Last updated on May 25th, 2023 at 10:31 am
Sales is both art and science; possibly more of science in today’s context. And we say that because a scientific process and methodology backed with data has the potential to exponentially improve your sales efficiency.
A critical part of this scientific process is lead qualification.
What is Lead Qualification?
Lead qualification is a process of identifying and qualifying the right prospects who are likely to buy your product or service.
In order to maximize the sales team’s productivity, marketing teams are generally entrusted with the responsibility of lead generation and qualification. They follow certain lead qualification methodologies and filter the right leads before sharing them with their colleagues in the sales department. That way, your sales team members are fed in with a pipeline of qualified prospects for them to completely focus on deal conversions. This also streamlines the sales process to a great extent and the sales team starts to work on qualifying leads instead of wasting time on unqualified leads.
To make the process successful, it is important to make sure your sales and marketing teams are completely aligned and always working in unison towards a common revenue goal.
MQL vs SQL – how are they different?
Marketing and sales teams work together to maximize the chances of a lead getting converted into a long-term customer.
As part of lead qualification, the marketing team is expected to gather a minimum set of information about the prospect, understand their pain points, and conduct a first-level qualification based on a set of qualification criteria. This filtered lead is referred to as a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).
Like in the case of a relay race, Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a baton that gets passed on from the marketing team to the sales team. This normally happens when the prospect is ready to connect and discuss further with your sales team.
This is when your sales team engages with the prospect and the MQL becomes a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). Your sales team is now expected to further nurture the lead and convert the prospect to a paying customer. As you can see, SQLs occur further down in your sales funnel when compared to MQLs.
Every business follows a unique sales cycle. The above criteria for MQL and SQL could vary based on your business. It is a good idea to brainstorm internally along with your sales and marketing team members to jointly arrive at the respective criteria.
What is the BANT lead qualification framework?
The BANT qualification framework is a well-known lead qualification framework that is adopted by many best-in-class sales organizations worldwide. BANT is an acronym for – Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline.
It is one of the most effective frameworks leveraged by sales and marketing teams for qualifying prospects. This framework, when adopted well, makes sure your sales teams are pursuing the right kind of prospects without going on a wild goose chase. They can focus their effort and time on the right leads that meet the BANT criteria, thereby maximizing sales conversion in less time.
Let us understand BANT in more detail.
As part of the BANT lead qualification process, it helps to check if the prospect has some budget in mind or if there is any budget allocated towards the purchase.
It may not be easy to ascertain the Budget early in the sales cycle. However, knowing a ballpark range can help you decide on the next steps required to nurture the prospect. It also gives you some idea of what solution could be proposed and what would be the opportunity size.
Questions that you may ask your prospects:
“What is the budget assigned for this initiative or purchase?”
“Is the budget allocated for this financial year or the next?”
“What process do you follow for budget allocation and approvals?”
Authority in the BANT framework defines the decision-making power of the prospect. It helps to ascertain the role your prospect is going to play in the buying process. While some prospects could be the actual decision-makers, some of them might be key influencers. It could also happen that you are talking to someone involved in evaluating options and then submitting their analysis report to the decision-makers.
Knowing this aspect will help you decide on how to engage with the prospect. You will also be in a better position to put together a plan to understand all the stakeholders involved in the decision-making process and the steps to engage with each one of them.
Questions that you may ask your prospects:
“What process do you follow to make a decision like this?”
“Who are the stakeholders involved and what role do they play”?
“Who is owning the budget for this initiative and at what stage will the person be involved”?
“As part of the requirement gathering exercise, who else do you think I should talk to?”
Need is one of the key factors in the sales process. Prospects generally evaluate solutions when there is a specific need and have certain pain points to address. At a high level, a need can be categorized either as Gain or Pain. They are looking for a solution either to gain something or to fix pain points or problems.
As part of the requirement gathering or need discovery exercise, it is critical to ask the right questions to the prospects. Responses to your questions can help you determine if the need is indeed a genuine one. You can also understand the importance of addressing the need, the possible solutions, the cost of not solving the need or the delay, and if you have the capability to address the need.
Normally higher budgets are allocated by companies for must-to-have solutions compared to good-to-have ones. They generally don’t look for solutions unless they have a pressing need, and a lack of which is causing any major setback in its process in terms of time or revenue. Establishing these facets will help you qualify your prospects much better.
Questions that you may ask your prospects:
“What steps have you taken in the past to meet this requirement?”
“Any specific reasons why you are trying to address this need now?”
“Which departments in your company will be impacted if this requirement is not addressed”?
“What is the business outcome you are trying to achieve with this initiative”?
“What would be the impact of not having the solution implemented”?
Timeline refers to the estimated time the prospect will take to make a decision. It is also referred to as the time required to convert the prospect into a customer. It is usually measured in terms of days or months, or quarters.
