Tag Archives: BANT

How a $5 Stack of Index Cards can Double your Event ROI.

I was just thinking about trade shows today.  It’s beautiful here in Phoenix where I live.  The sun is shining and the waterfall is splashing on the rocks in the pool.  It is starting to feel a lot like event time. Oh, standing for days on end in an air conditioned room with thousands of other people, all trying to have meaningful conversations.  

That got me thinking how much has changed about events, seminars and trade shows these past few years.  As little as five years ago, marketing teams were still trying to boost their scan numbers by any methods possible.  Everyone got scanned and nurtured, even if they weren’t sales-ready yet.  We’d trade anything for scans.

  • At VMworld I was watching a guy in a clown suit scanning everyone he could pester into it. 
  • I saw a magician who was better, because he at least worked tech specs into his act.
  • The next booth over was giving away a drone and had people standing in line to be scanned.
  • At Cisco Live I had the booth staff across from me ask me if I would trade lists so we could both appear to double our ROI. I told her I’d rather take home a phone book to sales team.

New contacts for your ongoing inbound activities are great, but there had better also be some sales-ready leads in there and some potential ROI.  You need to get those decision makers over to your best reps as quickly as possible.  If you do not capture the right information, they will likely get lost in a sea of scans from an ongoing list of events.

Just handing over the entire list without enough detail is a waste of time. Marketing nurtures, sales sell.   From an inbound marketing perspective, it is too early in the buyer’s journey for your visitor to care, and too early in the sales cycle for your sales to care.  Inside sales wants to start talking about your product because that is exactly what they just spent the last six months learning.  How do you make sure you are getting the people in their decision making stage to your closers, and the rest to inbound? 

More immediately, most companies have some expensive technical folk and some of their best storytellers available at events.  You will want to funnel the best prospects (or ones that indicate they are in the decision-making stage) over to your experts and not send over people that want a free education there at the show.  Since everyone on your team should be gathering information and passing it along with that visitor, the easiest way I have found to do this is with printed index cards. 

I decide which information we will gather and print it right on the front of the card, leaving space for the visitor information.  Plus, they have the entire back of the card to write on if they need more space.  Scanners at events are not very good for typing a lot of data into quickly, and if you have more than one person who needs it (and everyone should be gathering information the whole time they are all talking to visitors) It is much easier to scan them, then capture answers to a few questions on an index card. Later, you can match the cards to scanned names on the spreadsheet.   

Of course, you still collect contact information from anyone who wants to begin their journey with you.  Just be sure you know where they are in their search, research, or decision and act accordingly.


So how does it work?

Print some easy to ask BANT qualifying questions on index cards and make sure there are stacks of them available with pens for everyone to use.   As soon as you ask a couple of BANT qualifying questions, it will be apparent where this person is in their journey.  Make sure when they are getting scanned that you make it clear that someone will be following up with them, and if they do not want that you can make note to just have them gain access to your content.  Everyone will suddenly be very focused on BANT.  Awesome!   This helps ensure that anyone you scanned and completed an index card for is a good lead to follow-up with soon.  The questions you ask will change from industry to industry, customer persona to customer persona, but if you capture BANT criteria your sales reps will love you. 

(If you are not familiar with BANT or would like a refresher, read our blog post on BANT here.)

There isn’t a sales rep on the planet that will not gratefully accept your leads if you can provide this information.  If you bring your salespeople leads that look like this, they will all become your new best friends and will stop ignoring the leads you bring them.

Here is an example of index cards we used at several technology events.  After using them a short time everyone from our engineers to the lowliest inside sales rep felt comfortable working four or five questions into their conversations.

Engineers tell me that remembering to ask the BANT questions on the index cards changed the way they interacted with the visitor for the better.  Everyone appreciates getting the “sales stuff, money talk” out of the way.  It is just awkward and we would all rather avoid it altogether.  Having it printed and in front of you makes it easy to get through together.  Knowing BANT (and them knowing you know their BANT details) changes everything about the relationship.  Your sales reps can start overcoming obstacles they might have otherwise not known until they lost the deal. They might not have even had any idea why they lost it.  With BANT criteria answered they will know exactly what issues are there, and avoid being surprised by those issues later. 

Booth staff efficiency and our lead quality went up tenfold.  Engineers better measured how much time they were spending with visitors and making sure they were spending time with the right people. They told me they had not realized how much time they spent just talking about technology in general.  It is fun, but not the best use of precious technical resources during that week.  That’s what friends and beer is for, not expensive opportunities like events.

