Categories Articles, Sales and Marketing

Most sales professionals are very familiar with the BANT methodology for qualifying sales leads — Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing.

Though BANT has become the go-to sales qualification methodology, it has a few fundamental flaws. For example, the implication with BANT is that “B” or Budget comes first. However, Need — the pain, problem or challenges that the company is facing — is really the first area that sales reps must qualify. Before talking about Budgets, Timelines or anything else, Need comes first.

It’s easy to claim that you can just reorder and call it NATB, so Need is first, speaking to the right decision-maker is second, followed by Timing then Budget. But that acronym is painful, and would not resonate well with your sales team who should be using this daily. You could also claim that BANT is merely a reminder and that your sales reps can just start with qualifying for Need (“N”) first.

Why not just have an acronym that is both sequenced correctly and implies that you are a deal-winner, a rainmaker, a closer, and a true sales champion?

I’d like to share a modern, new “sales qualification 2.0” approach that, once and for all, can replace the legacy BANT and make all modern sales reps more successful. It is time to adopt a more modern acronym that puts your prospects’ needs first and correctly defines the timeline of qualifying leads.

The modern lead qualification acronym that I advise all inside sales teams to use is CHAMP: CHallenges, Authority, Money, and Prioritization.

Let’s go through each step one by one. I’ve included examples of qualifying questions in each category. These questions should be spaced out over the course of several sales meetings throughout the buying process. Don’t ask them all at one meeting – that’s like asking someone to marry you on the first date! But if you follow this guide, you will be able to better qualify sales leads, and start closing more deals.

(If you want to learn more about best practices for running a B2B inside sales team, check out our FREE eBook: The Definitive Guide to Building a B2B Inside Sales Team.)

 

Challenges

Your prospect buys things because they have a challenge. If you have a solution for the challenges that your prospect and their company are facing then you have a real beginning of an “Opportunity” and some potential to sell to this prospect and account. It is the first fundamental part of sales qualification so it deserves the first spot in the modern sales qualification acronym.  A challenge is a need and a pain that your prospect has been dealing with.  And you need to solve this challenge with your solution – only then you will get a sale.

Asking questions early in the selling cycle like, “What are your business’s biggest challenges that you’re dealing with and how have you been solving them so far?” and “What are your personal challenges when trying to do your job?” help you gain the information you need to understand the nature and scope of the opportunity. In the later stages, these questions help you determine if your product or service represents the best fit for the defined opportunity.

The best way to gain insight on your prospect’s pain or need (i.e. their challenge) is to ask them questions and listen carefully to their answers.

Challenge Questions:

  • What challenges is your business facing and what problems do you need to solve?

  • What is driving your interest in our solution?

  • How long have you had this challenge or problem?  What made you decide to solve this problem now?

  • What objectives are you looking to achieve by solving this pain?

  • What are the likely consequences if the pain is not solved?

The answers to these questions will enable your sales team to determine whether your product or service is a match for your prospect. You’ll know you’re a match if you believe your product or service will satisfy the prospect’s needs.

Authority

Authority is not a blocker – it’s a call to action. (Tweet this!)

It is often the most misunderstood step in the lead qualification process. Many sales reps believe that “Authority” means you should disqualify leads with low-influencing contacts. NOT the case! “Authority” means you must ask your prospect questions that help you map out their company’s organizational structure.

It doesn’t matter if the initial contact on the lead has low authority – they can help you get an idea of who the decision-makers are. Who are the 5 key influencers you need to get in touch with? Are they the CEO, the CFO, the CMO, VP Sales, a Board member, a manager? Your prospect has that valuable insight, and you as a sales rep just need to find out.

Once you know who the decision-makers are, it is your job as a salesperson to reach them. I recommend reading our blog posts on how to turn low-authority contacts into customers and how to get past the gatekeeper and reach decision-makers quickly to learn tips and tactics on reaching high influencers.

Authority Questions:

  • Who, in addition to yourself, is involved in making this solution happen at your company?

  • How are purchasing decisions made for products like ours and who is involved in looking at this solution?

  • Who in addition to yourself is the decision maker with most clout?  And next to that person, who is the next person?  How important is it that they be on board with the decision?

  • What concerns do you think they may have? If they have any potential concerns, how do you think we should handle them?

  • Would it make sense for us to schedule a call together with them to answer any potential questions they may have?

  • Are you comfortable, perhaps prior to our next meeting, if I call (Name of Decision-maker / Influencer) to have a brief conversation? My experience has been that while everyone in the organization is pretty aligned on the needs, typically everyone has got a little bit of a different perspective as to what they are looking for in a solution like this. That way everyone will have input in this. And, by the way, if I get a different perspective from him/her, would you mind if I give you a call?  What I hope is that you all have a consensus as to what the solution should look like for our next meeting. Fair enough?

