Homer’s Odyssey, Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Raphael’s Madonna — some things will always remain fresh and enlightening. These are classics that are beyond time. But most things… well, let’s be frank, nothing’s better than a seasonable retirement. Unfortunately, it’s not the case for BANT — sales lead qualification methodology that has been used for over 60 years now.

Though sales professionals introduced multiple alternatives to Budget-Authority-Need-Timing formula, it is still widely propagated and applied by many sales organizations. But, not  CIENCE.

Our sales department uses a completely different methodology that is based on a buyer-centric approach. We’ll describe it in great detail in the last section of in this article. But for now, we’ll start with the history of BANT and explain why it isn’t efficient in 2019 as opposed to 1950s.

In the present article, you’ll learn.

  1. What’s BANT?
    • Prehistory
    • The breakdown of BANT
    • BANT – the end of the era
  2. Other lead qualification methodologies
  3. In case you don’t know what lead qualification methodology is
  4. Meet NOTE – the up-to-date qualifying tool

What's BANT?

BANT is a lead qualification methodology used by salespeople during the discovery stage to determine the probability of closing deal with the prospect. BANT offered four criteria that helped reps to figure out whether they were talking to the right person from the right company. The key goal of BANT was to save time for sales.

709 Data Processing System created by IBM in 1957 – Courtesy of IBM

The history behind BANT:

Developed by IBM in the 1950s–the pre-transistor time when computers weighed several thousand pounds and cost as much as a country house (but were practically a room-sized calculator) — BANT was a breakthrough in sales (just like the vacuum tubes and FORTRAN computer technologies of the time).

The IT giant of the 20th century never mentioned how they invented BANT. However, a study of IBM’s history can give us some understanding of the driving forces behind the creation of the oldest known sales qualification method.

The 1950s were marked with the onset of the Cold War and the Post World War Economic Boom that lasted for about 25 years. Many nations enjoyed an increase in their GDP, and the United States were the global leaders. Practically, this meant two things: 1) A boost of business activities on the one hand, and 2) A technological race on the other hand — the perfect soil for an IT corporation to succeed.

A typical ad from the 1950s consumerism era–replayed by Eli Rezkallah.

Not all computer technology pioneers survived the tough competition though. Needless to say, IBM did. In just one decade, the company became the IT icon that was keeping its undisputable leadership until the 1990s. And BANT was among many tools that helped its creators to hit Fortune 500.

By the beginning of rock’n’roll’s golden age, IBM had been steadily growing since 1915 managing to increase both their income and number of employees year after year even during the Great Depression — much due to the management and new sales methodologies of Thomas J. Watson Sr., company’s then-CEO.

WWII was the time when IBM prospered working for the military needs of the Allies and tripling their gross income in just 5 years. They contributed to the production of weapons (Norden bombsights, Browning Automatic Rifle, and the M1 Carbine), growing their manufacturing capacities significantly. Simultaneously, IBM continued research, development, and production of computing machines for the US government, e.g. for the Manhatten Project.

The 1950s was an amazing time of economic prosperity

In 1950, International Business Machines was a multinational corporation with 30K+ employees and a gross income of $266M. The post-war era, however, put the new challenges and opportunities on the table forcing IBM to adapt.

On the one hand, the technology race of the Cold War enabled them to continue the partnership with the government and fostered the development of computer technologies.

On the other hand, the demand for weapons decreased significantly. And though IBM participated in the production of rifles, carbines, and bombsights during WWII, they had never been weapon developers, and thus couldn’t compete with other market players (or didn’t want to?).

Similar to the Atlases, IBM faced the antimonopoly decree in 1956 but unlike them withstood the strike

Having lost the weapon production deals, IBM had to make up for the reduction of the sales/revenues and to look for new sources of income. The selling of time recording machines, tabulating equipment and typewriters — IBM’s major pre-war product–couldn’t provide similar revenues. However, the computers could–especially if purchased by a large number of customers.

In the early 1950s Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation marketed the first commercial computer UNIVAC I (sold predominantly to state agencies). The machine became famous after it predicted the victory of Eisenhower in the 1952 Presidential election.