A better understanding of the urgency to address a need can help you ascertain the timeline. You should try and find out the prospect’s timeline and if he has any deadline to meet. Usually, it turns out that the requirement is not urgent when the prospect does not share a timeline or deadline that he is trying to meet. In which case, you may want to once again qualify the need.
Questions that you may ask your prospects:
“What is the timeline you have in mind to address this requirement”?
“When would you like to go live and see the impact of the solution”?
“What would be the impact of not having the solution in place soon”?
“May I know what are the other alternatives that you are considering”?
Improving BANT lead qualification framework with BANTS
While BANT Sales framework has been around for a long time, it is a good idea to extend the framework to BANTS by including one more critical parameter – solution fitment (S).
The new BANTS framework is an acronym for Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline, and Solution Fitment.
This is probably the most ignored parameter while qualifying a prospect. When prospects are evaluating a purchase decision, they are trying to select the best solution to address their needs. A prospect’s evaluation is also referred to as a cost-benefit analysis; the benefits part is of course derived through the right solution.
So even if the prospect is qualified based on all the four BANT criteria, what happens if you do not have the right optimal solution to address the need.
In these competitive times, your prospects have many options to choose from. Your ability to convert the prospect depends on the degree of solution fitment and the competitive advantage you have when compared to other alternatives.
Budget: Is the prospect’s budget known?
Authority: Are you engaged with the decision-makers?
Need: Do you have all the details about the prospect’s need?
Timeline – Do you know the prospect’s timeline for decision-making?
Solution-Fitment – Do you have the right solution to address the prospect’s need?
Lead Scoring and BANTS: multiplier effect on lead qualification
What is Lead Scoring?
Lead scoring is an effective process of assigning a numerical score to every prospect or lead. The lead scoring methodology helps your sales and marketing teams to identify and prioritize the right prospects. This in turn maximizes your sales team’s ability to quickly convert the prospects into paying customers. It allows you to take the subjectivity out of the lead qualification process and make it much more accurate.
Combining Lead Scoring with BANTS
Lead Scoring when combined with BANTS will have a multiplier effect on your lead qualification process.
During the lead discovery process, your teams should score the various attributes of BANTS. You could arrive at the final lead score based on the weighted average of all the scores across all attributes.
Subsequently, the lead gets classified as either a Hot lead, Warm lead, or Cold lead. This in turn makes it very easy for your sales reps to prioritize and decide on which prospects to go after instead of wasting time on unqualified leads.
Key benefits of lead qualification through BANTS and lead scoring
Superior Lead Qualification
A scientific lead qualification process will help you accurately identify the right prospects with a high likelihood of conversion
Improved Deal Conversions
Your sales teams can channelize all their efforts toward the most qualified prospects. This will significantly improve their ability to convert them
Higher Sales Productivity
Your sales team will not spread themselves too thin. Good lead qualification methodologies can help them prioritize and save their time
Sales reps will have more time to work on a greater number of deals and opportunities; resulting in higher revenue
Reduced Sales & Marketing Costs
Your sales and marketing team’s efforts will be well utilized. They will be able to achieve their objectives faster and better without the need for higher spends
Tighter Alignment & Collaboration Between Teams
A streamlined process will help your sales and marketing teams to be aligned. It will help them to be on the same page at all times and collaborate effectively
A better understanding of all qualification criteria will help your sales team to offer the most suitable solution to the prospect. This improves overall problem-solution fitment and your chances of converting the prospect.
Last but not least, when done well, the lead qualification process goes a long way in running a predictable and sustainable business with minimum time, energy, and resources.
Role of the right CRM for lead qualification
In today’s competitive business environment, selecting the right CRM for lead qualification can give you the necessary edge to out beat your competition. It is a strategic investment to run a predictable and sustainable business.
We would recommend you to consider a Sales CRM like HappSales that supports the BANTS framework coupled with a scientific lead scoring model. This makes the entire sales process much more accurate and impactful.
At the same time, it is critical to evaluate whether the CRM is a user-friendly and practical one that your teams find easy to deploy and use.
In this blog, we discussed the importance of lead qualification and various frameworks that can be leveraged to make the process accurate and effective.
We saw that lead qualification generally happens at two levels – one by marketing and the other by sales teams. This is generally referred to as Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). It is essential to manage both these parameters efficiently for the best sales results.
We also discussed why it is necessary to extend the BANT lead qualification framework to BANTS. This comprehensive and complete BANTS framework considers all parameters – Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline, and Solution-fitment. BANTS make the lead qualification process much more objective and realistic.
When you combine the BANTS framework with a very scientific lead scoring model, you can expect a multiplier effect. It improves the efficiency of the process significantly. It will allow you to accurately measure and classify leads to help your sales reps to prioritize their prospects and improve their deal conversion rates.
Last but not the least, our recommendation is to select the best CRM for lead qualification, like HappSales, that supports the powerful BANTS framework along with a scientific lead scoring model. And one that is easy to deploy and use by your team. That way you can be assured of a very impactful and successful transformation initiative that can significantly improve your marketing and sales performance.