The first time I tried the index cards the company that had consulted with me had never obtained one hundred leads in all their years of showing at this event.    They weren’t even getting very good leads.  Looking closely at the leads they had gathered in prior years only 30% could even be considered real leads.  Normally they would get through to less than 5% in follow-up.  They had very low engagement afterward and almost no close rate.   


What they were doing wrong

They, like most technology companies, made sure their company and product names/logos were predominantly displayed on their booth.  There were lists of features and benefits.   There were logos of clients and partners too.  Monitors were standing by for demos.  Staff included sales reps and at least two senior engineers to talk technology with anyone who would listen.  It was a tribute to their product.  They were doing everything exactly like most tech companies have been doing since the dot.com bomb.  They scanned anyone and everyone and took any notes they did take in the scanner through the keyboard.  This meant none of their notes were useful.  



They were hoping for whales, but fishing for sharks.  Talking with the company’s chief programmer it came up that he had originally architected with very large customers in mind.  He had later added enhancements for one very large customer and thought we should be looking more closely at similar companies.   On his screensaver he had written, “(our solution here) on a Massive Scale”.  It was perfect!

I put together a few basic customer personas using the data we could find such as past sales data and past success stories.  I know, that’s not really enough for a complete persona, but we did what we could — and this messaging resonated well with our target persona at the events.

We did the following

  1. Changed messaging to appeal to largest of their customer types.
  2. Made the booth theme very appealing, polished and whimsical. Space theme with moon landing audio, interesting videos playing on large screens, light show, and compelling messaging to pull them in from a distance. 
  3. BANT index cards to determine “sales readiness” to best help them get to an engineer, or on the inbound list.  
  4. Only scan people who verify they want to be followed up with, but everyone goes on nurture list.
  5. Add index card info to the spreadsheets daily and sent a custom “thank you” referencing the details captured that day from your conversation.  Don’t spam them not even once. 

As a result, we captured 225 BANT leads from people who WANTED us to followed up with them.   Improved messaging got them conversations with every one of their major accounts they had been trying to talk with for years.  In this example, they wanted to talk to carriers and by the end of the show every major carrier (Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Cox, etc.) had been scanned, qualified by BANT criteria and wanted to schedule product demos for their teams or obtain a proof of concept (POC).  Almost every one of the people we scanned was actionable, 50% engaged in follow-up activities, 30% received demos or free trials, 10% was in pipe.  

Not bad for a $5 stack of index cards. 

Marketing Term of the Week: BANT

“Tell me what you know about BANT qualified leads.”  It’s pretty much guaranteed that you will face this question while interviewing for marketing positions.  If you don’t have a clear answer, you will be immediately ruled out.  The good news is that BANT is a clear, easy-to-understand concept that you can put into immediate use right now.

So what is BANT?

BANT is a formula developed by IBM for the most essential pieces of information you need to know in order to present a great sales opportunity to your sales team.

B = Budget (are they out getting educated, just looking, or is there a budgeted project underway?)

A = Authority (are you talking to the right person? if interested who else will we need to involve?)

N = Need (does your product solve their pain, address KPIs, and provide adequate ROI?)

T = Timeframe for purchase.  The answer to this will help you figure out where they are in the buyer’s journey and how quickly sales should reach out. 

A BANT Qualified Lead is a lead where you know this key information.  Are they looking for what you are selling? Are you talking to the right person?  Can they afford it? Do they know the date they plan to pull the trigger?  Knowing this information, your salespeople can speak more intelligently about the sales stuff in the relationship while they begin to simultaneously work to remove obstacles to the BANT criteria. There isn’t a sales rep on the planet that will not gratefully accept your leads if you can provide this information.  If you bring your salespeople leads that look like this, they will all become your new best friends and will stop ignoring the leads you bring them.

With the advent of inbound marketing (social media marketing, growth hacking and marketing platforms such as HubSpot and Marketo) the earlier stages of what used to be “push marketing” has been very effectively replaced with inbound marketing tactics (a.k.a. pull marketing).  

Knowing that your prospects go out looking online in the early and middle stages of looking for answers, the prevailing mindset is that as a potential seller you had better be where your prospects are looking. True.  

Later after your prospect has decided on a solution direction, then you  should talk about your product.  At this stage a more traditional sales cycle works and BANT is a great way to gauge how sales ready the lead is.  When they buyer is finally in the Decision Stage, BANT criteria works exactly as it is supposed to.  The earlier you are able to discover BANT criteria the better for your sales reps.   I have heard it said by seasoned sales professionals that when they closed a deal without knowing BANT, it was luck.  Think about it, if you are afraid to ask who the check signer is, if there is a budget and timeframe for purchase, and you still close the deal…they wanted your product despite your sales reps, not because of them.

