What is a lead qualification framework and why is it important?
We all have to make decisions. Some of these are easier than others. When it comes time to make a decision, whether it’s what shirt to purchase, if we should go to that expensive restaurant, if we should splurge on a new TV, or even if it’s time for a new car, we all ask ourselves if it’s worth spending time, money, and other resources on this new item, as well as what we will get it return.
A lead qualification framework works in a similar manner. It helps sales teams decide if a lead is worth spending time, money, and resources on. A lead qualification framework provides a standardized process through which any sales development rep, account executive, or sales manager can easily qualify or disqualify leads. That way, their organization can spend their resources on only the leads that they believe will become a client. Furthermore, much like you may prioritize a new pair of snow boots over a new TV in the winter, a lead qualification framework helps sales reps decide which prospects have a higher likelihood of a rapid purchase, versus one who is qualified, but may not be looking to purchase just yet. That way, they can devote more urgent attention to the prospect who is set to sign sooner.
There is a multitude of lead qualification frameworks, and a quick search will show you that everyone thinks the one they use is best. The truth is you must carefully select the framework that works best for your organization, its selling style, and products.
In order to choose, you must understand your ideal customer profiles and what makes them such a good fit. For example, if your products are expensive, you must ensure that prospects have the budget. Or, if you solve a specific problem or help clients achieve certain goals, the lead must be experiencing those problems or want to accomplish that specific goal to be a good fit.
The beginning: The BANT qualification framework
BANT is widely recognized as the first formalized lead qualification framework. It is also currently the most controversial. During the 1960s, IBM was struggling to optimize the leads that their sales reps spent time on, and was wasting time and money on prospects would never buy. They therefore developed a system to prioritize which leads sales representatives devoted time to, which was then established and popularized as BANT.
BANT is an acronym for budget, authority, need, and timeframe. It determines if a contact has cash available, the ability to make a purchase decision, how much they need the product, and how soon they expect to make a decision. Obviously, the more of each of these factors a contact possesses, they more qualified they are.
There are currently many arguments against BANT, the most prevailing of which is that it is now outdated thanks to new buying habits and accessibility to information. BANT was created in the pre-internet days when computing and computer software were still new. Therefore, the framework was developed for early adopters who were well aware they were about to purchase a cutting-edge technology and were willing to pay a premium for it.
Today, however, there is rabid competition in nearly every industry, and even younger verticals have players jockeying for position. This competition has made buyers price sensitive, as they know they have several purchasing options and will shop around for the best deal. These Buyers are also extremely well-researched, and typically do not come into contact with a sales rep until much later in the sales cycle. All of this has turned the tables on sales reps.
Look at the questions BANT seeks to answer… It is entirely seller focused. While it gets the sales rep all the information they need, it provides little to no value to the buyer. Thanks to this shift in buyer behavior, reps must now be consultants, where they work to solve customer problems, not just push products. Therefore, the qualification framework must focus on the customer, not the seller.
Modern-Day Qualification Frameworks
There are a number of newer qualification frameworks, which are touted as superior to BANT. They are:
The GPCT framework
Goals, plans, challenges, timeline
The GPCT framework is entirely focused on customer success, and will work well for companies that sell products where budget isn’t typically an issue. It also is a good framework for products that are essential to the customer’s success, like a CRM. GPCT examines what a buyer wants to accomplish, how they plan to do it, and the troubles they expect along the way. The rep can then determine if their organization can help the buyer reach their goals and overcome the obstacles.
The NEAT framework
Need, economic impact, access, timeline
Developed by Richard Harris at the Harris Consulting Group, NEAT seeks to uncover a buyer’s true pain points. The “need” portion involves deeper questioning to dive through the perceived surface pains and discover the source. It also considers economic impact rather than budget, since the creators found that modern budgets are much more flexible, and can be adjusted to accommodate the right product or service, especially if it delivers positive ROI. Finally, “access” replaces authority, since a direct line to a decision maker is just as good as the actual person.
The FAINT framework
Funds, authority, interest, need, timing
The RAIN Group advocates for the FAINT framework, as it considers that the majority of your prospects don’t have a budget allocated specifically for your tool. It is much more conducive to the value-added selling that prevails today. Rather than budget, FAINT considers “funds,” which simply means that the prospect has the financial capacity to purchase your product or service. The framework also factors how interested your prospect is, and therefore how motivated they are to purchase.
The CHAMP framework
Changes, authority, money, prioritization
CHAMP capitalizes on a buyer’s need or desire to overcome a specific problem. Its focus on “changes,” emphasizes the transformation that must be driven, and the prioritization portion examines how quickly they want to solve that particular problem.
The ANUM framework
Authority, need, urgency, money
ANUM is an updated version of BANT that prioritizes getting to the decision maker, hence “authority” is the first factor. The “need” factor has also been raised to priority number two. Therefore getting to a decision maker who wants a product is the sales rep’s goal.
The best lead qualification framework for your team
Ultimately, the best qualification framework for your team is the one that fits your team’s customer profile and selling styles. Look at who you sell too, what you need them to have, and how you help them. No qualification framework is set in stone, either, so it’s possible to create your own.