To BANT or Not to BANT? | Business LockerRoom

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By Kelly Riggs | Sales + Leadership

Mar 21

To BANT or Not to BANT?

by Kelly Riggs


Keenan v. Waldschmidt.

This was so good, I grabbed popcorn and a drink. It was a bit like Ali-Frazier, round one. I’m wondering if we’ll get the two sequels as well.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, in the red corner, wearing plaid shorts – KEEEEENAN!!!!”

“In the blue corner, wearing weathered running shorts – DAAAAAAAAN WALDSCHMIDT.”

If you need to catch up, you can watch Keenan’s original rant – in inimitable Keenan style – here. And you can watch Dan’s reply, equally passionate, here. And, of course, the inevitable return fire from Kennan.

The topic? BANT, of all things…

I mean, when Keenan gets started, hide the women and children. Full disclosure, we’re buddies and I think he’s freaking amazing, but Keenan is like the over-hyped kid on a sugar high. He makes the so-called bull-in-a-china-shop look comatose.

And that’s why people love his stuff. He is ridiculously passionate, and people get bought in to him pretty quickly.

Or not. He is definitely polarizing. And crazy like a fox – to the tune of tens of thousands of video views on LinkedIn.

Dan is another kind of passionate. After all, who runs 51 miles, averaging a little over 7 minutes per mile? WAIT! WHAAAAAT? Yup. Dude is superhuman. And brilliant.

Much respect from me for two great guys. Arguing about…

Wait for it…

BANT.

If you’re new to sales, BANT is a method for “qualifying” sales opportunities that includes four areas – Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing. The idea is that these are four critical qualification factors that should be determined rather early in the sales process to ensure a salesperson isn’t 1) wasting time, 2) trying to sell the wrong person, or 3) trying to proceed without an understanding of the prospect’s actual needs.

Simple enough.

Except to Keenan. To him, BANT is the zombie apocalypse. It is the end of the world as we know it. A joke. Outmoded. Old-school.

You get the idea.

Classic Keenan.

The truth is, qualification models have been a part of sales forever. My favorite, back in the day (as we old guys like to say), came from the Miller-Heimann sales classic, Conceptual Selling. They described seven areas of qualification to consider – need, timing, competition, decision maker, funds, impending event, and the buying process.

Today, you could easily add several others qualification factors.

Heck, you could even adopt the 18 Sales Qualification Questions to Identify Prospects Worth Pursuing.

I wonder what Keenan would do with that one?

The Middle Ground

So, here’s the conflict: Keenan thinks BANT is a waste of time, or worse, is actually hurting salespeople. And Waldschmidt thinks Keenan means well but is a touch misguided. After all, how is qualifying an opportunity a bad thing?

What’s the truth?

The problem, from my perspective, is that Keenan doesn’t see gray. He sees binary. Yes or no. Zero or one. Either/or. It either works or it doesn’t without consideration of why.

I believe his explanation of his perspective is quite on point. However, he wants to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. He wants to completely eliminate something valuable because, if it is used improperly, it will lead to bad results.

And that’s a mistake. Eliminating something just because it can be misused, or because it is ineffectively taught, is a mistake.

The legendary W. Edwards Deming said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” Processes are needed in order to provide a framework for training and troubleshooting. If you don’t have a process, you can’t replicate success and you can’t figure out why you’re failing.

The process – in this case, BANT – is not the problem. The problem is not teaching the intent behind a qualification process, regardless of which one you might choose to adopt.

As Keenan rightfully notes, checking off four boxes simply to “qualify” an opportunity is worthless. However, as Waldschmidt rightfully points out, selling to someone who isn’t qualified is a colossal waste of time.

The solution? Teach the process AND teach the intent of the process. Yes, everything Keenan says about budget, authority, need, and timing MIGHT be true. But it also might NOT be true. He is correct – if you mindlessly ask the questions, you’ll never create a need, or change the timing, or whatever. But, if after appropriate dialogue and probing, you can’t get to a need, or create the funds, or change the timing, it’s time to move along.

The intent of selling, and sales calls, is to create emotional engagement, not mechanical connection. Developing trust and understanding is not about asking mindless questions, BANT or otherwise.

