TL;DR — If BANT isn’t helping you fully-screen your sales prospects, upgrade to CRUX: Compatible, Realistic, Urgent, and X-Factor. CRUX considers whether an agency prospect feels right, too—saving you from prospects who were only perfect on paper.
CRUX: Find better prospects faster
Once you’re getting quality leads at your agency, the hardest part of sales is knowing where to spend your time. Prospects may act interested… but then disappear into The Abyss. Someone might be truly interested, but they’re not authorized to buy. A prospect might work at a big company where you expect a big budget—but that’s no guarantee they’re willing to spend it.
What’s my solution? Create a “fast failure” sales screening process (so you get rid of tire-kickers ASAP), informed by an easy-to-use sales qualification acronym (to ensure you’ve confirmed prospects are truly qualified in every way). Use my CRUX acronym, an upgrade to BANT.
It’s more than just a checklist—it’s also how you feel about a prospect.
Treat relationships as an “Experience Good” not a “Search Good”
In 2014, I met Duke behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of books like Predictably Irrational and Dollars and Sense and co-founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. I asked him why online dating doesn’t work better.
Professor Ariely explained that online dating uses the wrong framework. In economic terms, relationships are an “experience good”—that is, you have to experience the relationship to know if it’s right for you.
Yet online dating treats relationships as if they’re “search goods”—that is, you assume a checklist of factors confirms if someone’s a fit. That’s the wrong selection model.
I asked how he’d fix this. He said he’d create an online dating site where everyone was required to go on three dates before making a decision. (He acknowledged that the site would likely not be very popular.)
In short—evaluate prospective romantic relationships as “you have to experience it,” not “they’re right because they fit the checklist.”
The problem with BANT: Relationships aren’t checklists
If you’ve studied the basics of consultative sales, you’ve probably come across BANT. The acronym stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing. BANT is not inherently bad, but it assumes that a checklist alone is enough to evaluate a prospective sales relationship.
BANT also looks at the factors in the wrong order, as Zorian Rotenberg notes in his article on BANT alternative “CHAMP.” (Although an upgrade, CHAMP is still checklist-oriented.)
Instead, you need a “checklist plus” that considers both objective and feelings-based factors. Enter CRUX.
Factors—and questions— within CRUX
If you’ve ever had a prospective romantic partner who was perfect “on paper,” yet things didn’t really ‘click,’ you’ve experienced the “experience vs. search good” problem that Dan Ariely noted. Based on that problem, I developed CRUX as a better sales-qualification alternative to BANT.
Likewise in sales qualification, CRUX helps you fix the “perfect on paper, but…” problem. As a reminder, CRUX = Compatible, Realistic, Urgent, and X-Factor. Let’s look at what’s included in each letter.
Here are questions to help you assess whether the prospect is Compatible.
- Do they NEED your help?
- Do they fit your ideal-client persona?
- Does their Think/Teach/Do request match what you want to do?
- Do you believe in the client’s business and mission?
But raw compatibility isn’t enough—to be a fit, the client needs to have realistic expectations, too.
Here are questions to help you assess whether the prospect is Realistic.
- Do their expectations, goals, and budget match?
- Does your contact truly have authority? (If they don’t, you likely will get a bad feeling earlier in the sales screening process.)
- Do you have capacity to do the work?
- Have they worked with agencies before? (If you’re their first and you still want to work with them, plan for extra drama.)
- Do their business and project-evaluation metrics make sense? (If they have none… be careful.)
But “are they realistic?” isn’t enough—to be a fit, the client needs to be ready to start now (or as soon as your agency’s client waiting list permits).
Here are questions to help you assess whether the prospect is Urgent.
- Are they ready to start now? (Or to start in the future in line with your agency’s client waiting list.)
- Are you confident they’ll still be decisive once you start the work?
Yet urgency isn’t enough—to be a fit, the client needs to feel right to you. After all, client relationships—like other relationships—are an “experience good,” and a checklist alone isn’t enough to predict success.
This is the key to CRUX—the intangibles that help you avoid bad-fit prospects because they feel wrong. I call this the X-Factor.
- What’s your “gut feeling” on the prospect?
- Does the prospect STILL feel like the right one?
- Are you excited about spending the next several months—or years—with them?
If the answer’s “no” to any of these, be careful—you’re likely to regret moving forward.
The end result? You spend your agency’s time and energy on prospects who are truly a match. This helps you meet your financial and personal goals faster, without the soul-sucking experiences that frequently come with a haphazard approach to sales.
Question: How can switching from BANT to CRUX help your agency’s sales process?