moon and the stars, maybe we marketers need to be a little more realistic. Marketing can’t deliver BANT leads without an inside sales operation. Instead, Marketing can deliver leads that are most likely in the target market and more likely to have a desire to speak to Sales. Yes, most of those leads will not convert any time soon into revenue. But, neither will cold calling.  That is the point of reference for marketing leads.

Lead scoring can make marketing leads even more productive by helping salespeople:

  1. Avoid calling some leads that are very unlikely to convert
  2. Prioritize the remaining leads so that salespeople make more dials to the most likely buyers.

One of the challenges with lead scoring is Marketing often has very little information on a given lead.   There are very promising developments on the horizon. For example, big data allows us to leverage oceans of unstructured information on the Web and will greatly improve our ability to score leads by providing far more information for a lead scoring system to consider.

For example, let’s say you are selling marketing automation software.

Wouldn’t you like to know which accounts are using the search phrase “lead nurturing” or have a job posting for a marketing database manager or belong to certain lead management groups on LinkedIn?

Wouldn’t it be great for the lead scoring system to consider who is reading about lead nurturing in blogs or attending webinars about lead nurturing or lead scoring?

Even with all of these improvements on the horizon, machines are still no substitute for a highly trained sales professional interacting with a would-be customer.

Moving beyond BANT

Ultimately, the big idea here is marketers need to start thinking in terms of moving beyond BANT scoring. In next week’s B2B Lead Roundtable Blog post, I’ll share with you my recommendation for a model that is a little more realistic than BANT.

Also, I’d love to hear more about your experiences with BANT and lead scoring in the comments section below.

Related Resources:

The Lament of the Inside Sales Team: Data, Data Everywhere, but Who’s Ready to Buy?

Lead Qualification: Stop generating leads and start generating revenue

Universal Lead Definition: Why 61% of B2B marketers are wasting resources and how they can stop

How to Do Lead Management That Improves Conversion

How to Improve Lead Routing to Skyrocket Sales Results

About the author 

J. David Green

J. David Green is the CEO of PipeAlign, a company that helps B2B companies tell a winning story, scale that story across sales and marketing, and measure and improve what matters most. Among other accomplishments, Dave generated a billion dollar sales pipeline in 20 months for Avaya, increased SMB revenue for Symantec from $2MM a year to $25M a year in twelve months, wrote a book on scalable lead generation, and has spoken at the DMA, MarketingSherpa, the BMA, the AMA, and many other events.

  1. Great article. BANT has helped us a lot but…we are using it as a tool to identify qualified leads. If sales expected all four there is no way.

    Lead scoring is in the early stages and improving.

    Keep the articles coming!

  2. Excellent share Dave, I agree with you. There’s an excellent post on the Hubspot blog about a BANT alternative: GPCT (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline).

    http://blog.hubspot.com/qualifying-prospects-why-bant-isnt-enough-anymore-tl

    Would be great to hear your opinion on this, as an alternative model? I know you seem to disagree with the timeline element.

    I’ve been considering taking the “budget” field off of our later-stage landing pages for a while now, and think that this post may have just cemented that for me!

  3. Excellent share Dave, I agree with you. There’s an excellent post on the Hubspot blog about a BANT alternative: GPCT (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline).

    http://blog.hubspot.com/qualifying-prospects-why-bant-isnt-enough-anymore-tl

    Would be great to hear your opinion on this, as an alternative model? I know you seem to disagree with the timeline element.

    I’ve been considering taking the “budget” field off of our later-stage landing pages for a while now, and think that this post may have just cemented that for me!

  4. David, I honestly did read through your entire post? Even though in your second paragraph I found the “…..unproductive war between Sales and Marketing….”. I agree with you that both are needed and that there is no answer to which came first in the Chicken or the Egg analogy………but Marketing does come before Sales? War over, Marketing wins.

    Here is my objection to using B2B as introduction to any article regarding exchanges in commerce/product/service, etc. It needs to start with C2B – B2C and then you can start using B2B?

    The WWW provides a Free pathway for the local consumer to connect to the local Merchant/Retailer and I suggest that time and effort should be spent on showing a Free pathway for the local Merchant/Retailer using the WWW to connect to the Local consumer?

    joe underwood
    Area Code Shopper

  5. David, I honestly did read through your entire post? Even though in your second paragraph I found the “…..unproductive war between Sales and Marketing….”. I agree with you that both are needed and that there is no answer to which came first in the Chicken or the Egg analogy………but Marketing does come before Sales? War over, Marketing wins.

    Here is my objection to using B2B as introduction to any article regarding exchanges in commerce/product/service, etc. It needs to start with C2B – B2C and then you can start using B2B?

