By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
For years many sales organizations have used the BANT approach (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) to qualify opportunities. Sales managers ask sellers to commit that all four of these criteria are in place. As explained below, these questions leave a lot to be desired.
Budget: As it relates to Sales, there are few things that always or never apply. For decades managers have asked sellers if budget is in place. In my mind, if the offering is complex (no price list posted on a website) and budget is already in place, a seller should always assume another vendor (Column A) has gotten in first. If that seller is competent, he/she will have the requirements wired to make it difficult for Columns B, C, D, etc. to win the business.
A better question for managers to ask: Whose numbers were used to establish the budget? If sellers can say in January they provided budgetary numbers before year-end to secure budget, the conclusion can be made that they are the preferred vendor. If not, they have work to do.
Authority: If a transaction is north of $50,000 it is highly likely to be a committee decision. The signing authorities and spending habits of the 90’s are a distant memory. To go back to budget, the manager would be better served to ask who had to authorize the budget and whether or not the seller had access to that person. Another caution is that it’s common for lower level staff to greatly over state their power to salespeople.
Need: If a committee is involved there will be different needs for the various titles.. In my mind the more important question would be: Is there sufficient value/payback to justify the proposed expenditure? For complex sales a seller’s job is to help facilitate an “enterprise view” of the value that summarizes potential benefits that each stakeholder can realize.
Timeline: Sellers with thin pipelines will be sorely tempted to provide timelines that meet their need to show they will be on target to be YTD or better against quota. If the potential value is significant, the buying committee can have sense of urgency because they realized for every month they wait, potential savings are being lost. In trying to be customer-centric, sellers should ask the buying committee what their time frame for making a decision would be. Creating a written Sequence of Events that shows steps and activities leading up to issuing a proposal would be preferable to getting a seller’s opinion of when a transaction will close.
The BANT approach was created to try to do sanity checks and qualify opportunities. Sellers would answer the questions in a way that served their needs. Companies would be far better served to evaluate achievement of pipeline milestones based upon buyer actions rather than seller opinions.
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