Not much has changed in the 60 years since IBM first formalized sales channel management with the BANT approach. When IBM first developed BANT, the objective was to create a basic sales call structure designed to find marketing qualified leads for their salespeople. It was a simple 4-step approach to teaching new salespeople how to sell. A lead was considered qualified when the prospect met the first three of the four BANT criteria. A BANT score determined the prospect’s readiness to purchase.
The fourth criteria, Time Frame, became the driving force for the salesperson to continue calling on the prospect. In other words, it was only a matter of time before the prospect would purchase. Most seasoned salespeople will tell you that making a sale is a waiting game, but does that still hold true today?
The BANT approach to making a sale still holds true for most individual purchase decisions, and in case anyone doubts price is a strong driver to purchase, they only need to look at Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, to see how having lower prices than their competitors built their business. But purchase decisions are not always driven by price alone. The rise of luxury products, and exclusive access services, like Amazon Prime, prove that there is a segment of the population who aren’t price driven. They are purchasing ‘exclusivity’. The desire to have something others can’t afford is enough of a purchase driver in that space.
Most people will agree that the computer and technology sector has changed more than any other sector since IBM was the dominant player in the computer industry. Businesses are no longer tied to large machines that take up entire floors. Many businesses no longer use desktop computers. Mobile technology (in the form of laptops, tablets, smartphones and even wearables) has changed the game for many businesses, particularly when it comes to communications and workflow.
To better serve modern business, it’s time to revise the BANT mindset. The traditional concern about cost (Budget) is now a moot point for many businesses because the subscription or monthly fee-for-services model has significantly lowered sales resistance compared to when IBM first developed the BANT paradigm. Companies no longer have to make large capital investments in equipment to purchase up-to-date computing services. Price is no longer a barrier to purchasing software or platform products and services. Cost as a marketing qualified lead criteria is significantly less important than it was 60 years ago.
The smartest sales approach for SaaS or PaaS products and services is to flip the BANT approach on its head so that what used to come first (Budget) is now last, and what was last (Time Frame) is now first when assessing a sales qualified lead. The sales approach is now TNAB – Time Frame, Need, Authority and Budget.
In the past, time frame was primarily a concern after the sale was made. Even IBM recognized they only had to meet the first three criteria (budget, need, and authority) to make a sale. Time frame was a deal breaker only if the supplier couldn’t deliver the product or service on the customer’s timetable. But today, time frame is the most important lead qualifier; for SaaS companies, the strongest compelling reason to purchase is the ability to deliver the SaaS product to the customer immediately. If a customer isn’t wowed by that, they probably aren’t ready to buy.
Today, a market qualified lead means the customer is comfortable with the idea that a SaaS solution is immediately available to them, and that they won’t have to push their purchase decision into the future. The next hurdle to overcome for qualified lead generation is to start asking questions to determine the appropriate product or service that will meet the customer’s needs. BANT qualified leads don’t yield the sales results they did in the past. Placing the customer’s needs third, after ‘is there enough money’ and ‘who has authority to purchase’, has wasted time as salespeople chase customers who are not ‘qualified’ to purchase their products.
One key to successful sales is to realize that not all qualified sales leads will be a good fit for every company. If a business doesn’t need a product or service, a lower price, bigger discount, or more incentives will not entice them to buy. Chasing after leads that would be better served by a competitor’s product is a waste of time for salespeople. Time frame and Needs assessment can be accomplished in one sales call using the TNAB approach, because if the customers’ needs aren’t compatible with the company’s product or service offerings, trying to sell to them will not result in a transaction.
The other consideration with SaaS solutions is that some sales are done with no interactions with the salespeople. More and more sales are being done online. To these customers, price is secondary to their need profile; needs determination becomes the single most important thing to that customer. If the information they need is not packaged and explained well, the customer won’t be able to see how the product or service could solve their business need. These customers are already at a point of being uncomfortable with their current situation and are actively seeking solutions. Jacco van der Kooij of Sales Hacker says, “In SaaS, decisions are based on priority, not on budget.” To remove the first purchase hurdle (Time Frame) for these customers, put immediate access to the SaaS solution up front in web page content.
Once both Time Frame and Need criteria are met, most of the hard work is done. After that, it’s an administrative issue to get approval from the right people and get the money for the purchase.
Lead qualification doesn’t have to be a battle between marketing and sales teams. By flipping the BANT approach where it first considers the customer’s urgency (Time) for the product or service, and then how the company meets their needs (Need), SaaS and PaaS salespeople can spend more time selling and less time being frustrated with leads that go nowhere. A ‘backwards’ approach to BANT makes more sense than qualifying on an ability to pay and who will sign the purchase order. Ultimately, shouldn’t meeting the customer’s needs be first priority for every business?
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