Does Appointment Setting Really Work?

Reading this article today by “The VAR Guy” titled: Does Appointment Setting Really Work? http://thevarguy.com/value-added-resellers039-channel-marketing-solutions/does-appointment-setting-really-work  In summary the article suggests that appointment setting is not cost effective and recommends a lead nurturing approach instead.  I disagree.   Both can be effective strategies depending on your goals.

Appointment setting will give you marginal results if marginally executed.   I have done the math, have executed extremely successful appointment setting programs for companies such as HP, Avnet and NetApp, and have determined firsthand that a targeted and intelligently run appointment setting program executed by trained (and monitored) vendors is the perfect strategy to address certain challenges.  In the long run it is as cost effective as a multi-pronged approach.  The main difference is that it can get your sales reps into BANT opportunities much faster.

There is a tool for every task.  You have to use good tools and know how to use them to get good results.  For many marketing challenges a high-quality appointment setting campaign is the right strategy.  Some of the better vendors I have worked with are: BAO, TeleNet, and MRP.  Still, having a great tool to work with does not ensure success.  Like anything it depends on how well you use them and under what circumstances.  I have peers that have used these same vendors with less success, but I continually have great results with them when they are the right tool for the job.

You do not give expensive BANT leads to junior reps that may not be ready to close them.  You do spend the time to educate the reps you include about the quality and expense of the leads you are about to find for them and make sure they are part of the process of choosing the lists.  If you use accounts they want into, get them in front of the right person at the right time, then they will be excited to participate.  Additionally you have to make sure the vendor telemarketers are trained and technically conversant enough to provide value to the prospect.  They should act more like an inside sales team representing your product than telemarketers.  Every lead should be reviewed and weighed by the sales rep before the meeting and verified as valuable after the appointment.  If an appointment is not “as expected” immediately course correct with your vendor.  Demanding credits or replacements for a few bad meetings will show your vendor you mean business and will not allow that behavior to be cost effective for them.

What I am suggesting is a whole lot of planning, execution and follow-up work for the marketing person, vendor and sales rep.  What you are trying to accomplish is not trivial, but the payoff is often amazing.   With an effective vendor and capable sales rep it is very doable.

The Language of Marketing

Marketing Terms Defined

First let’s discuss some marketing basics so we are speaking the same language (and feel free to call me on anything you do not agree with). Marketing is such a huge area and means so many things to so many different people. At the end of the day, I would like to walk away with a consensus that provides the “groupthink” perspective on the various subjects we want to explore. Also, feel free to comment on any additional commonly misunderstood marketing topics you have come across.


BANT Qualified Lead

A BANT qualified lead suggests the prospect you are talking to has:
Budget (There is a project with a designated budget),
Authority (they are a decision maker or at least an influencer on the project),
Need (they actually need or are looking for what your rep sells)
Timeframe (planned timeframe in which the project will be started)

Basically this is a “real” sales opportunity. If a lead is BANT qualified you have put your sales rep in the right place, at the right time, talking to the right person, about the right thing.


Bottom line and “net-net”

“The bottom line” is that line in a financial statement that shows net income or loss. On an income statement, “Net Income” is physically located at the very bottom of the form and is the last line on the form, thus it gets its name “the bottom line.” Net income (the bottom line) is the final accounting showing company profit or loss. The bottom line has come to mean “the final word on the subject” “get to the point,” or “I am about to say the only part of my long winded sales pitch that you will actually care about.” Bottom line should not be used in formal business accounting communication as it is a somewhat vague term when used in that context.

“Net-net” means to get to the point or “the bottom line”. It is the net result after removing all unimportant details. I may be over-thinking it, but I tend to use “the bottom line” when talking about reducing all the details for one subject. When providing a summary of multiple concepts and “giving the bottom line of several bottom lines,” the final result of those combined concepts would be “net-net.”

If a rep feels that a long-winded buildup is necessary in a consultative sale, you are either talking to the wrong person or have not done your homework. Your goal is to consult with a decision maker regarding the things that person is responsible for. If you are talking “speeds and feeds” to a CFO you are having the wrong conversation with the wrong person. If your bottom line is increasing their bottom line, a long-winded build up will not be necessary. You are in the right place having the right conversation with the right person.