Learn More About Becoming a Great Sales Rep»

Money

Money is a critical factor in any buying decision. If your prospect can’t afford your product or service, you won’t be able to sell to them. Once you’ve qualified their challenges and needs, it is time to find out their expectations for the investment they’ll need to make to fulfill these needs. Have they set aside a budget to solve this challenge? If they don’t have the funds now, will they in the future? What else are they spending money on? Now is also a good time to mention the typical ROI for your product or service to remind them why the investment is worth it.

Money Questions:

  • What are your expectations for the investment necessary to purchase the solution?

  • Do you have a portion of your budget allocated to this?

  • Is your finance team or CFO involved in approving this? (Note: While this can come off as an “Authority” type of qualifying question, it is equally indicative of how the budget approval  process works at the company depending on the prospect’s answer)

  • What is your typical budget allocation process from when you need to invest in a solution like this that was outside of the original budget?

  • When do you plan to ask for budget allocation for this investment?

Prioritization

BANT calls this “Timing”. And timeline is a function of prioritization. When a prospect says they need to solve this problem by their next board meeting in 2 weeks, what they’re really saying is “this is a top priority.” So ask your prospect: how important is solving this problem relative to other priorities? What date or event is their priority attached to (end of month, end of quarter, by a certain event)? Is it a top priority for Q2, or is it a goal they want to solve at some point before the end of the fiscal year? If they don’t need a solution until the end of 2014, that means it is in a queue of other priorities. Find out what they are to get an idea of your prospect’s business plan.

Prioritization Questions:

  • Do you currently have a contract? If so, when is it due for renewal? Is there a cancellation fee?

  • When were you planning on starting the implementation?

  • So when is the latest when you would want to make a decision? So you wanna have a decision made no later than 2 months. And ideally, when would prefer to get this done?

  • So what’s a realistic kind of timeframe that we should be targeting here? When would you like to have have the problem solved?

  • How important is this to you and where does this stack up in terms of priority and urgency? What are some of the other priorities now?

  • Do you have the time and bandwidth to begin implementation now?

  • Would you like to hear about how other people I’ve worked with have implemented plans like these? (If they are interested then it indicates that this is important and high on the list of priority and timeline)

Prioritization can also be related to how you are ranked relative to your competition. Here are questions that will help you find out:

  • Are you looking at or evaluating any other similar solutions to help you solve the problem?

  • Where do we stack up in terms of functionality and pricing when compared to these other solutions you’ve been looking at?

  • What is your relationship like with your current vendor? (If they have one)

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Final thoughts

Asking these CHAMP questions and listening closely is the key to correctly qualifying your opportunities. If you don’t ask questions with genuine interest while actively listening, then you will not successfully qualify them.

In addition to CHAMP, you should remember that, to truly move the deal forward, it is critical to for you to understand the “D” or Decision Process (or Buying Process) and “C” or Competition (note that competition to you maybe simply “status quo” or “complacency” in which case there is a possibility that you haven’t really gone through the “Challenges” discovery as well as you could have).

Also, don’t forget that after you go through your CHAMP list and qualify, you should always have next steps. Here are a few last questions that will help you with that:

  • Do you have a calendar and what is the best date and time to schedule our next meeting?

  • Ideally, what would be the focus of our next meeting?

  • What would be the best way to get to you everything that you may need such as customer references and other information about the solution as a right fit for you and so you feel comfortable making the decision in the timeframe that you mentioned?

If you take anything away from this article, it is that discovering your prospects’ challenges and needs should take priority over any other qualification questions. And the other questions, when they flow in the right order, will help each one of your reps to become a Champ if they use the CHAMP methodology!

 

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Showing 7 comments
  • Louis Gudema

    Good piece. I especially like that you included some questions on other vendors and how we stack. It’s very important to know early on if the prospect considers all vendors to be pretty much the same, or if there is a preference for you for some reason, or an entrenched incumbent, etc.

  • Zorian Rotenberg

    Thanks Louis.

  • Nick

    This is awesome, thanks for making it so easy to understand. A lot of sales resources make it sound like magic and you should just know how to do it, this boils it down into simple questions. Thanks!

  • Darude

    Gr8 Banter IMO ofc

  • The Exhibitor

    Great post, thank you for explaining things so easily!
    In my field (exhibitions), qualifying leads is essential, but you have only a few seconds to estimate whether a visitor is worth your time. Identifying good prospects from time-wasters is difficult yet needed. Trade Shows visitors can be categorized in 4 groups: time wasters, potential partners, competitors and leads. Once you have figured out who is who, you can start talking and identifying GOOD leads that will bring business.
    Thanks again!

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