If you’ve been doing your homework, you might have noticed that sales prospecting and lead generation are quite similar on the surface: both these ...
How to Use BANT to Qualify Prospects
Written by: Victoria Yu
Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.
Edited by: Sallie Middlebrook
Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.
Updated on July 12, 2023
How to Use BANT to Qualify Prospects
A business might be eager to push any and every potential customer down the sales funnel to close a deal. But that’s not the wisest choice: two out of three lost sales occur because sales reps are overeager and push prospects through the whole sales process without qualifying them, according to sales engagement software company Spotio.
That’s why it’s important to qualify your sales prospects before selling to see if they tick all the boxes for a viable sale.
One popular way to qualify a sales prospect is through the BANT framework, which stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe. This guide will walk you through each criterion and how to use this framework to improve your reps’ efficiency and increase sales.
- Qualifying a sales prospect means checking if the potential customer fits the company’s picture of a good customer. The more qualified a sales prospect is, the more likely they are to make a purchase.
- A good sales qualification process makes it easy for sales reps to determine if a prospect is worth the effort of selling to them, and helps reps prioritize their attention on the most important prospects.
- The BANT criteria, short for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe, is a popular sales qualification framework to help identify sales-ready prospects.
What Does it Mean to Qualify Sales Prospects?
There are a lot of factors people consider when making a purchase – and a “no” in any one factor means a sale stopped in its tracks.
Thus, to identify and prioritize the consumers most likely to make a purchase, sales professionals first research and talk to potential customers (leads) to check if they’re able and likely to buy your product, preemptively testing the waters before asking for the sale. This is called lead qualification.
A sales prospect is a lead that’s already met some initial qualifications. They might match your ideal customer profile, express an interest in your product, or interact with your marketing materials, for example.
Though a sales prospect is one step closer to a sale than a random lead, they still need to be qualified further before a sale can be attempted.
But what should a sales rep ask to learn if the prospect can purchase? That’s where the BANT criteria come in.
The BANT Criteria
Developed by IBM, BANT is a sales qualification framework used to determine if a potential client is likely to become a paying customer. BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe. To help you remember this, BANT sounds similar to banter, which is what your sales reps will need to do to get this required information from the prospect.
Below we look at each of the four criteria and examples of questions for each one.
First up is the person’s budget, which is fairly straightforward: does the prospect have the money on hand to pay for your product? If not, they’ll never purchase, no matter how hard you sell.
It might feel awkward to bring up money at the start of the conversation, but it works wonders in getting a deal closed faster: with a solid idea of the prospect’s budget, a sales rep can steer the conversation toward products or deals that the customer can afford rather than wasting time on pipe-dream high-ticket products.
Here are some questions sales reps can use to gently inquire about the prospect’s budget:
- “What price range are you looking at?”
- “How much were you hoping to spend on [product]?”
- “Has pricing been an issue with other solutions on the market?”
Next up is whether the potential buyer has the authority to make the purchase. The last thing you want is to waste all your sales bravado on an intern!
B2B business researching a target company should pick a target employee who’s high enough in the pecking order to influence purchasing decisions: a manager, department head, or executive.
Even so, over half of B2B businesses (59%) report that there are at least three stakeholders in the purchasing process, according to marketing consultancy Weidert. While this means your prospect might have a say in the buying process, there might be other employees you or your prospect will need to convince before making a purchase.
Even for B2C selling, there are always cases when a customer needs to run a larger purchase by a spouse, family member, or friend before making a final decision.
There’s no point in selling to someone who has no control of the purse strings, so here are some questions to test if you’re speaking to the right person and if there are others you’ll need to talk to:
- “Are there any other people whose opinions we should consider for this purchase?”
- “What’s your usual decision-making process for purchases such as these?”
- “Which team members will be using this solution the most often?”
Need is by far the most important sales qualification for a buyer: do they feel like they have a pain point that your product or solution can solve? The more specific and poignant the need, the better a sales rep can tailor their pitch to bring that issue to the forefront of the discussion and highlight the product’s value in solving the client’s problem.
