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One of the classic methodologies for defining a sales qualified lead has been the BANT methodology, standing for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe. Some industries still use this definition to great effect; however, the rapid change in the global economy over the past decade has pushed the envelope and more companies are shifting to a non-BANT definition for looking at a sales qualified lead.

For example, a recent study by Sales Development Benchmark reported that around a quarter of all companies surveyed still use the BANT definition for a sales qualified lead. More companies are shifting towards looser definitions that give their sales and marketing departments more autonomy in determining who is or isn’t a sales qualified lead. This generates more opportunities for customer conversion and ultimately grows the customer base. Below are a few important points for helping companies define their sales qualified leads in the innovation age.

What is the Company’s Ideal Customer Profile?
The entire reason behind having a definition for sales qualified leads is to allow the company to decide how to partition its resources effectively. Therefore, think about the ideal customer profile as someone that the sales department should be talking to above all else. Regardless of the definition being used to highlight a sales qualified lead, this has to be an essential component. In order to define the ideal customer profile effectively, two components need to be present. The first is the type of organization the sales department should be talking to. This should define the industry that the company is targeting and the size of the potential customers within that industry. Examples might include a hospital network with an annual revenue of over $100 million or a smaller technology firm with a certain number of customers. Once the industry and size have been decided, the other component is to decide who in the company the sales department should be talking with. Many sales departments interviewed haven’t been upset with the leads they’ve been given as much as they’ve been upset with who they’re talking to. For example, a lead might be hot but it isn’t a good idea to give a sales pitch to the company’s intern. Think about who the company should be talking to in order to maximize the opportunity.

The Sales Department Must Conduct a Deep Interview with the Customer

One of the major issues with the BANT definition is that sales departments have been eager to rule out potential customers as sales qualified leads instead of doing the work to learn more about the customer and get them there. By removing the shackles of the BANT definition, companies need to view this as an opportunity to give sales departments the freedom to write their own definition in the non-BANT world; however, this autonomy also comes with the challenge of performing deeper discovery and individualizing the sales cycle to each potential customer. Figuring out where every potential customer is in this buying cycle is the challenge. A few tools that every customer will need are below:

The Call Structure: Every salesperson will need to have a general agenda for each potential discovery call.
The Attention Span: Everyone knows that the first few seconds are key. Figure out how to explain the benefits of the company and how they can help in less than 30 seconds. This will keep the customer on the line.
The Discovery Questions: The salesperson will need to tailor these discovery questions to see if the person on the other end meets the ideal customer profile.
Train Them: The sales team must be trained in these important steps before they can be given the freedom to define their leads in the non-BANT world. Once the sales team has multiple options to define their leads, the opportunities will come. The true benefit of the non-BANT structure is below.
The Total Number of Opportunities Created is Important
Giving sales departments the freedom to define their own leads with a non-BANT definition might result in a lower conversion rate. After all, the average conversion rate for BANT leads is around 70 to 90%; however, the autonomy of the non-BANT definition will create more opportunities as well. Therefore, while the conversion rate of the non-BANT definition might be lower, the overall conversion total is likely to end up higher because there are more opportunities on the table. This is the true key of the non-BANT world and why many companies should define their leads with a non-BANT definition. This kind of control for the sales and marketing departments should be beneficial to every company looking to define their sales qualified leads.

These are key recommendations that companies need to follow if they are to succeed in the modern business world. While conversion rates are hard to ignore, the bottom line is going to speak for itself.