We’re all familiar with BANT. We’re trained to listen out for a yes when questioning the fit within the budget, authority, need, and timing. But what if I told you there could be more power in prospects responding ‘no’ to your qualification questions?
Opening up Beyond BANT
I recently read Chris Voss’ book Never Split the Difference. For anybody who hasn’t gotten around to it yet, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. For any sales people out there, it is a must-read and should be put on your priority to-do list for 2020.
There were many fascinating parts of the book. But one thing that surprised me was Voss’ assertion that a ‘yes’ answer can actually be detrimental and misleading within a sales process.
He suggested that, as sales people attempt to discover the real nature of what’s happening with our customers, it is important to seek a ‘no’ answer. Voss says that the result of a ‘no’ is it opens doors to greater discovery possibilities. It uncovers exactly what is happening with the customer and gives sales teams valuable info on what and how their leads are thinking.
Simply put, a ‘no’ is more insightful than a ‘yes’.
‘No’ Is an Opportunity
Voss went so far to say that, for good negotiators, a ‘no’ provides a great opportunity to them to clarify with the other party what they really want, by eliminating what they do not want.
As salespeople, we are too often trained to seek a ‘yes’.
In qualification scenarios (like BANT) we ask questions with right and wrong answers:
- Are you the decision maker?
- Have you allocated a budget to address this business requirement?
Once we hear a yes, we think “Boom! They are qualified and we have a valid business opportunity here.”
As Voss suggests, often these ‘yes’ answers can be counterfeit. That is, it’s easier for the prospect to answer yes. If it is a typical inbound lead, they often want to either keep the conversation going to get the information they asked for — or in an outbound context, they may use a simple yes to escape from the conversation completely.
Obviously not all yeses are bad. Eventually, we need the prospect to agree to our proposal, but often it can be a false positive (especially in early stages).
If we believe what Voss is saying (and I feel that he may be onto something here), then what does this say for the nature of the qualification, where we are chasing that affirmation before moving on? Are we simply pushing to hear what we want to and not actually getting the qualified opportunities we crave?
Going Beyond Binary BANT Qualification
As a recipient of too many unqualified ‘qualified’ deals, I believe we have to be doing more to uncover the reality of the prospects we are talking to.
One aspect of this could be actually seeking out and responding to the ‘no’ answers to our qualification:
SDR: “Is this something budgeted for at the moment”
Prospect: “Not currently”
SDR: “Okay – what are the current priorities of the team?”
A negative answer can be an incredibly powerful anchor to digging deeper with the lead. You can get a more comprehensive understanding of what is actually happening and where they are heading. This will be vital in further stages in the sales process.
Here are a few ways to expand your horizons with BANT.
At the point of initial contact with your prospect, it’s unlikely that a budget has been set aside or the finance team has been properly engaged.
Therefore, it is imperative to use this opportunity to uncover how to get the budget:
AE: “Is there a defined budget that has been outlined for this project/requirement?
Prospect: “Not really, this is only in research/discovery stage”
AE: “I understand. Can you outline what the process for budget approval has been when you have bought in the past? Will we likely have to follow a similar flow?
In the event that your champion doesn’t know the process, this will be a good chance to educate them on how to buy.
This is not assumed; most likely, you will know more about how to buy than the person at the other end of the phone. You must be prepared to walk them through this process. Taking the time will almost surely have the biggest payoff of inside sales.
Authority / Need
In SaaS purchasing, the new reality is that there are several decision makers and stakeholders.
In fact, TrustRadius found that 50 percent of tech buyers will never actually talk to you.
‘Authority’ questions need to be based around who the decision makers are and how you can map them. It is no longer:
“Are you the decision maker in getting this over the line?”
“Who are the various stakeholders and how can we create a collaborative plan to engage all of them in the process?”
If you want to frame this to get as much information as possible, go for this:
AE: Are you the only person who will be deciding on which vendor to go with?
Prospect: No, I will have to run this past manager and compliance/finance will have to approve as well.
AE: Have you engaged them in this conversation yet? If not, can we schedule a timetable and process on how to include them in the conversation?
Similarly, the ‘need’ element is most likely felt most acutely from one business unit where the champion sits.
However, since there are other stakeholders from separate business units involved (who each have conflicting priorities), the makeup will present unique challenges to the deal along the way.
You should map each of these business unit’s unique interests in procuring your product to accurately understand the viability of this opportunity:
AE: How does this challenge align to the business objectives for the coming year? Have you already aligned this requirement to other business units and their priorities?
Prospect: Not yet.
AE: Well this is certainly something to consider as it will be important when requesting business objectives and requirements. Have you considered this way of mapping it to each stakeholder to maximize impact? Can I help you with that?
This kind of in-depth questioning will provide both opportunities to explore the intricacies of the customer as a whole — and show them how to make the purchase happen, when necessary.
The expected buying timeline of the prospect is a vital, yet often drastically under-addressed, the dimension of the deal. It’s critical to report accurately in forecasting within your CRM.
Part of the challenge, however, is when the initial timeline and expectations for how long it takes an organization to transact are wildly off.
Therefore, it is your responsibility to understand whether prospects can fairly estimate how long it takes them to complete each of these stages. If you can acquire this information, you will be considerably more likely to reflect the correct stages within your pipeline:
AE: Are there any urgent requirements or compelling events forcing you to complete this within a certain timeframe?
If the prospect answers ‘no’, you’ll know you need to go back and sell on value. Or, if the prospect answers ‘yes’, you can speak directly to their more urgent objectives.
BANT Isn’t Dead — It’s Just Evolving
Plenty of sales experts and thought leaders claim that BANT is dead. Run a quick Google search and you’ll see what I mean.
Many believe that the sales approach doesn’t accurately address the complexity of the modern buying landscape. Despite its age, I believe that BANT still has relevance to the sales process. At its core, BANT outlines the fundamentals of opportunity.
It simply needs adapting. Or we need adapting. Changing up the way we ask the questions behind BANT will drastically shift the results, revealing the real truth and real qualification. Seek a ‘no’ and you’ll uncover a whole new reality.