When I first learned my trade - in the Golden Age of B2B Selling - BANT was all the rage as the sine qua non of sales qualification. In case any of you need reminding, BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timescale. It had - and still has - value in certain sales environments. But it’s an awful way of qualifying opportunities if you’re trying to sell a disruptive technology into a new market.
Now don’t get me wrong - “BANT” still has its place in established markets where the customer knows what sort of solution they need to buy, and establishes a formal budget to purchase it. But if you’re trying (as so many early-to-mid-stage companies are) to sell a solution to a problem that your prospect may not even recognise they have, hasn't thought to fund, or hasn’t already identified your approach as a potential solution, you might as well whistle Dixie as expect to find a conveniently assigned budget in place.
A FAINT approach to qualification
So rejecting a potential project simply because no formal budget exists will inevitably result in the premature disqualification of some otherwise promising opportunities - and conversely the presence of a budget does not mean that the prospect will necessarily spend the money. I’ve long thought that there must be a better way, and I’m indebted to Mike Shultz of the Rain Group for nudging me in a better direction.
In a recent blog, Mike spoke about an alternative approach - one he referred to as FAINT, standing for Funds, Authority, Interest, Need and Timescale. I think that this is a move in the right direction, but I want to suggest a couple of further changes - one semantic, but the other I regard as being particularly significant and critical.
My recommendation is that - if you are selling the sort of solution that may not already have a formal budget assigned to it - that you focus on Finance, Authority, Impact, Need and Timescale.
Your prospect may not have a formal budget. But they need to have the necessary funds somewhere - even if it means reallocating existing budgets from elsewhere. You need to be targeting organisations and opportunities that could afford to invest in your solution if the right business case were to be made. Otherwise, qualify them out.
You need to have a direct connection with an individual (or a group) that has the authority to solve the problem and the clout to find and approve the necessary funds. Apparently promising opportunities that offer no access or path to power are never likely to close. You need to either negotiate access to power (this is often far easier to do at the start of the process than at the end) or think seriously about qualifying out.
This is - to my mind - the critical addition. It’s not enough for your prospect to agree that a need exists. They also need to acknowledge that not dealing with the issue will have a measurable impact on their organisation in terms of reduced revenues or increased costs. If you can’t get your prospect to calculate and agree the negative impact of doing nothing you would be well advised to try harder or qualify out.
Need is a traditional qualification criteria. Impact really ought to come after need, but it would make for an inconvenient and unpronounceable acronym. A need is a goal, issue or problem that affects your prospect’s organisation and which you are well equipped to solve. There’s no way that an opportunity without a clear and acknowledged need ought to be able to pass qualification.
Timing is the fifth and last element of this new approach to qualification. Where’s the urgency to do something? Can you identify (or help create) a compelling event that will force a decision? Will sticking with the status quo result in a growing economic case for change? If neither a compelling event or a growing economic case for change can be established, you need to be cautious about your chances of closing.
Qualifying with FAINT praise
Clients that have adopted the FAINT approach - many of them replacing BANT in the process - have reported significantly more accurate opportunity qualification and improved sales forecast accuracy. They also report that they have closed a number of deals that BANT would have thrown out. Maybe the approach could work for you as well?
Benchmarking against the best
Embracing FAINT qualification is just one of a number of best practices that are helping top-performing B2B sales and marketing organisations to accelerate revenue growth and grow market share. Why not learn from their experiences by taking our 10 minute online benchmark test? Let me know how you get along.