8% of IBM’s revenue in 1958 came from the sales of electric typewriters

IBM caught up with a competitor. They presented their first commercial computer IBM 701 in 1952 (just one year later after EMCC). According to IBM’s FAQ, the company made a list of 20 entities who could buy or rent the machine at $12K per month. They won 18 deals in contrast to 5 deals that T.Watson Jr. had initially expected.

“It was not the type of thing that could be sold from place to place”

T.Watson Jr. comment on IBM 701 sales

Probably the success of this sale gave IBM the confidence in their next step – the introduction of the world’s first mass-produced computer, IBM 650. Though the rental cost was almost three times as low ($3,200), it was still pricey equipment that few organizations in the US could afford — there were 2,000 IBM 650 produced in total.

The computer pioneers also adapted a sales-heavy playbook to sell machines. BANT was created in the era of economic prosperity and growth when individuals at companies could spend large budgets on high-tech equipment without a second thought. It was the time when resources seemed undepletable. And all you had to do to close a million-dollar deal was to find a firm with big enough revenues.

BANT was pretty much the reflection of that amazing era. It was introduced as a method to quickly identify and validate opportunity during a conversation with a potential client. In other words, it helped to filter out the companies that didn’t have money, as well as the wrong titles within these firms. It’s worth pointing out that BANT heavily favors the seller, as the methodology is first seeking to weed out those without budget or authority to buy products.

It should also be pointed out that perhaps the greatest business-to-business marketing slogan of all time was coined by IBM at the time, too:

Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM

The breakdown of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt packed into this phrase is an evil genius. Buy us or risk losing your job is perfectly consistent with a seller-focused sales strategy that seeks to deem true those who are worthy of buying IBM products.

All the data about the history of IBM has been collected from Wikipedia and IBM Archives.

Breakdown of BANT

BANT was one of the first lead qualification methodologies. It’s still very popular because it’s laconic (only 4 criteria), easy to spell and to remember. Each of its components is important. And if your prospect doesn’t meet them, you can’t sell.

Needless to say, that the very first criterion in BANT was Budget. For a rep who was selling machines at the price of a house, this was the key question. 

Can your company spend $500,000 ($4.66 million as of 2019) to buy IBM 650? If you don’t have enough money there’s no point in further conversation. You can’t get $4M+ overnight. Next, please.” We expect conversations went something like this, likely in a more polite way.

Computers IBM was selling back in the 1950s can probably be compared to SpaceX project — should Elon Musk offer other companies to send their product to orbit for promotional purposes; or hopefully in the near future for a local Moonbase. Obviously, there are few organizations that can afford such a spectacular product promotion or delivery. However, what’s more important, among them, there are even fewer corporations to have a need here.

The image of Official SpaceX Photos on Flickr was used

The second criterion was Authority. It was crucial to know if the prospect had enough power within a company to buy a machine at such a high price. Authority is potentially the most aggressive question most sellers can ask, and often leads to false positives — who willingly admits they really have little command over decisions within a company??? The inconsistency with ego and face-saving dynamics of any sales interaction make this quite a flawed part of the methodology on its face.

“N” was for Need. If a company didn’t have a necessity in computing equipment, there was no way they would buy. Need is a universal criterion and actually quite favorable to the buyer, despite the earlier two questions in the methodology which may prevent need from discovery. After all — from a seller-centric point of view… If you do not have the budget to purchase our product, it doesn’t matter what your needs are.  

And last but not least was the Timing criterion. How soon can you buy from us? The technology developed rapidly (the vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors in just 10 years) and the installation of a computer took time. It was important to move quickly.

BANT — the end of an era

IBM net income had been growing steadily for many decades. However, the world is changing. The last decade has been hard for the company. Its revenues and net income have been steadily declining since 2011.

Robert X. Cringely thinks that the key IBM’s problem is with the sales process:

“As a sales operation, IBM continually asks itself what can I sell, how much can I sell, how much can I charge, and how much commission can I earn? This fixation on commissions more than anything limits IBM’s ability to change and evolve.”

BANT has the same fixation on money over anything else in selling products. In his article, Cringely says it was ok to have expensive sales process back in the 20th century (because companies needed IBM’s products). However, today technologies have become cheaper and there are more players in market. Old methods don’t work.