    The WWW provides a Free pathway for the local consumer to connect to the local Merchant/Retailer and I suggest that time and effort should be spent on showing a Free pathway for the local Merchant/Retailer using the WWW to connect to the Local consumer?

    joe underwood
    Area Code Shopper

  6. I agree with everything you said. From your experience how long does it take to change sales people’s thinking?

  7. Excellent article! BANT has a place but it’s not the primary criteria like it once was. I’m a huge advocate of the promise and implementation of a marketing automation initiative. The bottom line is an MA platform can identify, score, and track leads up to a certain stage. The main value MA platforms provide (when implemented properly) are identifying signals and behaviors that indicate strong interest. And the best leads in my experience are the ones that know they have a challenge or they see an opportunity to improve, but they don’t know how. When those leads emerge, BANT is a secondary concern.

    Cheers,
    Brian Hansford
    Tw. @RemarkMarketing

  8. Excellent article! BANT has a place but it’s not the primary criteria like it once was. I’m a huge advocate of the promise and implementation of a marketing automation initiative. The bottom line is an MA platform can identify, score, and track leads up to a certain stage. The main value MA platforms provide (when implemented properly) are identifying signals and behaviors that indicate strong interest. And the best leads in my experience are the ones that know they have a challenge or they see an opportunity to improve, but they don’t know how. When those leads emerge, BANT is a secondary concern.

    Cheers,
    Brian Hansford
    Tw. @RemarkMarketing

  9. @William Steward
    Thanks for joining the conversation, William. I think we are talking about two different things. In your blog post, you are talking about what a sales person needs to do during the sales process, and in the above blog post, I am talking about basic qualification to warrant further conversation. I like your thoughts in your blog post. Have you read Rainmaking Conversations? Lots of commonality there.

  10. @William Steward
    Thanks for joining the conversation, William. I think we are talking about two different things. In your blog post, you are talking about what a sales person needs to do during the sales process, and in the above blog post, I am talking about basic qualification to warrant further conversation. I like your thoughts in your blog post. Have you read Rainmaking Conversations? Lots of commonality there.

  11. @Jim
    Hi Jim
    Thank you for the kind words. I really haven’t heard BANT from sales good sales people. I’ve heard it from marketers. If sales people are asking you for BANT, I would help them think about qualification from the customer point of view. From complex solutions, quite often, the customer doesn’t know what the solution would cost and so needs to build a case for the budget, and since pricing for complex solutions is typically only available for complex sales by talking to a sales person (who often will not quote price until he/she understands the needs and the value gap), then you are giving your prospects no choice but to talk to your competitors.

  12. @Jim
    Hi Jim
    Thank you for the kind words. I really haven’t heard BANT from sales good sales people. I’ve heard it from marketers. If sales people are asking you for BANT, I would help them think about qualification from the customer point of view. From complex solutions, quite often, the customer doesn’t know what the solution would cost and so needs to build a case for the budget, and since pricing for complex solutions is typically only available for complex sales by talking to a sales person (who often will not quote price until he/she understands the needs and the value gap), then you are giving your prospects no choice but to talk to your competitors.

  13. @Dave Green
    Thanks for the kind words, Brian. I agree that lead scoring is a great things. There is a lot of promise for enhancing lead scoring through big data solutions that comb the web for massive data connections. I think such data will take lead scoring to a new level in the years ahead.

  14. @Dave Green
    Thanks for the kind words, Brian. I agree that lead scoring is a great things. There is a lot of promise for enhancing lead scoring through big data solutions that comb the web for massive data connections. I think such data will take lead scoring to a new level in the years ahead.

  15. @joe underwood
    I’m not quite sure that local merchants are always an option for many b2B solutions, many of which are sold through direct channels. Perhaps I’m not understanding the point you are making.

  16. @joe underwood
    I’m not quite sure that local merchants are always an option for many b2B solutions, many of which are sold through direct channels. Perhaps I’m not understanding the point you are making.

  17. @Ben Great point. I´ve read your article and I agree: “IT Buyers are consuming content faster than ever”. So, I would summarize your point as a need for “Consultative Content and Service” that may direct qualified and informed prospects to your door.

  18. @Ben Great point. I´ve read your article and I agree: “IT Buyers are consuming content faster than ever”. So, I would summarize your point as a need for “Consultative Content and Service” that may direct qualified and informed prospects to your door.

  19. Thanks for the great info. Good Points. Lead Generation is critically important for any business. If someone is not capturing lead he’s actually intentionally losing money.

  20. Great information about the BANT approach for lead generation. This will strengthen and refine the lead nurturing process to boost ROI in business marketing.

  21. Great information about the BANT approach for lead generation. This will strengthen and refine the lead nurturing process to boost ROI in business marketing.

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