How To Use BANT To Qualify Leads and Grow Sales [+ Sample Questions]

Maddy Martin
|
2023-03-07

Lead qualification can be a challenge at any point, but especially when you’re fortunate enough to have the leads flooding to you. You need to be able to balance handling the volume effectively without losing any leads, which means you need to quality and disqualify leads quickly. The BANT sales framework can help with that.

Smith.ai live agents have been successfully helping businesses qualify leads by using BANT and other sales frameworks since 2012. Read on to learn more about how BANT can help your business qualify leads more productively.

What is BANT in sales?

BANT is a sales strategy that breaks the sales qualification process down into four main categories:

  • Budget: Establish your prospect’s budget for solving their problem to determine whether your product or service might be a good fit for them.
  • Authority: Determine if the person you are speaking to has the authority to approve the purchase. If they don’t, ask to speak with the person who does.
  • Need: Understand what your prospect needs for you to be considered a good fit to solve their problem.
  • Timeline: Determine if your prospective client is ready to act and make a decision.

As a sales rep engaging with potential sales leads, use questions geared toward learning more about each category to determine whether a lead is worth pursuing. In general, if your lead gives positive responses in three of the four areas, they are a quality lead worth pursuing.

When used correctly, BANT effectively and quickly qualifies leads to help shorten the sales cycle and save you time and money.

How to qualify a lead using BANT

Use the BANT strategy with any new lead, whether it’s during a discovery call, follow-up calls, chat interactions, or emails. The earlier you start using it, the more efficient lead qualification can be.

Here are a few tips to qualify a lead using BANT:

  • Adjust questions on the fly. Scripted questions are nice to use as a guide, but your questions will seem more conversational if you tweak them to fit your conversation. Have a general list of talking points to address in an interaction with a lead rather than a list of specific questions you must ask. For example, know that you need to discuss their budget at some point, but talking about what they’ve spent previously might come up more naturally than asking them outright what their budget is right now. Then, in a later interaction, you can ask more specific questions.
  • Be empathetic to the lead’s problems. Customers want to work with someone who cares about them and their needs, not just their money. Take the time to actively listen to their answers and remember details so you can ask about them later. Write down details in a note-taking sheet or your CRM.
  • Don’t try to get all your answers in one conversation. BANT is best implemented over the course of multiple conversations to avoid seeming pushy. BANT isn’t a to-do list of questions to check off; it’s a guide for conversation. Get buy-in at the end of each conversation so you can be sure they are still a qualified lead. Use a strong CRM to keep track of your conversations and where a lead is in the sales funnel throughout the process.
  • Understand that the lead may not always give you complete information. You may catch them at a bad time or they may not know all the answers. Start by getting a better understanding of who has the authority to make decisions regarding your product or service so you can follow up with them later.
  • Stay engaged. Don’t rely on one interaction to close the deal. Continue nurturing your lead the way you normally would: Send personalized emails, run outreach campaigns, and share educational content. But don’t forget informal engagement through social media and good old-fashioned research into the lead. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the lead’s company can help you find additional ways your product or service can help them.
BANT Sales Questions

BANT questions for successful lead qualification

Asking provocative questions and truly listening to the answers is key to the success of BANT. We’ve assembled some questions for each category to guide your conversation, but remember to avoid asking them in some sort of rigid or rapid-fire manner.

Budget questions

Budget questions can be hard to ask. But if you’re talking to someone who can’t afford your product or service, it won’t matter how good the rest of your pitch is. Here are a few questions to ask to get a sense of your prospect’s budget:

  • How much money do you currently have in your budget allocated to fix this problem?
  • How does the purchase approval process work within your company?
  • Who leads the financial decision-making process for [issue or problem]?
  • How much do you expect to spend to solve this issue?
  • Have you used other solutions in the past? If so, how much money did you dedicate to that solution?
  • Have you evaluated a potential budget for this current purchase?

Authority questions

Authority questions ensure you are talking to the person who has the authority to decide whether or not to move forward with your product or service. They may be the most important questions to ask early on in the engagement, since you want to ensure you’re not wasting your time (and theirs) talking to someone who can’t move the project forward. 

Don’t be surprised if you end up talking to multiple stakeholders since most companies today use a committee to make decisions. Dealing with influencers can still be helpful, but ultimately, you need to know who the person is that will make a decision on whether or not they will buy your product or service.

  • What is your job title?
  • How could this solution help you daily?
  • Who will be using the product or services most often?
  • Is anyone else going to be involved in the decision-making process?
  • What is your role within the purchase approval process?

Essential need questions

These questions help you determine if your product or service can actually solve the lead’s problem. It can also help you tailor your sales pitch to their specific concerns and increase the likelihood they convert from a lead to a paying client. 

  • What steps have you taken to address the issue?
  • What is currently your company’s top priority?
  • When did you identify this problem or issue?
  • What happens if you don’t address this problem?

Timeline questions

Identifying whether a lead is ready to make a decision now or if they are still in the early stages helps you priotize your leads, build out your calendar, and determine how to move forward. If they’re ready to buy now, you know your sales team needs to move fast, but if they’re still early in the process, it might be better to focus on nurturing the lead rather than taking them directly to sales.