Computer technologies had a tremendous impact on the sales process

Furthermore, the sales process has been revolutionized in the 2000s, becoming more customer-oriented and value driven. Access to information has empowered buyers. Nowadays they have control over the buying process unimaginable in the 1950s (although with the control comes responsibility and thus the burden of decision-making).

Modern B2B buyers want:

  • to be knowledgeable
  • to bring value to their companies
  • to make the right purchasing decisions
  • to be treated as knowledgeable and valuable people
  • not to be used (or abused) by sellers

Taking into account these desires, the budget-obsessed sales process can’t win. If you doubt our words, think about these three situations:

  • The first question you hear from a seller in a shop is, “Do you have money for our products?” 
  • Imagine you want to buy a house with your partner and a salesperson asks you which one if you enough authority to make the decision on the purchase.
  • Imagine you choose between several products and hear: “So, how much time does it take you to buy something?”

The questions about the Budget, Authority or Time don’t seem polite when it comes to B2C. They aren’t customer-centric. They are even rude. So, why are the same questions considered normal in a B2B sales conversation?

B2C sales have enjoyed a more intense development regarding the technologies and methods

Somehow, the B2B sales process adapts at a slower pace than B2C. Because the sales process is much longer, more complex and has 5+ decision-makers involved on average, it takes more time to understand where the problem is. At times there are multiple issues contributing to the downward trend. For example, according to Cringley, IBM had also problems with customer retention, price-quality ratios, and a reluctance to cut on the sales process.

Large and old enterprises like IBM usually have established procedures that are treated as a golden standard– few people dare question them. They are more rigid in estimating their own methodologies. Training is thorough and all-encompassing. Furthermore, sales organizations in such companies are big and thus there could be significant opposition to changes.

Watch IBM brand value rise to top 2 in 2010 and its maximum ($78736M) in 2014 and then falling dramatically in value ($42984M) and ranking (top 12) by the end of 2018:

 

As a result, any reforms will be hard to implement. And giants like IBM have accumulated vast amounts of money over the period of their existence, so they’re slower to collapse. On the other hand, there’s significant trust and brand equity behind such companies that help sales teams win (though it won’t last forever).

As concerns smaller and younger companies, many of them look up to the experts in the field and replicate decades-old success. That’s how we still get the articles and opinions supporting seller-comes-first lead qualification methodologies in 2019 and will probably see more in the upcoming years.

Other lead qualification methodologies

In this section of the article, we’ll shortly review some of the lead qualification methodologies that are used in modern sales. They predominantly serve sellers rather than buyers and focus on such things as the capability of a buyer to make a purchase, the power of a particular person within a company to make a buying decision and some other aspects that will help a seller close a deal.

1. ChAMP

It’s pretty much the BANT, but with different naming and order of the ingredients.

  • Challenges (or need) – problems that a prospect has and that can be solved with the seller’s product
  • Authority – am I contacting the right person?
  • Money (or budget) – do you have $$ for my product?
  • Prioritization (time) – how urgent the challenge is?

ChAMP is better than BANT because it puts the need (or the challenge) in the first place. There can be no discussion if your prospect doesn’t have the pain point you can solve. It’s better to stop right there and never waste the time. We also like the challenge criterion because it’s buyer-centric, rather than seller-focused.

2. ANUM

This qualification methodology is pretty similar to CHAMP and BANT, but the order of the criteria is different. ANUM puts Authority above all. This makes sense because if you don’t speak to the right person, there’s little chance you can sell anything.

  • Authority
  • Need
  • Urgency
  • Money

3. FAINT

FAINT stands for:

  • Funds
  • Authority
  • Interest
  • Need
  • Timelines

It’s interesting that Funds aren’t equal to Budget. The creators of FAINT (RAIN Group) emphasized that many purchases are made despite the lack of set budget, prior. They argued that if sales reps were able to explain the value of the purchase,  buyers could find the necessary amount of money for your product. So the basic advice was:

Sell where the money is.

4. MEDDIC

The abbreviation means:

  • Metrics – what are the result of the solution implementation?
  • Economic Buyer = Authority
  • Decision Criteria 
  • Decision Process
  • Identify Pain = Need/Challenge
  • Champion – a person who experiences the problem you can solve and thus will promote your product in the company.