Closed Loop Sales and Marketing

Monitoring the life of a lead in all its possible outcomes and acting optimally throughout its lifecycle. I.e. Lead entered in CRM by marketing, followed up by sales rep, determined “not ready to buy”, nurtured by marketing until ready to buy, followed up again by sales rep, sales lost, reason for lost sale determined and reported, information flows back to marketing where it can create better campaigns based on updated data.

On the marketing side we focus on launching and executing the activity that will hopefully lead to interest and orders. We compile research, customer data, demographics, results, BANT criteria resulting opportunities and whom they were funneled out to. On the sales side they see some of your information (the more the better) and have time to digest some of it. They track the stage of the opportunity (new, assess, design propose, closed won, closed lost, or call back later). They track the opportunity dollar amount by estimating in the early stages and looking at the proposal amount or closed order amount in later stages.

A closed loop system allows information to flow between your Marketing system and your CRM system so marketing can evaluate its effectiveness, adjust where needed and provide more value. Marketing can take deals that did not buy today and continue to maintain a relationship (lead nurturing) so the prospect will buy from your rep when they are finally ready. Marketing typically has various investors and interested parties looking for ROI for their investment and chasing down that information can become a full time job in itself. On the sales side there is a requirement to obtain the most useful ongoing touches and as much useful information as possible when going back into the account to follow-up.
Many marketing and sales systems do not provide the 360-degree view needed for the sales and marketing teams to work together to most effectively turn prospects into customers and report that success to necessary constituents.


Consultative Selling

Is focused on:
• Working with the customer to understand their goals, objectives, and challenges.
• Taking that information back to an expert team to determine the optimum solution.
• Explaining the solution in a manner that addresses each of the key influencers in their own language.
There are many formulas, acronyms and methods to help sales reps learn and remember all the steps in a consultative sales engagement, but these are the main three areas in which consultative sales reps are typically trained.


Demand Generation a.k.a. “Demand Gen”

Demand generation is conducted to bring awareness and interest of your company’s offering. A good demand generation effort from the prospect’s side matches the prospect’s need to an offering that fulfills their requirements. An ideal demand generation effort for your sales rep perspective is one that puts them in front of the right person at the right time with the right offering to provide a service that pays them.
Commonly used in business to business, business to government, or longer sales cycle business to consumer sales cycles, demand generation involves multiple areas of marketing and is really the marriage of marketing programs coupled with a structured sales process.


FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt)

Where you are selling fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) you are trying to play on your prospect’s FUD to “scare” them into buying your product or service. Many reps are good at twisting a prospect’s perception of a situation to convince the prospect that whatever they are selling will save their career, life, sex appeal or marriage. The more knowledgeable your prospects are about their situation, the less successful this method will be. Companies selling Tasers during riots may do well with this method, but if you paint an inaccurate “doom and gloom” scenario to someone who knows better, you lose all credibility as a marketing or sales rep.

There is a difference between apprising a prospects of the facts that will help them avoid danger that they may not have otherwise been aware of (education = good) and painting a worst-case scenario to manipulate them into buying (FUD = questionable).


KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Key Performance Indicators “KPIs” are a measure of performance for a company or group within a company. KPIs can be hard to measure compared to units produced or dollars saved but are key to a company’s success. As an example if your Board of Directors suggests to your CEO that the company must increase wallet share, cut costs, improve employee morale and become the leading company in your industry, some of these things are easier to measure than others. These would be the KPIs for the company that the Board wants to see the CEO deliver. It is how they will measure success. Successful movement toward these long-term organizational goals over a specific period of time defines how valuable the CEO is to the Board. The act of monitoring KPIs in real-time is known as business activity monitoring (BAM). This is where you will find the details regarding measurement, ROI, timeframes, decision makers…BANT stuff.


Lead Nurturing

Maintaining contact with a prospect that is not buying from you today, but which you believe may have a need for you in the future. Marketing can put processes in place that continue to follow up in a meaningful way until the prospect is ready to talk with the sales rep. There is a BIG difference between spamming and nurturing an opportunity. The more customized your subsequent follow-ups are, the more well received your efforts will be and the more likely your communication effort will put your reps at the right place, with the right message, at the right time to close the deal.

Sometimes marketing just gets there too early or sometimes the rep can see that the prospect will be ready at a later date. When there is a closed loop process in place marketing can take this activity on for the sales rep. When there is no process in place the rep must constantly remember to continue to follow up with the prospect until they are ready. Most sales reps do not have the time to do this and are not able to provide the most polished and relevant information on a regular basis.



