The way B2B companies qualify leads is based on what we want, rather than letting our buyers guide us. Case in point > BANT. The only component in the four components of budget, authority, need, and timing that’s buyer-driven is need. And I’d wager that if you look at the way your company applies BANT, need has an inside-out focus.
Given that 94% of B2B Buyers say they are very well informed or somewhat informed before they talk to a sales rep, there’s a lot of opportunity for marketers to help buyers self-qualify as ¾ of them push off engaging with sales until the end of their change process.
There’s also been a lot of talk and research showing that B2B marketers intend to make lead quality a higher priority than lead quantity. Finally!
What if we flipped the script from what we want to a focus on Buyer-Driven Qualification?
The Case to Banish BANT
First, let’s look at why BANT is ineffective. BANT is for sellers. There’s only one of four components that marketers can weigh in on. Need. Sort of.
As B2B buyers change and evolve, we need a qualification method that matches their role in the buying process—as the driver. And, with buyers preferring self-reliance and digital experiences over direct vendor interactions, marketers have an expansive opportunity to help buyers self-qualify.
Here’s why BANT is no longer relevant for today’s buyers:
Budget: Years ago, budgets were pre-planned and pretty much held firm. Today, change is rampant which makes budgets a moving target. Recent research found that buyers are having increasing difficulty making purchasing decisions because budgets get put on hold (46%), reprioritization happens (43%), budgets get cut (36%), and decision criteria change (36%).
In many of the persona interviews I’ve done over the last few years, many buying decisions had no pre-existing, approved budget. The buyer had to find the money, or give up some other line item, to solve an unforeseen problem. At the pace of change today, is qualifying based on budget relevant?
Authority: I talk to a ton of my client’s customers. Most of the time, those you’d consider decision makers rely on their teams to find and evaluate solutions and make recommendations. Do you think the team will do that if they’re not treated like VIPs by the vendors they consider? Is having the authority to make the buying decision keeping you from opportunities you could otherwise win by making the cut?
Need: This one is still valid. But the way we define it is more like, the company could use our stuff because they fit in the parameters of our ICP. Hmm. Vendor-focused. In most cases, our definition of need doesn’t truly home in on the buyer, but rather our evaluation of who could be a buyer if the stars align.
Timing: This component goes to our focus on our concern about “making our numbers.” We need to make quota for the month, quarter, or year. But we don’t control when buyers will have all their jobs ticked off to make that buying decision. So why not focus on things that will help buyers advance instead of trying to force them into deciding based on our timeline?
The other thing to realize about BANT is that we no longer need to qualify based on budget, authority, and timing. Buyers will disqualify themselves if we make the right content and information available.
Think about product-led growth (PLG). It’s making inroads as a strategy for SaaS and is reliant on users driving the buying decision up the chain to authority for divisional or company-wide purchase. Then there’s ABM/X focusing on the whole account, not just the authority. Kind of makes the case that BANT is obsolete, don’t you think?
PVEC – A Buyer-Driven Qualification Structure
Now, let’s look at four components to replace BANT with what I’ve called PVEC as representative of a switch to Buyer-Driven Qualification.
Yes, I know. It rolls off the tongue like so many other acronyms…
PVEC > Problem, Value, Engagement, Change
Understand the Problem:
There are levels of depth to problems. Does your buyer understand the root cause of the problem? Or are they still at surface level which could indicate only a surface-level interest more suited to a workaround than a solution? What indications have they given through their behavior that they’re doing a deeper dive?
It’s important to consider the problem definition and understanding based on the members of the buying committee. They can differ…substantially. This is what well-built personas bring to the table. As they say, perception is everything.
It’s also interesting to note if their focus is solely on product information vs. information about outcomes. This either indicates they’ve learned about the problem elsewhere or they haven’t grasped the true potential and commitment necessary on the path from problem to solution. It’s worth considering, as the former could mean you’re fulfilling an RFP requirement rather than first choice.
Grasp the whole Value:
Your buyers care about outcomes before they care about features. For instance:
- What outcomes are most important to them?
- Does your solution excel at providing those?
- Do they see the potential achievements possible with the problem solved?
- How do your buyers (buying committee members) perceive value? Is that different for your end users? (Hint: probably)
Value is both qualitative and quantitative. There’s value in the quality of experiences with you, the level of trust they assign you, the unique point of view you share. There’s also value in the business case and being able to quantify whatever your product promises to help them achieve.
It’s important to understand the weighting. For example, I’ve spoken to customers of clients who said the solutions considered were similar, but the relationship established with my client was more valuable to them than the one they’d established with a competitor. Emotion plays a key role here.
Is your buyer engaging with your content proactively, or only when you prompt them via email, social media, or targeted advertising? The ability to catch their attention with outreach is a plus, but if that’s the only time they engage, are they merely interested in the topic rather than intent on solving the problem?
And how much of the buying committee is showing interest? Just one person from the account, or is a group forming? Numerous opens and clicks on an email can indicate the main contact may be sharing information with colleagues who remain anonymous…for now.
Commitment to Change: Your buyer can have the worst problem in the world, but if they’re unwilling to change, there’s no sale happening. This is the component that’s most reliant on sellers to determine.
Marketing can still help, but it’s up to sales to determine the strength of the buyer’s commitment. It’s important to realize that consensus also figures into willingness to change. For if there’s no consensus across the buying committee in favor of change, the deal is likely to stall.
Reducing the perception of risk for buyers is one way to help increase willingness to change. This includes exposing obstacles they may have to overcome, helping them prepare for what could go wrong to avoid it, providing assurance of support and shared goals, and more.
Hank Barnes said it recently, “The one thing you want to know about your prospects is the organizational attitude toward change.” He suggests, “Perhaps it is time for the vendor community to take more ownership of change management for your customers.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Buyer-Driven Qualification is the Way Forward
The seller-driven approach isn’t working. Buyers are telling us that with their actions—and in the research. Change is hard. For both us and them. But that should be motivating as an imperative for change. They’re changing the way they prefer to buy. We need to change the way we market and sell to align with our buyers’ preferences.
And because buying is becoming more of a self-driven experience, buyer qualification must fall to both marketing and sales. Marketers with a solid content marketing strategy have an opportunity to carry more of the weight by orchestrating buyer-driven experiences that do the heavy lifting.
So, my take is to ditch BANT and go with PVEC: problem, value, engagement, change.
If anyone has a better acronym, I’m open. But from what I’m seeing and hearing from both buyers and sellers, the components are more meaningful than what’s been used in the past. And, do we really need another acronym?