We really like the naming – medics save people’s lives. On the other hand, it’s confusing. The key idea behind BANT was that it could also serve as a reference sheet–one look at the letter N and you recall that it’s about the need (easy to remember). One look at “D” in MEDDIC and… what’s that? What’s the difference between the first and the second “D”? “I” stands for pain in reality and is probably used to make the term sound nice.

We really like the Metrics part. It shows the economic outcomes of your cooperation (but it shouldn’t really come before the pain points). Defining a champion or champions is also important. As concerns Decision Criteria and Decision Process, they are an important part of sales but they aren’t qualification criteria in essence.

Here’s an example. If a company doesn’t have a need in your product, you simply stop negotiations and cross them out of your list. But what if they have a pain point you can solve, but don’t have an established process or their process is too bureaucratic? Will you abandon them for this very reason?

5. GPCTBA/C&I

Offered by Peter Caputa, this somewhat cumbersome “formula” stands for:

  • Goals
  • Plans
  • Challenges
  • Timeline
  • Budget
  • Authority
  • Negative Consequences
  • Positive Implications

Cons: It’s unpronounceable and thus hard to remember. It’s also long and thus tiresome for both a seller and a potential buyer. We believe the sales process should be as easy as possible. Goals, Plans, and Challenges aren’t really the qualifying methods, because they don’t help sort out the prospects. TBA is pretty much similar with BANT here.

Pros: We like the CI part a lot. Consequences and Implications can help leads understand whether the product/service is worth purchasing. If negative Cs aren’t severe enough and Is aren’t fairly beneficial/profitable, the prospect won’t convert into a buyer.

6. NEAT

NEAT stands for:

  • Need
  • Economic Impact
  • Access to Authority
  • Timeline

What we really like about this qualification criteria is the fact that they put Need and Economic Impact (which is pretty much similar to the Positive Implications of GPCTBA/C&I) above all.

Summary

In case you don't know what lead qualification methodology is...

“No decision” is probably a salesperson’s worst nightmare. Left in limbo, the opportunity is still heavily weighing somewhere in the back of your mind – “I’m here, but you can’t win me.” You might be high on ambiguity scale, yet, let’s be frank: you want to get everything to completion, especially when it comes to your deals. There’s little place for “perhaps” in business.

So, why are buyers hesitating? The B2B sales process has become longer, with more decision-makers involved, and higher stakes–including personal ones: professional reputation, career growth and respect from colleagues. Everyone on the buying team wants to be sure that they’re making the right decision.

And as a salesperson that should be your ultimate goal too — get to a decision!

Here’s a couple of thoughts — what comes of a bad fit buyer? An unsatisfied customer with huge buying remorse and the failure of your customer success or account management team. There’s no chance your company can help such clients obtain their business goals for a single reason: they aren’t a good match for you. Eventually, it can undermine the confidence of your colleagues and impact your company’s reputation — your marketing team will spend countless hours trying to fix the damage.

On the contrary, your company can provide a much better service to a good fit buyer, impacting retention, resale, and account expansion — more bonuses for you, as a salesperson! Summing up:

Your ultimate goal is not to sell but to find organizations which can benefit the most from being your customers.

And the present blog post will explain how to achieve it.

As we said above, the ultimate goal of modern sales is to find a perfectly matching and preferably long-term business partner. A sales process that would attain this goal is based on the comprehensive studying of potential buyers and comparing them to a set of criteria. This process is mutual as buyers also study sellers.

At each stage of this “getting-to-know-each-other” process, some companies of the general pool will be inevitably eliminated (while others will be stagnating as in case of no decision deals from the beginning of this article). Elimination is great for it saves your most valuable sources — time and effort.

Ideal Customer Profile used in the very beginning of the sales process is a great example of the elimination criteria set. Lead Generation process that comprises of Sales Research and Multi-Channel Outreach (via email/phone/social networks) is the first step that help sort out the bad-fit companies.

