4 Key Qualification Identifiers – Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe
One of the first actions to take when presented with a new prospect is to qualify them. Accurately qualifying a prospect will make the rest of the sales cycle a lot easier. And, it’s certainly OK to qualify out a prospect and maybe move them into a “nurture program”. In this way you won’t be spending valuable time and resources chasing a deal that doesn’t exist.
Qualifying a prospect is much easier when you have hard facts behind your decision. This way, you’re not letting your emotion or attachment to the prospect get in the way of the qualification.
The BANT criteria outlines a framework for qualifying any prospect. Each aspect must have a solid response before the prospect can be moved along the sales cycle.
For any deal to close, the customer must be able to afford the product or solution. Additionally, they have to have the right expectation of costs. It’s much harder to sell to a prospect that expects to pay $1,000 for a Mercedes than it is to sell to a prospect who is prepared to pay $100,000.
Once the conversation with the prospect is flowing, start to head into the Budget question. This could be as simple as “Have you allocated a budget for this project”. Remember thought, that you must know a dollar figure for the Budget criteria. If you only hear “Yes, budget has been allocated”, then you must keep digging. Of course, a range is OK, as long as you and the prospect know what kind of money the prospect is prepared to part with for the right solution.
Don’t forget, budgets are flexible too. If the solution you are presenting is the right fit and will benefit the prospect’s business significantly, it shouldn’t be too difficult to justify a little bit more from the budget.
Sales are signed-off by someone with authority (either an individual or a committee) making a decision and signing paperwork. You need to give that decision maker a really good reason to sign YOUR paperwork and not your competitors. To do this, you need to know what makes the decision maker tick, what excites them and what doesn’t. It is important to find out who this decision maker is. Often, your main contact is not the decision maker, but acts as a gate keeper instead. These gatekeepers tend to be very protective of the decision makers. The will usually resist giving you direct access to them. This could be for a number of reasons. Sometimes the person you’re speaking to needs to plant themselves in the middle of the process since they were given the task to “find” a solution. They may believe that if you bypass them and go straight for the decision makers, that they are no longer needed. It’s important to make everyone feel important. You should encourage your main contact to arrange a meeting between you, the decision maker, and themselves. Your main contact will usually become your biggest supporter since you speak to them the most.
There are two aspects to this criteria.
- The prospect has to not only want your solution, but need it
- There must be a compelling event.
In order for you to provide any kind of solution, there must be something to solve. The prospect may not know there is a problem – this is often the case when cold calling. It’s up to you to help the prospect identify the problem in such a way that only your solution can solve it.
Every deal needs a compelling event. This is the driving force behind the entire sales process. Without it there is very little chance of the deal closing. A compelling event is something that has happened or will happen within the prospect’s business that is related to the solution you are offering. They can be almost anything, such as end of financial year, new product launch, an acquisition or merger, and the list goes on. However, it should have a date associated with it. Having a date really helps you set expectations and helps you mange your pipeline and provide accurate forecasts. You will often have to help the prospect identify a compelling event – they may not understand the impact of it with respect to the problem in the business that you are trying to solve.
Following on from the Need criteria, Timeframe uses the compelling event as a manor milestone for the sales process. From that milestone you work with the prospect to establish a timeline of events around it. The timeline should closely reflect your sales and delivery process so that you are aligning your business with the prospect’s. The timeframe should be realistic. The prospect may say they need the Mercedes delivered with modifications within 24 hours. Obviously to Mercedes this is unreasonable. The expectations of the prospect need to align with how your business operates. But, the prospect should always feel that they are receiving special treatment (all your customers should be receiving special treatment though, right?).
The BANT framework is a fantastic way to qualify prospects. Remember that only when each of these criteria can be answered should the prospect be moved to the next stage in the sales process. If there is any negativity for any of the above criteria, seriously consider qualifying out the prospect and give your focus to the next prospect.