At the most basic level I believe marketing is “anything and everything you can do to help your sales team sell”. This includes: making their selling easier (market awareness, sales tools/kits/collateral, training, certifications), selling faster (door openers, more qualified sales engagements, compelling product positioning, competitive differentiation) and helping them sell more (lead nurturing, better processes, enablement to present the right product message in the right place, at the right time, to the right person. (BANT qualified leads).


Sales Enablement

Sales Enablement is providing the tools and technology your sales force needs to be successful. When a successful lead puts your rep in the right place with the right message at the right time; sales enablement puts the right information in the most useable format into the reps hands at the right time. They are the tools your rep will need to execute a successful consultative sale. Traditionally, marketing would throw a lead over the fence and expect the rep to pick up the ball and run with it. If you think about it though, the marketing person already has done much of the research and has obtained much of the enabling information the rep will need to approach the prospect intelligently. They just need to get that information into the reps hands in a format they can use.

Marketing can provide enablement material in a general fashion: sales content, collateral, case studies, competitive information, best practices, and product and solution materials. Taking enablement to the next step for a consultative sales rep would include: key financial information, identifying: decision makers, projects, champions, internal politics, determining that there is a budget and timeframe for purchase and that the interest for the meeting matches your offering. Basically, to really enable a consultative sales rep you want to provide a sales ready lead (BANT) and the information about that lead that will help them close the deal.


“Speeds and Feeds”

In a technical sales some reps try to focus on product features and benefits to impress the prospect. The words “technobabble” and “geek speak” come to mind. When this is done with little regard for the needs and interests of the person in front of you it falls into the “spray and pray” or “field of dreams” marketing categories. This technical barrage of facts and figures about your offering is meant to impress the prospect with “how fast” your product cycles or “how much pipe it can push.” Since competitive products typically leapfrog over one another every six months, counting on speeds and feed can work against you as competitors come out with new features and benefits. A better approach is to find out what your prospect needs (even at levels deeper than they do themselves) and match them to the offering that best solves their problem.

An onslaught of technical facts about your offering probably will not impress the “C” level person you are in the room with anyway unless they happen to be the CTO or CIO. Trying to establish a competitive advantage based on “speeds and feeds” shows you know a lot about your product, but probably is your way of filling the void left from not knowing your prospect. As stated earlier competitive advantage based only on today’s processing speed of low cost of disk space leaves you with nothing to say every six months when the competition comes out with their faster model, however focusing on the customer’s issues and solving their business problems never becomes a dated and limiting approach. This is the difference between selling “speeds and feeds” and a more consultative approach.

Additionally we all know that you want to meet with decision makers as high up the food chain as possible (where the approvers and check signers live). When you speak to a decision maker who does not understand or care about what you are saying, they will invariably push you off to the person in their company you sound the most like (especially if they have no idea what you are talking about). If you do not wish to be herded off to a lower level engineer to argue “feeds and speeds” or to try to convince a worker bee that your application is better than the one they are using, then to try to climb you way back to the decision maker at a later date, you need to focus on solving the problems that interest the person you are meeting with. How do you determine what that is? Listen to them and study them. Typically a “C” or “VP” level individual is much more interested in addressing their: KPIs, ROI, bottom line, top line, profitability, cost control, compliance, competition, or their board of directors. Bottom line…you should be speaking their language


“Spray and Pray”

The closer you get to the decision maker within a company the less time or patience they have for this type of marketing or selling. It is the opposite consultative selling.
Spray and pray, from a marketing perspective, is conducting a campaign to the masses in hopes of having a small number of them care enough about what you are selling to contact you to hear more. This is the opposite of targeted marketing, in which you are sending information to the select group you believe will care or benefit from your message.
This is not an ideal lead generating scenario for a consultative sales rep unless you somehow collect information from the “spamee.” The reps do not have the time to research, qualify and then explain to a large number of prospects information and relevance that (had your campaign been conducted correctly) should have been handled by marketing in the first place. The more targeted your audience is, the better you explain your offering, and the better you qualify in advance for the consultative rep, the more meaningful the engagement will be for both parties.

Spray and pray marketing is fine for younger reps searching for any contact with a potential prospect to practice their pitch. It is, however, a complete waste of time for more senior consultative sales reps.

From a sales perspective “spray and pray” happens when a rep has not taken the time to determine exactly what aspects of their offering would be most valuable to the prospect and proceeds with a “canned” sales pitch or script that they hope will have some relevance to the prospects. Unless your company is offering the fountain of youth in a can, it is rare that every company is an ideal candidate or that every person you talk to in that company will respond to the same features and benefits of your offering. We have all been on the receiving end of an eager sales rep trying to drone on about their product before finding out if you need, want or care about what they are selling.