Lead Qualification Methodology

When it first emerged Lead Qualification Methodology (LQM) was to help sellers quickly sort out the number of potential buyers and pick the most prospective ones (see the history of BANT above). The very first LQM (and many others that followed) set a number of criteria that helped define good-fit and bad-fit prospects.

Sellers used to rule the process

Goals of the seller-centric Lead Qualification Methodology:

  1. Save time and energy for a seller
  2. Identify the leads that will most likely make a purchase
  3. Sort out the leads that aren’t capable of making a purchase (i.e. don’t have enough money, aren’t interested)
  4. Sort out the non-decision-making titles from the process
  5. Understand how soon the purchase can be made

Lead Qualification Methodologies are usually applied by sales managers during the Discovery stage of the Sales Process. As a rule of thumb, it’s the first appointment of a seller and a potential buyer. A demonstration can be a part of this stage.

These methodologies served sellers exclusively and worked well in the pre-Internet era, where buyers lacked access to information. However, with the rise of the digital era, the decision-makers became increasingly well-informed. Reluctantly, but inevitably, sales teams had to change their ways in the face of the power balance shift.

Empowered buyers are the new reality of modern sales

Today, the impact of a bad purchase decision became more significant for both a buyer and a seller. In the world of ratings and reviews accessed via any Internet-connected device, providing products/services to a bad-fit company is as damaging to a reputation as failing to fulfill obligations.

Sales Process needs to make sure that only good fits make it to the closing finish line (or should we rather say that it’s an only a quarter pole of successful cooperation?). That’s why during the discovery stage sellers should try to ask as many questions as possible and to listen to the buyers.

And to that end, they need to come up with a new LQM — the one that entirely serves the buyer and facilitates the decision-making process.

Old LQM can’t drive your sales anymore

Buyer-centrism

Goals of the buyer-centric Lead Qualification Methodology:

  1. Save time and resources for both a buyer and a seller
  2. For Sellers: Identify the buyers that can benefit from their product/service and sort out those that can’t
  3. Help Buyers make the informed decision that is based on knowledge
  4. For Buyers: Evaluate the seller as well as the benefits and impact of purchase
  5. For both parties to decide whether to move on to the next stage of the sales process or to end it.

And ultimately — regardless this particular prospect turns into a customer or not–

Any potential buyer should leave a sales meeting feeling that they’ve become more enlightened

Besides making the world better, you have a great chance to get a good reference.

To achieve the goals of the buyer-centric methodology, a seller should complete the following tasks:

  • Learn as much as possible about the buyer’s business, pain points, and needs — to ask as many open questions as possible
  • Help buyers understand if they have a need in a certain product/service
  • Aid buyers estimate if the product/service can impact their business enough to justify the purchase
  • For both seller and buyer — to discuss the possible ways of solution implementation in order to evaluate if the terms are mutually beneficial.

So where’s the selling part in this buyer-centric methodology?

At this stage, the seller should pretty much act as a psychologist. Often enough, buyers come to a meeting with a certain level of an internal entropy. And it’s a salesperson’s task to structure their knowledge and motivate them to make a reasonable decision (regardless if it’s favorable or not).

As a Sales Manager or an Account Executive, you possess information about your product/service and experience in implementing your solutions with different clients. By learning more about your potential buyer’s company, you can give valuable insights into how your firm can help them.

Meet NOTE - the qualifying tool

NOTE was first introduced by Sean Burke, then CEO of KiteDesk. Our sales team successfully adopted it as a part of CIENCE sales process and we’ve been applying it since then. If you had the discovery call with any of our Regional Sales Managers, chances are high you experienced NOTE in action.

Sean Burke created NOTE as an alternative to BANT, CHAMP and other qualification methodologies during the discovery calls. He didn’t like their seller-centric approach. In the era of buyer-centrism, sales managers needed a tool that helped them build more efficient business-to-business communication.

A buyer-centric sales process is always driven by value a seller can bring to the customer

N is for Need

Every sale is an act of giving up your money in exchange for some material or nonmaterial good. Simultaneously, there’s the strong drive to preserve money (or anything that belongs to you or your company). It’s just the part of human nature.

Naturally, there should be a hell good reason to make a purchase. And when it comes to B2B that reason is a business need. Need is different from a pain point of which SDRs talk at the engagement stage of the sales process.

