Summary of 4-min read:
- Try our free VAMP framework. Work on collaborative projects with clients in a generative, two-way fashion. Sense externally-driven tensions. Share these insights with your marketing team and partners.
- Drop BANT unless you are a robot, commodity or an ABM Marketer. If your B2B reps are looking for singular authority it could be costing you potential partners.
- Steal our stuff and let us know how it goes!
A few years ago I was shopping for an enterprise marketing automation system for my firm. I immediately dropped one vendor from the running for (ironically) screening me first. What I thought was an intro/demo was actually just a meeting the seller used to qualify me as a buyer. He didn’t answer any of my technical or price questions, he just “approved” us and booked me with his colleague for the actual demo two weeks later. Not only was my time unimportant to this company, (example: his questions could have been answered with a little digging on LinkedIn), but I wondered how bloated this vendor must be and how little the customer experience mattered to them.
As a 15-year marketer, I’ve enjoyed seeing the internet gobble up mundane sales activities. Up to 57% of B2B purchase decisions now happen online. This is why account based marketing is critical: to influence that 57%. It’s also why insight selling has emerged to pick up after the “growth hackers” to collaborate on the final sale. But while technology and information are catching up, sales qualification is still stuck in the past.
Of the 30% of companies using a sales process, most of their reps rely on the now 50-year-old BANT framework to “qualify” a lead. This is the method that the marketing automation guy used on me. While it met his agenda, it did nothing for me as the buyer, so it in fact took away from the experience of both. Not to mention a possible deal for the sales guy, with whom I never spoke.
Developed by IBM, the BANT screening tool captures Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing. It’s simple, and I like that sales people are said to have developed it. But like Hubspot and others, I don’t see BANT supporting the new way buyers buy.
Check out the table above. BANT really works best in the lower left quadrant, where commodities (and robots) rule. Yet B2B companies with high touch, low speed, and complexity (upper right quadrant) really need something different. Let’s break it down:
#1 Budget comes first, validating most people’s suspicion that sales people are greedy. This is a good first question to offend buyers. If a buyer knows what she wants to spend, then we also have to assume the company already knows what they want. This isn’t always the situation. Often the rep needs to help the client look at the challenge from another perspective to understand it.
#2 Authority implies a single, sovereign ruler. Yet research company CEB and Brent Adamson report that purchase decisions take 5.4 colleagues on average today. Instead we advocate that sales people understand who are the decision-maker’s influencers. Each has a unique perspective and way of listening.
#3 Tony Robbins says “People don’t buy what they Need they buy what they want.” Buying what you need implies you’re solving a problem. Buying what you want leaves room for a vision, or a dream. There is greater chance of commitment and less risk of purchase regret when we buy what we want. Instead we advocate understanding a buyer’s current state, desired future state, and what is at stake.
#4 Timing is everything, and it is often arbitrary. Bill Gates said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” When you use timing for pipeline or operational planning, your biggest risks are laziness and fabrication. Modern scale-ups can tolerate neither behavior.
Other versions of this anachronistic tool show up like:
- ChAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization). I love the challenges and priorities part.
- FAINT (Funds, Authority, Interest, Need, Timing). This looks like repackaged BANT.
- GPCTBA/C&I (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline/Budget & Authority/Negative Consequences and Positive Implications). I give Hubspot an A+ for effort on this one, but it seems more like kitchen-sink sales academia than an actual tool a person can use in a meeting. If we could remember it, this could have been helpful.
So you already know I don’t like a lopsided process that serves only the seller. My biggest gripe is that none of these methods inspires creativity. Training new or young sales people on BANT really just sets them up to be “pushy”.
In response, The Scale-Up Group built a growth tool called VAMP for front line staff. It captures Vex-Vision, Alignment, Mobilizers, and Plan. VAMP supports buyer and seller, and it inspires a creative mindset.
VAMP offers side benefits for lean, scrum, agile, self-managing, and Holacracypractitioners. The Alignment element reinforces consistency of purpose with the customer. Using VAMP illuminates common external tensions. Over time, teams develop product insights from the patterns that emerge.
Here is a simple recipe, add your own flavor:
- (V) Vex + Vision. When we buy (or commit), we move from point A (vex) to point B (vision). The cycle speed depends on the degree of investment and impact. Buying lunch or a space rocket goes through the same cycle, but with different stakes. When two parties are in sync on these elements, they can do anything. Leave one out, and both parties go nowhere. Note: vex-oriented deals are more price conscious; vision-oriented ones have longer sales cycles.
- (A) Alignment. This is the connection between your solution and your buyer’s Vex/Vision. It’s also whatever shared purpose you have in whatever it is you do. The goal is to create as much overlap as possible to build a beneficial partnership.
- (M) Mobilizers. CEB uses the term to highlight the fact that internal sellers must coordinate 5.4 internal stakeholders. Find, educate, and outfit these mobilizers. This empowers your customer to deal with blockers and manage stakeholder expectations.
- (P) Plan. The good news is that a plan is a starting point. Rather than having all steps, focus on the fewest critical steps to launch the journey. Consider timeline, project, budget, and who is supporting it. “When are we talking next steps and how do we know we’re successful?”
“You can’t find Mobilizers on an org chart. They’re not the VP of this or the senior director of that. Role and title don’t matter. They’re individuals who mobilize irrespective of the org chart, not because of it.” – Brent Adamson (Author, The Challenger Customer)