NEAT Selling: Everything You Need to Know (+ 38 Free Example Questions)  

By
Weflow
·
August 30, 2022

NEAT Selling was created as an alternative to “classic” qualification methodologies like BANT and ANUM, which were designed to support the linear sales processes of a bygone era. 

NEAT, by contrast, was built for the complex, non-linear sales process that defines today’s B2B landscape.

Like many methodologies, NEAT Selling aims to prevent sellers from wasting their time on poor-fit deals.

But — it’s also a framework for building trust with buyers and having valuable conversations throughout the entire sales process —  from the initial stages of prospecting to the close and beyond. 

In this article, we’ll explain what NEAT Selling is, who it’s for, and how to get the most from this methodology.

What is NEAT Selling?

NEAT Selling is a lead qualification methodology developed by Harris Consulting Group and Sales Hacker. The letters in NEAT stand for "Need", "Economic impact", "Access to authority", and "Timeline".

It’s often described as a lead qualification methodology but that designation feels much too narrow. The NEAT methodology is really about building trust by homing in on a prospect’s most pressing pain points or needs and responding with valuable insights, empathy, and high-impact solutions.  

NEAT uses open-ended questions and active listening to identify prospect needs and present solutions that directly solve prospect pain points and unlock new opportunities – not just in the initial stages of the sales process but also during upsell, cross-sell, and contract renewal conversations.

NEAT usually works best for B2Bs with long sales cycles and big-ticket sales.

BANT + ANUM = NEAT

Sales qualification methodologies like BANT, ANUM, and AN have been around forever — in large part, because they’re effective. Or, at least they were. 

These methodologies provide a systematic framework for qualifying leads, uncovering pain points, and presenting perfect-fit solutions that close deals and mark the beginning of a long-term relationship. 

Now, those methodologies do still offer some value, it’s just that they’re too rigid and linear for today’s complex buying cycles. 

NEAT Selling keeps the good parts of BANT and ANUM but reimagines and expands on those concepts, creating a flexible, non-linear framework aligned with the modern sales process. 

For example, if you have multiple decision-makers entering the process at different points in the buyer’s journey and doubling back several times to do more research, it becomes really difficult for sellers to follow a framework where stages must be completed in sequential order. 

Real briefly, here’s a quick breakdown of what those acronyms stand for:

BANT is a sales qualification process based on a prospect’s Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe.

Source

ANUM qualifies prospects by focusing on these four dimensions: Authority, Need, Urgency, and Money.

Source

AN is a shortened version of ANUM that focuses exclusively on the top of the sales funnel, where conversations typically focus on Authority and Need.  

Key Components of NEAT Selling

Each letter in the NEAT acronym represents one of four central tenets that, together,  help you qualify high-value leads, put together an effective sales pitch, and move prospects through the sales process.

1. Need

Here, you have two main objectives.

First, you’ll need to determine whether the prospect can benefit from your solution and if not, disqualify and move on.

From there, your goal becomes getting the prospect to paint a clear picture of their needs, pain points, and goals. Harris Consulting Group emphasizes that understanding needs requires sellers to really focus on digging beneath the surface to find the underlying pain prospects, users, and customers are experiencing. 

2. Economic impact

Once you’ve identified the prospect’s needs, the next move is quantifying their pain points and problems and connecting them back to the bottom line.

Keep in mind, you’ll need to ask questions that uncover the actual costs (not hypotheticals) of the prospect’s current processes and solutions.

With that information, you can then ask deeper questions about potential improvements to gauge the actual economic impact of implementing your products or services.

3. Access to authority

Here, your goal is to find out which decision-makers are involved in the buying process and what kind of authority they have over the purchase.

Initially, it’s about figuring out if you’re speaking with people who can connect you with the person with the final say over whether this deal can happen — or not.

You’re trying to determine how much influence each person has over other stakeholders, and who the internal “champions” and “blockers” are. 

4. Timeline

You’ll also need to figure out what kind of timeline the prospect is working with.

What happens if they don’t meet that deadline? Timeline questions also help you gauge urgency and can help you prioritize opportunities where decision-makers are looking to move quickly.

Alternatively, you might come up with a plan for nurturing prospects operating on longer timelines — that way, when it’s time to take action, your company is the first one that comes to mind. 

Who should use NEAT Selling?

NEAT Selling works best for B2Bs with long sales cycles and big-ticket sales. 

