For modern B2B marketers, successful demand marketing is no longer measured only in clicks and marketing-qualified leads. Marketing increasingly shares accountability with sales for revenue, making it critical to connect leads to meaningful business outcomes. It also requires a new approach to qualifying leads, one that focuses on buyer behavior—and allows marketing to deliver and prove a predictable, measurable return on investment.
Old-school B2B marketers typically relied on traditional lead generation campaigns with gated content, field-heavy forms, and telemarketing cold calls aimed at scoring prospects based on sales-defined criteria known as BANT:
- Budget: Do they have budget allocated and can they afford what you are selling?
- Authority: Is this the right person to make a decision?
- Need: Is there an opportunity to sell to them?
- Timeframe: Are they in an active buying process and are they ready to talk to a salesperson?
Unfortunately, BANT has everything to do with what your business wants to know about buyers and nothing to do with what a buyer actually needs to learn about your business. This not only makes for a terrible customer experience, but also creates misleading qualification data. You irritate a prospective customer for no good reason.
BANT may have made sense in the days when buyers followed a more traditional buying path and relied on a salesperson to educate them about products and services. But the B2B buying process has changed. Today’s buyer has unprecedented access to information, enabling them to make informed buying decisions, compile vendor short lists, and determine the best fit for their needs—without ever speaking to sales or filling out a lead form.
As the 2017 Demand Gen Report B2B Buyer’s Survey noted, the majority of B2B buyers are self-navigating through early stages of the buying journey and are “largely operating under the radar.” At the same time, they are spending more time conducting research before a purchase than ever before, including a more detailed ROI analysis. It has become less about businesses qualifying buyers, and more about the buyer qualifying the business. Yet BANT persists, and many organizations still insist on including it as part of their early stage lead qualification criteria.
Make no mistake, in any sales process, a sales representative should discuss these key criteria with their prospects. However, this should come later in the sales cycle, after marketing has clearly identified buyers who are further in their decision process, or sales has accepted a lead and needs to evaluate the potential for that lead to become a selling opportunity. By waiting until the right time to ask about BANT, you not only provide a better experience for buyers, but also enable sales to be more efficient, because they’re focusing on leads who are most engaged and likely to close.
2017 Demand Gen Report B2B Buyer’s Survey
Here are a few reasons BANT is not relevant for lead qualification:
TRADITIONAL BUYING IS DEAD
Just a few years ago, Demand Gen Report’s Buyer Survey asked, “Did the buying path follow a traditional path where budget was established, criteria outlined, and then an RFP distributed to a pre-set list of solution providers?” (to which 83.3% of B2B buyers answered “no”!).
According to the 2017 report, 58% of respondents said buying cycles were taking longer. In addition to more detailed research and the increased focus on ROI, there are more people involved on the buying committee, and they are considering more potential vendors during the research process. In spite of the increased time required for research, almost three-quarters of respondents (72%) indicated that “…the timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries was one of the reasons they selected the winning vendor.”
Now think about that 72% in terms of BANT. While the buyer was in the research process, how many vendors would miss making it to the short list because they did not respond in a timely fashion or because they disqualified a lead who could not or would not specify their budget?
7 in 10 buyers are lying about that information, including BANT questions. By requiring BANT in the early stages of the qualification process, you are inducing false-positives and leaving the buyers no choice but to provide inaccurate information.
Have you ever lied on a form? As your salespeople will testify after following up on “hot” leads that answered all the BANT questions on your online forms, prospects often answer the budget, need and timeframe fields simply to gain access to the information being offered. If it is a required field, do buyers have a choice? Although it hasn’t been updated since 2008, Marketing Sherpa’s study on tech buyers likely still holds up, wherein only 29% of B2B buyers said they “always” supply accurate information on custom questions on a web form.
This means that 7 in 10 are lying about that information, including BANT questions. By requiring BANT in the early stages of the qualification process, you are inducing false-positives and leaving the buyers no choice but to provide inaccurate information. It is no wonder why Tony Jaros of SiriusDecisions stated, “B-A-N-T are the four most dangerous letters in B2B marketing.”