On the other hand, if a prospect is dodgy about what they’ll use the product for, they’ll likely never intend to buy; after all, why waste money on a solution they’ll never use?
Remember how we mentioned that some prospects come to the company already looking to purchase? This is the part where you check to see if their perceived need is the same as the need your company’s product is supposed to solve.
Though a silver-tongued salesperson might be able to convince a prospect that they have a desperate need for a product, this will only lead to impulse buys and regrets in the end. Although the probing questions might vary by company, here are some general questions reps can ask to check if the prospect is aware of their problem:
- “Can you tell me more about the issues you’re facing at the moment?”
- “What key outcomes are you hoping to achieve with this purchase?”
- “What made you decide to look for this solution?”
Finally, the last sales qualification is a sense of urgency for the solution. Although a qualified prospect may have the need and budget, if they don’t need to buy it now, they won’t.
Usually, this means that your client has a specific timeframe in which they need to make a purchase decision, a catalyzing event occurred that convinced them of a need for the product, or a bad situation is rapidly declining to the point of no return.
Here are some questions to check a lead’s timeframe for your solution:
- “Is there a specific date we should aim to sign the contract by?”
- “Why did you choose to pursue a solution now?”
- “How soon are you looking to start implementation?”
Luckily, even if the prospect doesn’t need the solution now, they might develop a sense of urgency down the line. If their need isn’t urgent yet, take a rain check on this client, put a pin in their file, and check in with them periodically to see if their situation’s changed. If their pain point exacerbates, you can skip the rest of the qualification and close the sale immediately.
What to Do After Qualifying a Sales Prospect
But wait, you’re not done after you’ve used BANT to qualify a prospect! The next course of action will vary depending on how many criteria the prospect meets.
If a prospect doesn’t meet one of the BANT criteria, they can’t make a purchase – unfortunately, they’re disqualified as a potential client for the moment.
But don’t lose hope yet! Put a pin in their file and check in with them regularly to see if their situation changes, attempt to cross-sell them on a different product, or ask them if they could recommend others in the industry who might benefit from your product.
If a prospect meets three or four criteria, they’re considered a sales opportunity and are highly likely to purchase. In that case, there are only a few more steps: ask for the sale, sort out the contract details and payment, and ensure the customer receives and is satisfied with their purchase.
As your business grows, your sales teams will become increasingly busy with the influx of potential customers. Qualifying prospects helps a sales rep quickly determine if a potential client is likely to make a purchase, letting them focus on the ones most likely to result in a sale. Using the BANT framework to check a prospect’s budget, authority, need, and timeframe, a business can prioritize prospects, optimize reps’ activities, and increase overall sales volume.
FAQs on Using BANT to Qualify Prospects
Qualifying leads and prospects as early as possible saves a company from wasting time and money on pitches that go nowhere, ensuring customers will be happy with their purchase before the deal is closed. Qualifying prospects before making a sale ensures the potential buyer is a good fit for the company.
Beyond BANT, companies might also qualify leads and prospects based on their fit with the company’s ideal customer profile or buyer persona and if they’ve interacted with the company before, such as by visiting the company website.
B2B companies might also consider the buyer company’s industry, and if it makes strategic sense for the buyer to align with the seller company. For example, a steel supplier would have much better chances with a car parts manufacturer than an antique furniture seller.
You don’t have to use these specific criteria, but generally speaking it’s good practice to qualify your prospects before attempting to sell – otherwise, reps risk wasting their time selling to customers who will inevitably say no.
For B2C businesses, customers are increasingly doing their own research before reaching out to make a purchase. In other words, some customers are already qualifying themselves, making checking for BANT criteria redundant.
In those cases, sales reps should focus on building a personal connection with the prospect, listen to the client’s opinion and pain point, and use success stories and endorsements to build the customer’s trust in your company.
Some best practices for qualifying leads and prospects are using a lead scoring system or CRM to help track each prospect’s qualification, creating a sales script that naturally goes through your company’s qualifying questions, and training your sales team on handling common objections prospects will have to purchasing.
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