Some people get pretty animated when debating certain sales methodologies like BANT, Challenger Sales, SPIN Selling, consultative selling, process-based selling and so many others.

Why is that?

 

Sales advice as hard and fast rules – not good

My theory is that those who are too firmly in the for or against camp on any sales model, methodology or concept are thinking about it as a hard and fast rule rather than as a concept – a guide – a signpost.

What’s the difference and why does this matter?

 

People don’t work like that, and selling is and always will be about people

Sales is about people – those selling and those potentially buying. Success for the salesperson won’t come by seeking some magic words or set of steps to execute like a robot in each and every situation.

Success will come instead from personally engaging with each person and opportunity.

Does this mean that sales models and methodologies are useless?

Absolutely not!

But neither are they hard and fast rules, scripts or detailed sets of instructions.

So what are they and how should we think about them?

They are guides. They are things to remember along the way.

 

Here’s an example

Take BANT for example.

If you don’t know what BANT is, it is a sales methodology introduced by IBM decades ago as a qualification and lead scoring model. The acronym stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline (or Time Frame).

I was recently a small part of a quite robust and lively debate about BANT on LinkedIn. The core of the debate was about timing.

Many in the anti-BANT camp made the point that BANT is ineffective because you can’t nail down all of the elements before moving into a robust conversation about the clients’ situation. From this perspective, it is the robust discussion of the clients’ situation that is the vehicle for effective salespeople to not only discover needs and opportunities but even to create new demand with the observations and insights they bring to the discussion.

In other words, you can’t nail down budget before the discussion if the discussion itself brings up things that could be part of a deal that were not known before the discussion.

Some others in the LinkedIn conversation – including me – made the point that the elements of BANT are essential, and are worth touching on early in the discussion. This is not to say they have to be locked in, but neither should they be ignored.

Why?

There is no sense having a deep discovery conversation about a solution that will undoubtedly be in the five-figures in any configuration with a prospect that can’t afford anything more than four figures no matter how beneficial the solution is.

Ultimately, the difference in approach in the application of BANT here is a matter of degree – much smaller and more subtle than the intensity of the discussion implied.

But let’s tie this back to the point of this article – owning your own sales education.

 

Rules versus guides

The anti-BANTers looked at BANT as a rigid rule – do not pass qualification until the elements of BANT are certain. Applying BANT this way certainly has some severe limitations.

Those who shared my perspective considered the elements of BANT to be important considerations in an ongoing discussion that should ebb and flow, but not entirely at random and without some structure.

 

So where does this leave us with respect to rules and signposts?

When you learn something new in sales – like BANT – or a new way of thinking about a sales process or a cold calling script, you won’t do yourself any favors if you take it at face value, accept it in literal specificity and apply it like a mindless robot to each and every situation.

You will serve yourself well if you think about the idea and apply it to your own situation as you can.

Just like love or investing or any other complex endeavor, there are rules and guides, but you have to apply them to your own situation to make them effective for you.

If you don’t think this is true or are convinced that your sales work can have standard rules, scripts and methodologies applied to them literally and across the board – watch out. You may be among the first to be replaced by an AI version of a sales rep.