If you’re sending all of your leads to your sales team without qualification and prioritization, then you’re potentially asking them to pursue unqualified leads with minimal ROI and waste time on other leads that will go absolutely nowhere. To avoid this, you can apply a few simple criteria to ensure that your sales team is focused on the most promising and productive leads.
The BANT criteria comprise one of the most popular sets of criteria for sales lead qualification. The acronym stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing, and the criteria can be summarized as follows:
Does the buyer have the budget to purchase your product or service?
Does your contact have the authority to make a purchasing decision?
Is there a clear need for your product or service, driven by specific pain points?
Is there a time frame for a potential purchasing decision?
Qualifying Based on Budget, Authority, and Need
The first three criteria are usually self-explanatory. But it’s important to note that the first two criteria—budget and authority—are not necessarily grounds for disqualifying a lead.
When it comes to budget, if it’s not currently available, rather than disqualify the lead, you can forward the lead to your sales team to provide assistance in helping your contact request the required budget, build a business case for your product or service, and be ready to make the purchase once approval is gained. You can assign it a lower priority if appropriate, but it still may be worth pursuing and may pay off in the end.
In the case of authority, if a contact does not have the authority to make a purchasing decision, your lead qualification team can ask a preliminary question to find out who the decision maker is, what will be required to engage that person and work with your current contact to help make the case for a purchase.
The next criterion, however, is definitely grounds for disqualification. If there is no need for your product or service, or the need is not sufficiently motivated by pains that the prospective customer is experiencing, then there is little to no chance of a sale. The old adage in sales is, “No pain, no sale.” Your lead may be exploring a potential solution, but if there isn’t a real problem to be solved and no emotional stake, then you could end up wasting time on someone who—to use a car sales analogy—wants to “kick the tires” rather than make a purchase and drive off with a new vehicle.
With your lead qualification process, you can ask probing questions to find out what’s motivating the interest in your product or service, what pains or problems your contact is facing, and whether there is enough frustration, disappointment, or stress to motivate a purchase.
The Importance of Time Frame
Overarching all these criteria, however, is the issue of timing. It is critical to include time frame in your definition of qualified leads because timing can ultimately play a pivotal role in all three of the other criteria and make or break your potential sale. And, in your qualification process, it’s important to not only ask for a time frame but to further qualify it by investigating the factors that could lengthen the time frame or indicate that the timing will never be right for a purchase.
For example, a prospective customer may not currently have the budget available to buy, but it may be in the process of budgeting for its next fiscal year or may have budget available in the next quarter. In this case, you might prioritize the lead higher on your list despite budget not being available at the moment. However, if your lead is facing an indefinite spending freeze, a period of years before budget may be available, or an extremely long and complicated process for budget approval, then a sale may never happen, or it may not be worth the time of your sales team to pursue.
When it comes to authority, this is another area where timing came come into play and where your initial lead may underestimate the real time frame for purchasing. As we explored earlier, if your contact does not have purchasing authority, this does not automatically disqualify your lead. You can potentially reach the decision maker, help build a business case, and assist your original contact in obtaining approval. But if this will potentially be a long and complex process, or if it may involve multiple decision-makers who are busy or skeptical and difficult to engage or convince, then you may need to assign the lead a lower priority or disqualify it. Otherwise, your sales team may invest considerable time and effort without ever getting a sale.
And, finally, when it comes to a need for your product or service and whether there is enough pain to motivate a purchase, timing is everything. If a pain or problem is acute enough, then your lead may want a solution in place as soon as possible. In this case, there may be a real sense of urgency, with budget already be in place and authority granted. So you’ll want to assign the lead a higher priority to make sure that you’re responsive and that you stay ahead of competitors who may also be under consideration.
If there is no timing for a potential buy or your lead offers a lengthy time frame without facing any budget or authority obstacles that are driving that timing, this is often a sign that there is no pain involved or that the pain is not acute enough to motivate a purchase. In this case, you may want to lower the priority of the lead because it may take more time and the prospect may need to experience more pain before there is readiness to buy. If it becomes clear that there is no pain, then there will almost certainly be no sale, no matter how much you try to educate or sell your buyer. So consider disqualifying the lead. Focus on your own time frame instead and using your time wisely to pursue better leads!