The quality and accuracy of opportunity qualification is widely acknowledged to be a key predictor of future sales success - and a critical differentiator between the best salespeople and the rest.
Today’s top salespeople have too much respect for their own time to waste it on “opportunities” they have little or no chance of closing - while their less-effective colleagues often appear to hold on to dead or dying opportunities like a shipwrecked sailor clinging on to a piece of driftwood.
When we analyse relative sales performance, the benefits are obvious: the additional time and effort that top salespeople invest in qualification is more than repaid in terms, shorter sales cycles, greater average deal values and higher win rates.
Sales leaders that have implemented consistent opportunity qualification protocols see similar benefits across their entire sales organisation, together with dramatically improved forecast accuracy.
I'd like to share some experiences that I believe provide the basis for a consistent, robust and scalable approach to opportunity qualification across your own sales organisation that will inevitably improve sales outcomes and bring confidence and consistency to your revenue forecasts.
Let's start with a short history lesson...
A brief history of opportunity qualification
The earliest attempt to implement a disciplined approach to opportunity qualification in B2B sales environments was initiated by IBM, with their BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe) approach.
BANT was subsequently adopted by a wide variety of sales organisations and is still in use in some more traditional sales environments today.
BANT focuses on four key questions:
- Budget: Does the prospect have a budget and if so, how much?
- Authority: Do we have access to the decision-maker?
- Need: Does the prospect have a clearly articulated business need?
- Timeframe: When does the prospect intend to implement a solution?
Whilst all significant sales opportunities are likely to satisfy all four tests at some point in their development, relying on BANT as the primary means of qualification has serious flaws in today’s complex B2B buying environments.
BANT might appear to be an effective means of qualification for familiar, repeat purchases (for example when a customer is buying a new batch of raw materials) but it is far less effective when the customer is involved in an unfamiliar and often discretionary potential purchase that requires a significant amount of research.
The BANT parameters imply that salespeople should seek out formally defined, actively funded projects. But by the time a potential new project is fully “BANT qualified”, the customer will already be a long way into their decision-making process. They will have already researched their options and have started to form their opinions.
BANT also assumes that there is a single decision-maker - but Gartner’s research suggests that there are 5-10 or more significant stakeholders in the typical complex B2B buying journey. It’s clear that a literal implementation of BANT is an over-simplistic approach to qualifying today’s complex sales opportunities.
Given that further research by Forrester, Gartner and others proves that salespeople who engage early with the prospect and help to shape their thinking have a far greater chance of winning than salespeople that engage later, the idea of rejecting leads that are not fully BANT qualified is completely counterproductive.
The search for something better than BANT
BANT’s obvious deficiencies have led many sales organisations to look for more effective approaches to sales opportunity qualification. Here are a few of the more common alternatives:
Developed by Ken Krogue at InsideSales, ANUM proposes an evolutionary redefinition of BANT. ANUM stands for Authority, Need, Urgency and Money. It suggests that a salesperson needs to qualify opportunities based on the authority level of their contact, whether there is a clearly defined business need, the relative urgency of the problem, and whether money could be found if a business case can be made.
CHAMP is another evolutionary development of BANT. CHAMP stands for Challenges, Authority, Money and Prioritisation. It recognises that potential customers are most likely to change their behaviour is response to a business challenge and redefines the apparent lack of initial Authority as a call to action, rather than a roadblock - encouraging the salesperson to navigate their way through the prospect’s organisation.
The RAIN Group advocates using FAINT, which stands for Funds, Authority, Interest, Need and Timing. Like ANUM, FAINT looks for situations where the organisation has the capacity and motivation to buy, rather than whether a budget has already been allocated. The “interest” factor relates to the potential buyer’s level of curiosity in exploring the possibilities and in achieving a better future outcome.
ANUM, CHAMP and FAINT all offer useful advantages over a purist application of BANT, but they still also tend to paint over-simplistic pictures of the complexities of modern B2B buying journeys.
This is why a growing number of sales leaders now regard MEDDIC and its variants as a more effective means of qualifying complex, high-value B2B sales opportunities...
MEDDIC was pioneered by Jack Napoli at PTC, and - together with its evolutionary variants - has emerged as the preferred approach to opportunity qualification for technology-based businesses, particularly where companies are selling high-value solutions that involve complex buying journeys and which have the potential to drive transformational changes in the customer’s organisation.
The original six MEDDIC qualification criteria were Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain and Champion. When taken together these represented a step-function improvement in identifying the key factors that enable salespeople and their managers to accurately assess the quality of their sales opportunities:
- Metrics are the specific measurable business outcomes your customer requires the project to deliver
- Economic Buyer is the person or group with final decision authority over whether and how the project goes ahead
- Decision Criteria are the criteria that the customer will use to decide between their potential solution options
- Decision Process is the process and timetable the customer will follow when deciding which option to choose, and who will be involved
- Identify Pain is the customer's current or anticipated pain that will cause them to take urgent action
- Champion is about whether you have a powerful and enthusiastic champion within the organisation
If any of these six factors are unknown or a weak fit, the salesperson’s chances of winning the opportunity will be significantly reduced. Any one of these factors, depending on the circumstances, can cause a red flag to be raised. Multiple weaknesses, unless they can be resolved, should generally result in the opportunity being disqualified.
The adoption of MEDDIC represented a significant advance over the various flavours and variations of BANT, but perhaps inevitably its success spawned a number of evolutionary variants - and in particular MEDDICC and MEDDPICC, both of which added important additional considerations that add further precision to the qualification process in complex B2B sales environments.
To date, the two most widely deployed variants of MEDDIC have been MEDDICC and MEDDPICC.
MEDDICC introduced a seventh qualification factor - competition. Most large projects are contested between a number of different potential suppliers, and it’s important that salespeople not only identify these other options, but also understand their relative position against them.
MEDDPICC introduced yet another valuable qualification factor when dealing with large and complex opportunities - the customer’s “paper process”. This involves understanding the contractual, legal, approval and vendor onboarding processes the customer needs to complete before an order can be placed.
The latest iteration - MEDDPICC+RR
Both of these factors represented a further refinement in the qualification of complex B2B sales opportunities. But after a careful analysis of the common factors behind unexpected deferrals or losses, we found that two additional criteria were also often at play - and that ignoring them tended to reduce qualification accuracy in a number of important circumstances:
- Relative Priority: In the early stages of an opportunity, competition tends to come from the other solution options being considered, but in the later stages of an opportunity, the “competition” comes from a completely different source - the other projects that are competing for funds and attention
- Risk Factors: The final criteria involves risk factors that could affect the customer’s decision process. These can be either internal - for example, changes in the decision team or the customer’s priorities, or they could be external factors - the most obvious recent example being the impact of Covid-19
I prefer the completeness of MEDDPICC+RR, but I also recognise that some clients - and some opportunities - may not need to apply all 10 factors. That's why we designed Inflexion-Point’s MEDDPICC+RR opportunity qualification framework to allow this flexibility, whilst ensuring that all similar opportunities are qualified in the same consistent way.
You can learn more about MEDDPICC+RR by downloading this guide. Please take a look - and let me know what you think...
[This article was originally published on LinkedIn].
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Apollo is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales, a founding contributor to the International Journal of Sales Transformation, an active member of the Sales Experts Channel and the Sales Enablement Society, and the driving force behind Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the leading proponents of outcome-centric selling.
Following a successful corporate career spanning start-ups, scale-ups and market leaders, Bob now works as a strategic advisor, mentor, trainer and coach to ambitious B2B sales organisations - teaching them how to differentiate themselves through their provably superior approach to achieving their customer's desired outcomes.