A pain point in its essence is the feeling of depletion (e.g., hunger) or redundancy (e.g., high temperature) of something in your life. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to do something about it.

Need, on the other hand, is the understanding that you should act, the motivation. You can either fill the gap (e.g., when you eat) or remove the bad stimuli (e.g., when you treat a disease or remove the nail). When it comes to the complex solutions in B2B it can be both.

Here’s an example of pain points and needs of CIENCE clients:

Similar to the pain points (and the “nailed” howling dog in the video), not all the needs are realized. Not everyone understands what should or could be done to solve a problem. Prospects are driven to the Discovery stage by the pain points they discussed with SDRs.

Now it’s your Sales Manager turn to elaborate those pain points and turn them into particular calls to action, i.e. NEED.

Let’s take a Catering case (because the food is something everyone understands):

Pain points can be:

  • Fear of losing the best talents to competitors with more lucrative offers
  • Feeling that people would be better with free snacks
  • Concerns about the health of the staff
  • Food inequality that can cause unhealthy atmosphere in the team
  • The lack of contacts between different people in different departments
  • People are often late for work due to the lack of cafes or restaurants in the neighborhood (or the lack of vegetarian food)

Needs are:

  • Provide your talents with tasty meals that will be a part of your corporate culture
  • Contribute to preventive healthcare by healthy nutrition
  • Bring people from different departments in one (food) area and promote communication
  • Solve the infrastructure problem
  • Help vegetarians access the food they eat
  • Retain more good employees
The art of conversation is the No1 skill for sales
To master the Need stage, you should:

1. Learn to distinguish Pain Points (feeling that something’s wrong) and Needs (knowing what should be done about the wrong).
2. Help your potential clients process their Pain Points into perceived Needs by means of open questions and education.

This second part might be addressed in the following way:

  1. Ask your potential client about their problems
  2. Listen attentively
  3. Share your vision on how to solve problems

Tips:

  • It’s more preferable to use open questions because you give a person a chance to speak (rather than answer yes or no).
  • When a person speaks, you might empower your communication by giving him/her support:
    • nod
    • use supporting phrases: “yes,” “I understand,” or “many companies have a similar problem.”
  • You can also ask clarifying questions.
  • Also, there’s a quoting technique when you repeat what your client said before (obviously there’s no need to repeat the whole speech, but you can pick the phrase or sentence that sums up what’s been said).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask/talk about emotions. Even though we’re in the B2B sales process, they can be powerful drivers for realizing the need and wanting to actually change something. If all sales managers found it extremely pleasant to do outbound prospecting on a daily basis an important part of our services would be unnecessary.
  • Finally, you can rephrase what’s been said by your potential buyer in order to increase the emotional effect or to provide a new perspective at a situation.

These techniques can be found in many books dedicated to counseling (we used Ivey et al. Counselling and Psychotherapy).

Here’s an example of how you can transform a pain point into a need:

“Joe, you said that your company needs to increase the revenues, but it seems that you’ve hit a proverbial ceiling”
“Yes, Jack. That’s right. We’ve earned $x money for the past several months. However, I feel that we can do more”
“How many new clients have you earned lately?”
“A few. We’ve been mostly focusing on upselling and retention.”
“Upsell and retention are great but churn is inevitable. So, it seems to me that now, you have to make up for the loss of your clients to grow, am I right?”
“Yes, probably.”
“Do you think your company can continue with the current rate of clients retention and new buyers increase?”
“I don’t think so”
“Can you tell me what you’ve been doing to gain new clients so that I could understand the scope of this problem?”
“I’ve already presented you Maegan, our salesperson who’s in charge of everything. She’s been working really hard to find new clients”
“Can I ask several questions to Meagan then?”
“Sure”

