As a sales or marketing professional, you must have come across the term ‘lead qualification’ or ‘prospect qualification’ multiple times. In simple terms, a lead is someone who can potentially become a customer – meaning not all the leads that enter your sales funnel are equally likely to buy your product.
And, like any intelligent person in such a scenario, you’d want to separate the leads that are most likely to buy as compared to others and focus on them first to improve your chances of conversion. This process, also known as lead or prospect qualification, is quite essential for any organization, and different companies may employ different methodologies for qualifying their leads.
One such method, BANT Analysis, was introduced in 1965 by the tech company – IBM. The method is being employed by some companies, albeit with some modifications, which we will discuss in the latter part of this article.
But first, let’s start by understanding what BANT is.
What is BANT?
BANT is a prospect qualification method that was introduced by the tech giant IBM in 1960 to qualify sales leads. Even after 60 years or so, the technique remains in use still – though some of the basic premises have changed to accommodate the changing retail scenario.
In the BANT philosophy, each letter of the term stands for one function of the methodology:
B – Budget
A – Authority
N – Need
T – Time frame
In other words, to qualify a sales lead, your sales representative will ask questions that have been framed to draw out responses to the above-mentioned criteria.
To qualify, a prospect must meet a minimum of three of these criteria – at least to some extent.
Here’s what your sales agents want to know while qualifying leads:
- Does a prospect have the necessary means or budget to purchase your product or service?
- Does the prospect have the actual authority to make the purchasing decision?
- Does the company represented by the prospect need the product or service you are selling?
- How long do they intend to take to implement the solution provided by you, and how quickly can you meet the requirement?
As you can see, the BANT approach must have worked quite well for IBM in the initial years. Considering that their product was niche, with a high price tag, not everybody could afford it – stressing on the importance of B in BANT.
Next, unlike present times, there were only a couple of decision-makers in most of the firms up to a few decades ago, making it imperative to speak with someone in a position of authority. Besides, a decision-maker was also needed to answer the next two questions related to the need and time frame.
But what is the relevance of BANT in qualifying prospects today – let’s explore this in the next section.
How is BANT Useful today?
BANT is a process of prospect qualification which is used for lead management by many companies. BANT stands for budget, authority, needs, and timeline. The process requires sales agents to ask prospects various questions based on these four pillars and qualify them accordingly. However, in modern times, BANT cannot yield significant results with direct questioning.
On the contrary, your agents need to keep the conversation customer-centric through smartly planned questions that will fetch them the answers you need.
Here are some questions you can use to qualify your prospects as part of the BANT strategy:
If there is one question that can put down any prospect instantly, it is questioning about their budget directly.
Here are some smarter ways to put up the question:
- I understand that you are looking for a solution to solve X. Would you know how much it would cost you to solve your problem internally?
- How much money are you losing, grappling with this problem?
- What is the ROI that you hope to receive?
Today, there are more than one or two critical decision-makers in any company, which makes it even more essential to find out who’s calling the shots. Of course, you can’t outrightly ask such a question to your prospect.
Instead, try the following:
- Have you used a similar product before? Please elucidate on the decision-making process that was employed back then.
- Who else, besides you, would be a part of the decision-making process regarding our product/service?
There’s no way you can sell your product or service to someone who doesn’t need it. That’s why it is essential to ascertain how badly the prospect needs your solution – so you can decide the next steps accordingly.
For example, asking something as simple as the duration for which a prospect has been facing the particular problem you intend to solve will give you a great deal of information about their need. The prospect may have recently discovered the issue, trying to resolve it internally – which is a signal for you to craft and present a lucrative proposition that they find hard to refuse.
Some intelligent questions you may ask include:
- Since when do you have this problem, and is it a priority for you now?
- Have you taken some steps to address this problem?
- What will happen if you cannot solve this issue?
Timing is vital in lead qualification — the more urgent the need, the faster the conversion from prospect to customer. Therefore, you need to know if the prospect requires the solution urgently and, if yes, can you deliver it on time? Or, if they wish to wait another year before implementing the solution, can you persuade them to implement the solution earlier?
To gauge the urgency, you may directly ask the prospect if they have a timeline in mind or how will not solving the said problem impede their long-term goals.
Limitations of BANT
BANT, in its original form, as introduced by IBM, may not be very useful for organizations today. Modern-day prospects prefer two-way conversations and expect you to be empathetic and genuinely interested in solving their problem – rather than asking them direct questions to qualify them. Besides, the budget is no longer a problem for most, as SaaS companies charge their customers monthly, not requiring a lump sum investment. Therefore, focusing on the budget is not as important as understanding the urgency of the problem, and how highly motivated a prospect is when it comes to solving it.
Another issue with BANT in today’s times is that most decisions in an organization are now taken by a group of executives – roughly 6.8, according to an article in HBR.
Now, coming to ’Need,’ the process of identifying the need is not as simple as it used to be. Today, the market is saturated with several products, which are similar in nature but with slightly different features. Therefore, it is not possible for a prospect to be sure that it is precisely your solution that they need. Budget and urgency become intertwined with need in present times – as a prospect may choose a similar solution at a lower price or one that may be implemented with more expediency.
