How to get to vigorous outbound. Qualifying opportunities using BANT or GPCTBA/C&I
As a marketeer, I love inbound marketing techniques. Why? You can scale it. Once you have it up and running, it will generate more or less predictable revenue. Furthermore, when you have identified a working lead generation engine, you can increase the budget to generate the maximum number of leads your organisation can support both commercially as technically).
The importance of outbound
Inbound is often criticized. Who is going to buy a €100.000 yearly recurring service over the internet? People don't buy a car online, so why would they spend this amount of money just over the internet? Although it is possible to sell this amount through inbound (think Salesforce, Hubspot, Jira,...) at a certain deal size, outbound might become more efficient and important. In general, what we see is that inbound can perform better at small deal sizes and outbound performs better at large deal sizes. Have a look at the graph below. It was created by The Bridge Group. This San Francisco based SDR, Account Executive and Customer Success consultancy group, makes yearly an analysis of almost 400 B2B SaaS companies and plots the attribution of each team (marketing + marketing qualification (inbound), SDR (outbound)) to the total account executives (sales) pipeline. Notice how there is a shift from inbound to outbound as deal size increases.
As mentioned before, outbound's contribution to the sales pipeline increases as with ticket size. The ones paying attention might notice, but this doesn't add up to 100%? That's correct, also customer success, account executives, referrals and re-sellers contribute to the sales pipeline. Those numbers were not made available in the study.
Long story short, although I'm a huge advocate of inbound marketing, at certain deal sizes it is at least as important to focus on developing a good outbound marketing strategy.
How outbound is typically organized
The outbound activity consists of a typical number of tasks. Typically people will:
Look for contacts / create a list.
Contact them through LinkedIn / E-mail / Phone.
Try to get them on a meeting.
Most companies will define the following KPIs
The number of 'interactions' (dial phone number, send e-mail, send LinkedIn connection request).
The number of 'active conversations' (pick-up phone, reply to e-mail, connection request accepted)
Number of meetings booked
If things go bad, the natural reaction is, just increase the number of interactions and your number of meetings booked will go up, and you will do more sales, right?
No, wrong, doing this is the same as saying, I'm working with a bunch of monkey's, and as long as I push enough my output will increase. And potentially you can increase your output doing so. Honestly, if this is the approach you would like to go for, it's probably more efficient to hire a call center. Nothing against call centers BTW. I'm sure they'll do a better job at maximizing the number of calls and having people read scripts than you as a sales manager could ever do as an individual.
Luckily, a good outbound strategy is much more than just maximizing the number of interactions. So if you would like to build an SDR team in-house, you probably want to define different KPIs for your team to work towards to. And the 4th KPI, and probably the one you should focus on is called, number of opportunities qualifed.
Qualifiying an opportunity using BANT
BANT is a qualification technique originally developed by IBM. It is used in several sales organisations as the standard for lead qualification. BANT stands for.
Budget: Did the company allocate a budget for the solution I'm trying to sell?
Authority: Am i'm speaking with the right decision maker? Who else should be involved?
Need: Is there a need for the solution I'm trying to propose? What is the underlying pain?
Timing: What is the prospect's timeline? By when would they like to go live with the solution?
According to the framework, an opportunity is qualified if for all four elements the answer to the question is 'yes'. And vice versa, an opportunity is disqualified if the answer to one of those questions is 'no'. It's clear that if there is no budget, if the person has no purchasing authority, if there is no need, and if the timing is off there is no opportunity in selling at that moment in time. This doesn't mean there is no opportunity at all. Maybe if you find the right person you can sell? Or maybe you can sell next year? What it just means is that your sales team shouldn't put any effort in it until the lead get's qualified.
Skepticism around BANT and SaaS
Lately there has been a lot of skepticism around doing a BANT analysis in a SaaS environment. One such person is Jacco Van Der Kooij a pretty well known sales guru. It appears that both members of your sales team using BANT to qualify, have struggles using the method.
The problem for SDR*: SDR qualification backfires as they are reaching out to people who are not in the right phase of the buyer journey.
The problem for the Account Executive: The qualification of the lead does not take into account the quality of the potential deal. So a lead can be qualified but attributes low value to your sales pipeline.