Sales help their clients break through the barriers to greater results

“Magan, do you have any BDRs?”
“No, I do everything alone. I don’t think that at this point we can afford one more sales position in our company”
“Where do you find potential clients, except for MQLs?”
“I buy lists, but you can imagine there are many bad leads. I’ve got tons of bounces. Some companies exist no more, some people changed their workplaces or were promoted.”
“I know. Most of the buyers I’ve talked to have the same problems. What do you do to get in touch with potential clients?”
“I send emails and make phone calls, but few people answer. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack”
“So, you’re trying to say, you don’t get many appointments scheduled…”
“Right, and that’s probably why we don’t have many clients”
“How does it make you feel, Magan?”
“I feel that I’m doing all I can but it’s not enough. I feel helpless and demotivated:
“What if I tell you that you, as a sales manager, don’t have to do all these things. It’s not your job to look for leads. Your goal is closing deals.”
“That’s probably, why we’re here”
“Ok, let’s wrap it up. Your business needs clients to grow but your only sales manager can’t close enough deal because she doesn’t get enough appointments. Furthermore, she’s worn out looking for good leads to work with. And you can’t earn another person to do this job for her. Right?”
“Yes.”
“So you need someone who will take care of appointments setting for your sales managers, right, while she’ll be doing her job?”
“Right.”

That’s just one example of problem diagnostics for our potential clients and reshaping the pain point into an actual need. It might happen so, that the potential buyer doesn’t really have a need in your product. For example, the problem around winning more deals is the ability of sales managers to actually close. In this case, it’s a bad fit and you should let go of the client.

Once, you’ve articulated the need with your client you can proceed to the next stage.

O is for Opportunity

A perceived need isn’t enough for a potential buyer to take action. How urgent is the need? What are the outcomes of solution introduction or non-introduction? How much benefit will your company get if you decide to satisfy the need? That’s what you discuss with a potential client at the Opportunity stage.

A benefit is what drives decision-making

Opportunity stage discovery is meant to summarize and scope how much a client stands to benefit from working together in their words. It must be their opportunity (hence the Buyer-Focused nature of the methodology).

Let’s look at the catering example.

You know that there aren’t many food services in the neighborhood. And you know that people are often late to work when they return from a far-away cafe where they have their lunch. They often eat too fast and run back to the office. This causes stress and tension. You also know that the food in the nearby facilities isn’t very healthy (so it might cost your potential client several additional sick leaves per year).

Try to transform these problems into actual numbers. “Google Scholar” the impact of stress on productivity of employees and the benefits of healthy food for the well-being of employees.

Once you have a full stack of data, you are ready to talk with your prospect. Talk about how small productivity influences the efficiency of a business.

Ask your prospect a question:

Have you ever calculated the actual losses due to the lack of access to healthy food for your employees?

For example, a company generates $1M in annual revenue. If 70% of company workers are less productive by 10 percent in the course of the year, the firm loses $70K.

You can similarly calculate how much the loss of talents costs. For example, one software developer generates annually $600K worth code ($50K worth per month). He leaves to your competitors and it takes 1 month for you to find a new star employee. It takes him/her around 2 months to reach maximal productivity. This means that you lose around $100K in several months.

Unhealthy food results in $ losses for a company. Help your buyers understand how much they lose annually

Furthermore, finding new talents takes time of your HR department that they could use to develop corporate culture, address the internal problems of the company, arrange teambuilding and other important activities. What would this mean to have this time back, for them? This is part of the opportunity, too.

Talk about the increase in well-being and productivity of the workers who eat healthy food. If a company’s productivity raises by 1%, it’ll get $100K additional revenues (instead of losing $70K). Discuss the loyalty that people develop to those who feed them (basically, mother-child relations).

Adding up all these losses and gains will help you draw the general picture for the potential client, especially if it’s hard for them to process unmaterial gains. It might happen so that the loss of money (in case of the refusal to implement a solution) plus profit in case of introducing a new solution is minor. In this case, your client most likely will stop the sales process.

Now that you’ve helped articulate and summarize and scope the benefits of making a change to the current status quo, it’s the right time to find out who else needs to be involved.

T is for Team

And congrats on making this far with your potential buyer. However, it’s only half of the NOTE path.

Your product/service helps teams. Make sure you know the members of these teams and the decision-makers

The team stage is important for two reasons:

1. You will be working with actual people (this is especially true for complex solutions and services). It’s important that you’re on the same page about how things should work, especially for team members who will ultimately come at problems from completely different angles.