Call this the bane of the information era, but your prospects are much more informed as compared to the 1960s, and this certainly limits the application of BANT in a modern context without any modification. Besides, at a time when the sales process is turning highly customer-centric, the traditional BANT approach remains seller-centric. In fact, it may end up sounding like an interrogation, which can put off your prospects immediately. Obviously, sales reps with polished skills may not make this mistake, but the deficiencies in the process are real and must be addressed by adopting a modified sales prospecting model, such as GPCT, that we will discuss next.
What is GPCT?
GPCT is a modified version of BANT, which is more efficient for lead prospecting in current times. As we outlined above, one of the significant issues faced by any sales team is that prospects can figure out solutions on their own – which means that your sales team must put more effort in understanding the needs of your prospects, to offer them a more tailored solution and eventually convert them.
And that’s where GPCT or Goals, Plans, Challenges, and Timeline come into action.
GPCT – Step-by-Step
Here’s the detailed explanation of GPCT, step-by-step, to help you understand the lead prospecting process better:
The following four steps are involved in the GPCT process:
Goals replace the budget in BANT Analysis in GPCT. Therefore, instead of probing a prospect’s budget, your sales agent focuses on analyzing the end goal of your prospect.
The reason for this change is quite logical – with the vast amount of freely available information, prospects already know what they are looking for. Therefore, selling the end product to them does not work anymore. Instead, you need to understand their goals, quantify them, and project your solution in a manner that helps them achieve those goals efficiently.
You can ask questions such as:
- What are your company’s goals this year?
- How do you plan to achieve these goals?
- Which goal is the topmost priority for your business?
Once you find these answers, think whether your product can help the prospect achieve his or her goals, and the company’s goals. If yes, that’s perfect, it is time to jump to the next part of the process.
You know your prospect’s business goals, but how does their organization plan to achieve these goals? If they have already taken some steps to achieve those goals – how far along the way have they come, and can your product fit into this blueprint to accelerate this process?
Some prospects may only know their organization’s goals but not how to achieve them. You can probe further with some skillfully crafted questions to get more insights. Some examples are:
- I understand that you want to achieve X. But have you developed any plan to accomplish this?
- Is this a tried and tested solution that you have used before? If yes, what was the outcome?
- Do you think there may be a better way to achieve your goals this year?
Once you have gleaned information about how your prospect’s organization plans to achieve its goals – it is time to pitch your product or service by making your prospects understand that they actually have a problem or that your product or service can help them achieve better results than what they are following presently.
This step – ‘Challenges’ – is also challenging for sales agents who must have a thorough understanding of their product, as well as the prospect’s issue, before helping them identify their challenges and how to overcome them. This can be achieved by clearly discussing their operations, and what do they think about the roadblocks impeding their growth.
Some questions that will force your prospects to think and deliver the answers you need include:
- What are the business challenges you have faced in the past? Are you still facing any of these problems?
- Is your team skilled in dealing with your ongoing challenges? If not, do you plan to hire new resources or try another solution?
- Why do you think you have not been able to overcome [a specific] challenge?
The last point of BANT Analysis and GPCT lead prospecting methods is the same, that is, timeline. Indeed, the timeline is the most critical factor in qualifying a prospect.
By understanding the expectations of your prospects and the priority accorded to the solution offered by you – you will instantly know how likely the lead is going to convert into a customer.
Relevant questions may include:
- What is the priority of this goal for you, vis-à-vis other organizational goals?
- Is there any particular metric that may change your timeline regarding the implementation of a solution to [overcome this specific challenge/ achieve this goal]?
- How Can GPCT Help in Lead Qualification?
As we previously mentioned, GPCT is a modified form of BANT Analysis and equips your sales team with a more customer-centric prospect qualification method. By shifting the focus of prospecting from the money that a prospect is willing to shell out to deeply understanding their issue and offering a tailored solution – the GPCT lead prospecting method ensures a higher degree of success, especially if there are several versions of your product or service available in the market. For higher success, some organizations employ an extended version of GPCT, which is also called BA or Budget and Authority.
In BA, budget is essential because it tells you whether a lead is profitable or not and also helps you figure out the ROI for the prospect, which is an important factor for decision-making for any company. A stands for authority, which indicates you must determine the right point of contact, at the outset, lest you apply GPCT on someone who’s not involved in the buying decision.
Lead generation is one of the foremost challenges faced by any company. However, generating leads is not enough. Rather, it is crucial to identify the prospects who are most likely to buy from you, which is what brings into focus sales lead qualification methods such as GPCT and BANT Analysis.
In case you are confused between GPCT and BANT Analysis for prospect qualification – it may be a better idea to rely on the GPCT framework, which is focused on customer success. An extension of BANT, GPCT is more likely to land you better deals as compared to traditional BANT analysis. The customer-centric method equips your sales agents to examine what a buyer wants to achieve, how they plan to achieve it, and the challenges that they expect to face along the way. Based on this information, your sales rep can determine if your organization can help the prospect reach their goals or overcome the said obstacles – and accordingly pitch the product to them for a higher success rate.