How to Move Beyond BANT for Better Sales Results
Sales people rarely have enough time in the day to manage all of the activities expected of them. Whether it’s making prospecting calls, going on sales calls, creating proposals, or manage existing accounts, sales people are busy. But being busy doesn’t necessarily translate into better sales results. The difference between high performing salespeople and average performers often comes down to basic time management skills. High performing salespeople are able to consistently allocate the majority of their time to the most promising sales opportunities, while average performers invest too much time in bad opportunities.
It's easy to see how salespeople fall into the trap of working on bad opportunities. Assume you are below quota this quarter and your boss is pressuring you to make a sale. It's human nature to want to hold on to as many sales opportunities as possible. Who knows? Maybe some of the long shot opportunities will close. But that common mindset ignores the significant opportunity cost associated with pursuing bad opportunities. In the time you spent working on unqualified opportunities, you could have been focusing your efforts on more qualified opportunities and rebuilding your sales pipeline.
How much discretion you have to select which opportunities you focus on of course varies by industry and company. However, even where sellers are required to call on a customer or prospect they still can choose how much effort to expend.
Start with BANT
You should begin qualifying a sales opportunity by considering whether it satisfies the basic BANT conditions:
- Budget – obviously, you should avoid spending time on an opportunity where there is no budget
- Authority – talking to exclusively buyers who have little influence in the decision making process is not productive and rarely leads to closed business
- Need - if there is no well-defined need, it is not a real opportunity and it will eventually stall
- Timing – any opportunity needs a clear time frame in order to be qualified
Let’s assume, however, that after 1-2 meetings you have determined that the opportunity meets these BANT qualification conditions. Is that enough? No. While BANT is a great starting point, it misses two fundamental issues that go to the heart of a qualified opportunity: (1) Is the opportunity worth pursuing in the first place? And (2) Can you win?
1) Is This Opportunity Worth Pursuing?
The criteria outlined below will help you assess whether a sales opportunity is worth your effort. Typically, these criteria are best used when after your first meeting where you are uncertain or something just doesn’t feel right about the opportunity. When assessing an opportunity against these criteria you must be brutally honest with yourself and also acknowledge where you have knowledge gaps.
- Based on the customer’s growth, what's the long-term revenue potential of this opportunity?
- Are there up-selling and cross-selling opportunities?
- Does this opportunity meet your company’s minimum profitability requirements?
- What's the long-term profit potential?
- Will winning this opportunity provide you with any competitive advantages in the marketplace?
- What will be the impact of losing?
- Do you have adequate resources to successfully deliver?
- Is the buyer’s timeframe realistic?
Assuming you have determined that your sales opportunity is worth pursuing, you are now ready for the second question, can you win?
2) Can You Win?
Typically, you should consider how competitive you solution is after the second meeting or later, when you have an in depth understanding of the buyer and his or her organization.
The criteria below will help you assess your competitive position. It's essential that you conduct this analysis before investing significant resources in such time and effort intensive sales activities such as configuring a solution, writing a proposal, or making formal sales presentations.
- Does your solution meet the key buying criteria?
- Is it differentiated from the competition?
- Have you identified the business impact of your solution on the buyer’s business, customers, competitive advantage etc.?
- Can you quantify the impact?
- How strong is your relationship with the buyer?
- Have you established relationships with other decision makers and influencers?
- Do you have senior executive commitment and active support?
- If not, will your supporter give you access to senior executives?
- Do you have access to decision makers?
- Can you influence buying criteria?
- Is your solution linked to any strategic initiatives?
- Does it create new business opportunities for the buyer?
Not all of these criteria for either question will be appropriate for every selling situation. Nevertheless, consider an opportunity where you have had one or two meetings and think how would these questions impact your qualifying decision? Maybe they confirmed what you were already thinking or perhaps made you realize where you have gaps in your knowledge and need to ask more questions.
For many salespeople walking away from an opportunity, even a long shot, is a complete anathema. But remember, your most precious resource is your time. Your sales success depends on making decisions on how best to allocate your time, including when to deem an opportunity as unqualified. So rather than mourn the loss of the opportunity (it likely wasn’t a viable opportunity in the first place), focus your efforts on your qualified opportunities and building your pipeline.
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.