  • Do you agree that we should schedule a follow-up meeting on [date]?
  • Why are you acting on this now?
  • When do you plan to make a decision?
  • We may have to finalize our agreement by [date]. Is that realistic for you?

6 Common BANT mistakes

BANT is a successful lead qualification framework when it’s used correctly. Unfortunately, many companies make mistakes that limit its effectiveness, costing them leads and time.

1. Giving up

It can be tempting to give up on a lead when the person you’re talking to gives you the brush-off. But keep in mind that you may have caught them at a bad time or they don’t know the answer to your questions right then and there.

Instead of giving up, if a prospect isn’t fully answering a question, steer the conversation back to one of the four pillars of BANT in a natural way. Continue to learn more by asking open-ended questions. If they keep shutting you down, consider ending the call nicely and trying back later so you can talk with someone else. Asking questions that begin with “Why do you feel that way?” or “Can you help me understand this?” are more gentle approaches to digger deeper into BANT-related topics.

2. Treating BANT as a checklist

When you use BANT as a checklist, you end up with a call like this:

Sales: How much money do you currently have in your budget allocated to fix this problem?

Lead: We haven’t finalized a specific number yet.

Sales: I see. And who will ultimately make the decision?

Lead: Our task force committee.

Sales: Great. It seems like your current solution isn’t working for you. 

Lead: Yes, that’s right.

Sales: When do you plan to make a decision?

Lead: We’re hoping by the end of the fiscal year.

Sales: Excellent. Would you like to schedule a follow-up meeting on Monday?

That lead is not scheduling a follow-up because the sales representative didn’t take time to listen or ask follow-up questions. 

For this reason, some sales professionals will tell you BANT doesn’t work in our modern sales environment. But nothing says you have to ask the questions in the acronym order — it may actually be more effective to ask the questions in any order, as long as the conversation flows naturally. 

Then you end up with a more successful call like this:

Sales: How much money do you currently have in your budget allocated to fix this problem?

Lead: We haven’t finalized a number yet.

Sales: That’s fine. Do you have a ballpark or a number that you’ve spent in the past?

Lead: I know in the past we’ve spent about $50,000.

Sales: That’s great to know, thank you. Do you know when you’ll have a more definite number?

Lead: Probably at the end of the fiscal year. 

Sales: That makes sense. Who will ultimately make the decision about what product you use?

Lead: Our task force committee.

Sales: That’s great. Is there anyone on the committee that I should reach out to, or will you be the main point of contact?

Lead: I’m the main point of contact for now, but there are five people on the committee who may want to see a demo as we move forward in the process.

Sales: We can definitely set that up in the future. In the meantime, would it be OK for us to set up a follow-up meeting on Monday?

Notice how the salesperson asks follow-up questions to get more information, but doesn’t seem pushy. That’s the way BANT should be used in a sales call.

3. Not trusting your instincts as a sales professional

When you get a lead on the phone or in a chat, it might be tempting to dive right into BANT since the earlier you use it, the more effective it is at determining whether or not a lead is worth pursuing. But BANT only works for you — it doesn’t do anything to help the lead get to know you better.

Remember to be conversational and empathetic, and then start asking BANT questions so you don’t ambush the lead or make them feel ignored.

4. Asking BANT questions out of nowhere

Keep it natural. Don’t suddenly ask your lead about their timeline for solving the issue when you’ve been talking about something else. 

This is especially true for budget-related questions, since many leads will avoid specifics if they feel uncomfortable. 

5. Not speaking to multiple people

Companies today often rely on committees or task forces to make a decision, so you may have to talk to multiple people throughout the process. Unless the lead explicitly tells you they are the point person, you should plan on reaching out to other members of the team with authority to make a decision. 

6. Avoiding deeper questions

The BANT method can be a surface-level tool if you stop at the initial questions. For example, a client may tell you they have a certain budget, but once they learn more about your service or product, they may be willing to spend more.

Keep building your relationship with the lead and keep asking follow-up questions with an empathetic ear and without being pushy. 

Going Beyond BANT

Going beyond BANT

Consider combining elements of BANT with other lead qualification frameworks to increase your odds of success.

  • Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline (GPCT): This framework focuses on learning more about a lead’s goals and plans and the specific challenges associated with meeting them. If you can identify the lead’s goals, you can tailor your pitch to how your product or service can help them overcome the challenges that stand in the way of achieving their goals. GPCT will help you show the lead how you’re a good fit for them, while BANT will help you determine if they’re a good fit for you.
  • Negative Consequences and Positive Implications (C&I): This framework involves asking questions that help your prospect determine the negative consequences of not meeting their goals and the positive implications of meeting them. This strategy can help your lead understand the value of your product or service if it helps them achieve their goal or avoid a negative consequence.

Smith.ai can help manage your BANT screening process

If you need guidance on implementing BANT sales practices or want someone to do it for you, contact Smith.ai. Our 24/7 virtual receptionists can tackle your outreach campaigns and live chats and handle your lead qualification using BANT. 

Learn more about how Smith.ai can help you by booking a no-obligation appointment with us today. You can also try our outreach campaigns for added sales support.. 

Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's VP of Marketing. Over the last 15 years, Maddy has built her expertise and reputation in small-business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, partnerships, and SEO.

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