2. Any B2B buying process involves many decision-makers. For an entity to make an informed purchase everyone on the buying team should understand what problems your product/service solves and why they need them.

Basically, the “Team” is about all the people in the company that can influence and/or are influenced by the purchase.

Your goals are:
  • Make sure that you know everyone involved and/or have their contact data.
  • Study the team you’ll need to work directly with — the roles, the composition, the distribution of functions and responsibilities.
  • Discuss how your product/service can help the team.

Catering example:

At first glance, arranging catering seems easy. However, it’s not.

  • Will your company deliver food to the door and leave it there?
  • Or does your potential client want you to serve the tables in their dining hall?
  • Should your people stay and serve as waiters?
  • Should they clean up the plates or will the janitors simply load the dishwashing machines?
  • What if most of your potential client’s employees are eco-friendly? They’ll be appalled by the fact that you use plastic bags and tableware.
  • Who will be your Point of Contact?

At this stage, you can find out that a company that seemed a perfect fit doesn’t have a team composition that you can serve well.

E is for Effect

The last, but not the least. At this point, you discuss the details of cooperation, as well as the expectations of your potential buyer i.e. the desired results. This is ultimately, the Effect.

As a rule of thumb, when purchasing a solution for the first time companies lack an understanding of how everything works. They have a general idea rather than a step-to-step plan in their mind.

The effect stage kills two birds with one shot. On the one hand, you understand if you can actually help the client by comparing your capabilities and their expectations (the last can be corrected in some cases). On the other hand, you create a picture of your joint future for the client.

A good way to get at what the Effect looks like for buyers is to ask the question, If we’re in the future 6 months, looking back on a partnership together, what did we achieve? Similar to Opportunity Stage where the buyer is framing everything in their own words, so should the Effect be framed. It’s actually amazing what can be achieved when envisioning a mutual future together!

You need to discuss:

  1. Timeline – “How soon do you expect the first results?” “What results do you want in one month/quarter/year of our cooperation?”
  2. The scope – this is every aspect of your potential buyer’s problem, anything you can measure or describe in clear descriptive terms (e.g., the number of computers, the height of the walls, the style for decorations, the preferences).
  3. The volume – “Let’s figure out how many products you need to solve your problem?” “We provide Service 1, Service 2 and Service 3 along with Service 4 that supports them, let’s discuss in detail which service combination will be best for you”

Here’s an example of catering:

You’ll need to find out how many times per day they need food, at what hours, how many portions, if you need to include desserts, how many vegetarians there are and many other questions.

You might find out that you’ll be unable to provide services. For example, your potential clients want you to make deliveries at as early as 5 AM or as late as 2 AM — and you’re absolutely sure that the cost of such delivery isn’t worth closing the deal.

Sometimes, you understand that your client wants impossible (e.g. hit to Google top 1 in the first month for a keyword “shoe store”). And after you’ve explained why it’s not possible, he or she keeps sticking to this idea. In this case, it’s better to let go.

Remember, the ultimate goal of NOTE is to sort out all the prospects you have and stay with the good fit companies. Try to avoid getting into deals with the firms you can’t help as well as those that don’t understand how things work.

Summary

About 60 years have passed since the introduction of the first lead generation methodology – BANT. The world in which it was created has changed dramatically in terms of the economic landscape, sales process, information access, and society.

New buying process needs the change of perspective

The new digital environment requires new methods and techniques to sell B2B products and services. We need to create new buyer-centric approaches to succeed in business and help our clients.

NOTE is a great example of these approaches. It enables a seller to build communication around the most important aspects of the buying process on the one hand and quickly identify if a prospect is a bad fit.

NOTE helps establish trusting and respectful relations between a salesperson and a potential customer even if they decide not to proceed to the next stage of the buying process. It also contributes remarkably to the informed decision of a buyer.

Finally, NOTE provides an opportunity for sellers to educate their leads and generate value for them from the very first meeting. It thus fosters the sales process and can even speed up the deal closure.

Anastasia Voitehina
Content Writer

Anastasia Voitehina is a Content Writer at CIENCE Technologies. She creates passionate articles, witty infographics and smart charts dedicated to B2B Lead Generation. Anastasia also records the company's history and writes inspirational stories about her colleagues.