*(Sales Development Representatives or outbound sales reps. These are the people cold calling / LinkedIn Sales Navigator,...)
Furthermore there are some other issues, especially in SaaS companies.
It's about priority not budget. In SaaS monthly costs are typically pretty low, often starting at only €10 a month. So you can't disqualify in that case on budget.
Authority is not hierarchical anymore but distributed. How often is the buying decision made by one person? So it's not enough anymore to just find that one manager with the authority to do a purchase, you need to get everyone involved.
It's about impact, not need. Solutions, and especially in SaaS are often very similar (regardless what your techies are saying). What happens is that sales reps tend to differentiate their product based on features their customer's don't need in the first place. Very soon, the whole conversation goes about useless features, where the real conversation should go about the potential impact your solution can have (gain creation, pain relievers).
So Jacco suggest to keep BANT, but rephrase it a bit and change the order. This is how he would approach it.
Need = Impact on the business of the customer.
Time-line = By when should the solution be operational.
Budget = What is the priority of the project.
Authority = Define the decision process and stakeholders involved to get the go.
The GPCTBA/C&I approach by Hubspot
Others have been skeptical about IBM's approach as well. Hubspot for instance, developed their own qualification framework called GPCTBA/C&I, which I will frankly, never be able to remember by heart.
Reading about this approach, it more or less follows the concepts of the challenger sale, where you as a sales rep are not longer focused primarily on building relationships, but where you'll focus on providing a vision on how a customer could actually benefit from your solution in a longer period of time.
Let's have a look at Hubspot's GPCTBA/C&I framework.
GPCT (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline)
Hubspot splits its framework into three distinct steps. The first one is called GPCT, the second step is BA and the third step is C&I. Let's have a look at GPCT first.
Goals: What are the quantifiable goals your prospect has? Asking these questions will push your customers to see the bigger picture. Furthermore, as an expert in providing a specific solution or service, you should know better than your customer what their goals should be. Typically you have been working with potentially close or distant competitors which means you have more information. On top of that, you're focused on a specific niche, and your niche is only a cogwheel in a larger installation for your customer. So it makes sense as a sales person you should be able to help.
Plans: What plans does your customer have to get to their goals? Here as well, you as a sales person can assist them in identifying the right steps to get there.
Challenges: What are the challenges of your customer? And how can they overcome them? Where do they see them in the next 5 years? Or, where should they be according to you in the next 5 years?
Timeline: Just like Jacco put's it, what is the timeline of the project? What are the different milestones? By when should be able to go live with a minimum set of features? By when would you need a complete solution?
You might notice that this will result in a more lively conversation over asking the typical BANT questions. Having done both approaches myself I must warn that asking for a companies goals in a cold call is not always easy. You might get the answer, that's confidential! Who are you anyway? Why do you care? That said, when you get through it, you'll qualify a lead on a completely different level.
BA (Budget & Authority)
The second step is about Budget & Authority. Just like with BANT, it's clear that you can't sell if there is no budget, or no priority in putting a budget to your project. Furthermore, it's important to identify the different authorities early on in the process to identify the approval process.
N&I (Negative Consequences & Positive Implications)
The final step is about Negative Consequences & Positive Implications. A very good CEO once told me, Ruben, whenever we do a sale, our goal should be that the person we're selling to can make a promotion within her or his company within the next year. That's about the strongest relation you can build with a customer. And, if they flourish, you'll flourish as well. So it could be interesting to request the negative consequences & positive implications coming from the decision your customer takes.
So what framework to go for? Well, it depends a little on your situation and the budget you have available for prospecting. After all, the more complex the framework becomes, the more time it will take to qualify the lead. So it might not be a good idea to use the GPCTBA/N&I framework if your deals are only between €100-€500 Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), because it would be too expensive and the impact you have on your customer is probably rather limited as well.
But what is most important is that if you don't have any qualification method yet installed, you should implement it as soon as possible. It will dramatically improve how your deals are moving through your sales pipeline and will result in more sales, more revenue and even higher sales ticket prices.
And if you don't know how to get started with this, just drop me a note.