'The intent of selling, and sales calls, is to create emotional engagement, not mechanical connection. Developing trust and understanding is not about asking mindless questions.' via @kellyriggs #leadershipClick To Tweet

The intent of BANT is to gather useful information – information that allows a salesperson to make good decisions about time. It is NOT about checking boxes just so a salesperson can say they “qualified” the opportunity; instead, it is a process for creating a pathway to understanding a specific sales opportunity and determining if that opportunity warrants a salesperson’s time.

Since time is the single most valuable asset of any salesperson, this is critically important. Estimates regarding how much time salespeople actually spend selling range from an abysmal 22% of their available time to a laughable 37% of their time. From my perspective, spending any time on an unqualified prospect is a sure-fire way for a salesperson to miss quota every time.

Which probably helps explain why about 3-in-4 salespeople are ineffective.

So, when Keenan says BANT is the most “self-centered” and “self-absorbed” thing he has ever seen, he may very well be right. But, in this case, that’s not a bad thing. Salespeople SHOULD be selfish about their time! They only have so much of it, and they need to choose wisely.

Let’s make this simple. Let’s assume you’re one of the greatest salespeople of all time. How much will you sell if you have ZERO time in front of prospects?

For a salesperson, time is everything, and it is a perishable resource. You can bet your last dollar that I’m selfish about spending my time with low-value and/or low-probability and/or unqualified opportunities.

Keenan also says that BANT assumes the customer “already knows what they want and already understands the solution.” This is simply not true. BANT is nothing more than four possible bear traps to be identified during the course of initial conversations with a prospect. It was never intended to be four questions you drop on a prospect right out of the chute because the customers already knows what they want. Who the heck would be teaching a salesperson something stupid like this?

“Thanks for speaking with me today. May I ask you a few questions?”

“Sure.”

“Do you have a need for my product?”

“Uh…maybe.”

“Excellent. Do you have the budget for it?”

“Well, that depends…”

“Close enough. So, do you have the authority to purchase for this company?”

“Say what?”

“And while we’re at it, is this a good time to make this happen? I mean, if we make a deal here, are you going to pull the trigger?”

If anyone uses BANT like that, the model isn’t the problem, bad or non-existent training is the problem. For that, I give Keenan a ton of credit – what he has identified is that training is the real problem, not the model.

Coda

So, I love me a good, old-fashioned brawl, and it was fun to watch (and comment on).

To be clear, Keenan makes great points, particularly when it comes to the idea that solving problems is the salesperson’s objective. But all he is really doing is providing a context for BANT in the real world. He’s describing the intent of a qualification process.

He is still talking about budget and need and timing and authority – and a few other relevant qualifiers as well. In his reply to Waldschmidt, he makes this exact point: “In the whole sales cycle, you need to address [BANT]….eventually.”

Exactly. The problem isn’t the process, it’s the way it’s taught and/or used.

On the flip side, Dan digs into what I think is pretty obvious, and he makes equally good points. After all, if you sell a product and the prospect has no need for it, you are wasting your time. Could you create that need? Sure. But what if you can’t or don’t?

Then, move along. Your time is too valuable.

The good thing about this whole discussion is that a lot of salespeople just got a lot better watching these two duke it out.

By the way, just as I was finishing this article, I read this on LinkedIn from Larry Winget (emphasis added):

“It appears to me that LinkedIn has become not much more than an opportunity for people to connect with you just so they can immediately fill your inbox with their sales pitch. I have written 6 NYT/WSJ bestsellers and 5 times per week someone connects and tells me they can help me write a book. I appear on National TV several times per month and about 5 times per week someone tells me they can help my career by getting me on local radio shows. I have been speaking for 30 years and am in the Speaker Hall of Fame and 5 times per week someone tells me they can help me become a speaker. It says all of that right below my name and these folks don’t even bother to look. So, if you try to sell me something without qualifying me first you deserve the tirade that will be unleashed on you because you are a hustler, not a professional salesperson and you should be ashamed of yourself.  Have a nice day!”

It seems that qualifying an opportunity definitely has a place in the sales profession.

But context is everything.

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About the Author

Kelly Riggs is a business performance coach and founder of the Business LockerRoom. A former national Salesperson of the Year and serial entrepreneur, Kelly is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales, management leadership, and strategic planning. He serves clients ranging from small, privately held companies to Fortune 500 firms. Kelly has written two books: “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”


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