ENGAGEMENT IS A BETTER INDICATOR OF OPPORTUNITY
In a recent ANNUITAS discussion with a sales team developing their lead qualification model, the BANT question inevitably arose. As usual, some salespeople were for it, but others had some serious questions. The EVP of sales broke the tie by saying, “If we can get the right demographic criteria and understand how they are behaving and interacting with us, I will leave it to my reps to help them build the business case, show the need, and help their prospect get the needed budget.” Case closed.
Building that case is increasingly important. In the 2017 Demand Gen study, 89% of respondents stated that winning vendors “provided content that made it easier to show ROI and/or build a business case for the purchase.”
This EVP of sales understood that they could close more business by speaking to the right person who has shown through their engagement behavior that they are interested and have a potential need and then following up with a better understanding of that buyer’s pains and priorities. This underscores the need for marketing and sales to agree on a well-defined lead qualification process based on implicit (behavior-based) and explicit (demographic and firmographic) criteria. Ultimately, this will produce a much more qualified lead than BANT.
89% of respondents stated that winning vendors “provided content that made it easier to show ROI and/or build a business case for the purchase.” And 75% of buyers said the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decisions. -- 2017 Demand Gen Report B2B Buyer’s Survey
BANT DOES NOT ACCOUNT FOR BUYING COMMITTEES
One of the BANT questions deals with buying authority, but this is often a moot point, because it is rare for one individual to have full purchasing authority. BANT qualification does not account for this as it is focused on an individual, not all the members of the buying committee. Full visibility (and access to all the key decision makers) will happen only once a prospect is further into their buyer’s journey and has a good working relationship with sales.
Also, let’s be clear: Buying committees are getting bigger, not smaller. CEB has reported that there are now, on average, more than five people involved in a B2B buying process. More people on the buying committee means a longer buying cycle, as each committee member has a different view of the purchase process and jumps into the process at different times. The 2017 Demand Gen study backs this up, noting that the role of buying committees has expanded as purchase decisions become more complex and more focused on risk mitigation.
- 59% of respondents say they now have formal buying groups or buying committees in place to review purchases.
- 52% say the number of buying group members has increased significantly.
- 86% say purchase decisions are often accelerated or put on hold based on changing business needs/priorities.
BANT DOES NOT SUPPORT A PERPETUAL DEMAND GENERATION APPROACH
When organizations think about demand marketing they need to think in terms of building a perpetual program as opposed to tactical campaigns. Most B2B organizations are still accustomed to a campaign-driven, tactical approach to marketing. This approach is where BANT most often comes into play, because you are relying on a one-time marketing event—such as an email campaign to promote a white paper or a webinar invitation—to deliver highly qualified leads. You have just one chance to capture the prospect, get their information, and call them with the hope to qualify them to pass on to sales.
On the other hand, a strategic, perpetual program that aligns content to the discrete stages in the buying process provides a “what’s next” pattern that Engages, Nurtures and Converts the buyer according to their purchase path. There is no room for BANT in a perpetual program, as BANT becomes the job of sales, not marketing.
When you plan your demand strategically and map the content to the buyer’s journey, you are able to qualify leads more accurately and progressively, as a dialogue develops between you and the buyer. This approach not only takes into account the demographics of the buyers, but also their behavior—how they are engaging with your content. You get a more nuanced understanding of the buyer, including their role in the buying committee and how far along they are in the decision process. This enables sales reps to have a more substantial and fluid conversation.
TRANSFORM DEMAND AND PROVE MARKETING ROI
If you are still using BANT as part of the lead qualification process, it is time to rethink this. ANNUITAS enables revenue-driven marketing and sales leaders to make this critical shift to more strategic, “always-on” marketing through an ANNUITAS Digital Demand Transformation. With a playbook for orchestrating and optimizing every element of customer engagement throughout the buying cycle, you not only improve customer experience and the sales process, but also deliver a more predictable, measurable contribution to pipeline and revenue. Let’s Connect.
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