Qualifying criteria is important when it comes to ranking leads, for many reasons. A lead definition today can mean everything from a name in the "new leads" tab in a CRM to an actual conversation where someone wants a demo and has a budget and called YOU.

So the term "lead" is  a poor description in many cases for an unqualified name, which has no real context behind it.  

It's so important to quantify what a "lead" is for a number of reasons.  Having defined criteria surfaces not only short-term opportunities, but also great long-term opportunities you need to be in dialog with NOW.  Also you can avoid wasted effort and resources being deployed on the wrong prospects at the wrong time.

Something to be careful of though is downgrading something that would be a high-value strategic entry into an account. Or to dismiss early access to decision makers and influencers in key accounts because all the other elements aren't in place yet for a "BANT" qualified lead

It's critical to understand that many times, vendor preferences are established well before the budget or timing is clear, and to miss that early window of entry sometimes means missing the deal altogether. I have known of situations where a prospect's willingness to talk to a vendor wasn't pursued because it didn't meet BANT criteria (BUDGET-AUTHORITY-NEED-TIMELINE,) and later when the account was revisited it was only to discover another vendor got the business. What happened? It often maps back to the investment made by the other vendor in the relationship at an early stage, and when the deal materialized, the other vendor was already well established in the account.

Why does this still happen with all the understanding of buyer behavior?  Over and over, marketing automation proves and gives visibility into early signals someone is looking, but because they didn't reach that BANT score, they were recycled back into a nurturing bucket only to be educated by you to buy from someone else.

What does it take to stop missing deals?

1. Investing in relationships in key accounts.  You have to care enough to be in there and develop trust early, and put some skin in the game rather than not wanting to spend time until there is something in it for you. It isn't about you, it's about your prospect and how THEY want to engage. 

2. Putting top talent on the front end of a dialog with your prospect.  Many prospects are eager and willing to talk, and the whole thing is lost by putting a junior rep on that first call to "qualify" them. 

3. BANT was hailed as a holy grail of qualification back when people would budget differently than they do today. It was like 1st Grade of qualification--now we have a PhD available to understand prospects--why stunt yourself doing something long outdated?  The time BANT was in it's heyday, field reps also had laptops that were like carrying a masonry block and a cell phone that was the size of a shoe..and don't forget Daytimers  to organize it all :) 

So before downgrading a lead, ask yourself if this is worth investing some time in to get the business and have a more long-term view of the opportunity.

BANT types of data helps to understand a prospect, but don't let it downgrade something unnecessarily you should be pursuing and actively engaged with. Good opportunities are highly valuable in today's market, so having an intelligent process of examining multiple areas of prospect information will help you make the right decisions on how to build your pipeline and not throw things out that are actual deals in the future.