This landing page promoting Richard Harris’ online training course gives you an idea of what kind of companies might benefit from NEAT. The copy name checks familiar companies like Zoom, Pandora, SalesLoft, and Google — all digital natives that go after large, high-value accounts

The qualification framework centers on relationship-building through smart questions and active listening.

Meaning, all sellers (even all people) can benefit from NEAT’s core tenets — it’s just that this methodology takes a significant amount of time and research, so the ROI on smaller deals with quick turnarounds just isn’t there.

The point is, you don’t have to commit to one methodology (even if your corporate trainer says otherwise).

To get the most out of NEAT Selling, you might use bits and pieces from various frameworks to create a sales process tailored to your unique team, your buyers, and your business model. 

We’ve put together several guides that break them down for you. 

Here’s a list of recent posts:

How to get the most out of NEAT Selling

Below, we’ve outlined a few tips for successfully incorporating this sales technique into your existing strategy:

1. Ask open-ended questions

As with Gap Selling, Question-Based Selling, and so many other relationship-centric methodologies, NEAT lives and dies by a rep’s ability to ask smart, probing questions. 

For example, you might ask the buyer how they plan to use your product or why they need to meet a certain deadline. Their response might reveal there’s a big milestone coming up – like an acquisition or a product launch – and they need to get ready to merge teams or ramp up production. From there, you might ask about the consequences of failing to meet that deadline. 

Make sure you’re asking one question at a time and give the prospect enough space to answer that question.

And – use prospect responses to inform follow up questions, rather than relying on a list.

Ultimately, your goal is to find out as much as you can about the buyer’s needs and requirements, so your best bet letting them drive the direction of the conversation – and circling back to fill in any remaining gaps.  

2. Listen to prospect responses 

Done right, NEAT Selling brings empathy and humanity to the sales qualification process — which, too often, reduces prospects to a list of questions and criteria. People want to feel heard, understood. 

The methodology is more about finding the right answer than asking a specific set of questions

So, the most important thing sellers should do is work on their active listening skills, asking good follow up questions, and using prospect responses to identify what information they’ll need to learn to move the deal forward.  

The other part of leveling up those critical soft skills is considering how technology might help reps foster deeper connections. 

For example, you might implement tools that record calls and capture conversational insights like Gong or Chorus so sellers don’t get caught up in note-taking during sales calls. 

You might invest in an automated lead scoring solution so reps spend less mental energy determining whether prospects are, in fact, the right fit.

Or — you might use Weflow's notepad to structure calls and sync notes back to Salesforce. 

These are far from the only examples, but the point is, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for reps to capture the insights they need to deliver positive customer outcomes.

3. Make prospects think about the impact of their action (or inaction)

Compared to, say, BANT, NEAT is uniquely suited to the tailored communications that today’s buyers expect.

But — sellers must be able to adapt conversations to the individual and create a distinct emotional experience for each stakeholder. 

It’s not about rattling off specs and features, it’s about demonstrating tangible benefits – in context with the concerns and priorities of each stakeholder AND where they are in the sales process

This requires sellers to be empathetic to the buyer’s situation and develop a real understanding of their mindset so they can frame insights and solutions in a way that resonates with their point of view. 

Detailed buyer personas and ICPs, combined with insights you’ve gathered during prior conversations and account research should be used to inform your approach. 

4. Reinforce NEAT Selling best practices with the right set of tools

Again, sellers don’t necessarily work through the four NEAT “stages” in chronological order. Sometimes, you’ll swing back and forth based on which stakeholder you’re talking to or what direction the conversation takes. 

In some cases, it might make more sense to start the conversation with economic impact or timeline, rather than need. The point is, it’s designed with flexibility in mind. 

The inherent flexibility of the NEAT Selling methodology makes it a good fit for a diverse range of B2Bs.

But — because it lacks a definitive set of steps and stages, sellers may have a hard time mastering NEAT without the right guidance

For example, you can use templates to implement methodologies like NEAT, MEDDIC, BANT, or SNAP to structure what questions to ask, how to respond to possible answers, or sell to different personas. You can do this for free - all while auto-updating Salesforce - with Weflow's notepad.

Weflow's Notepad with Embedded Salesforce fields

NEAT Selling Example Questions 

Each stage of the NEAT methodology focuses on gathering specific details that will help you move the deal forward.

Below, we’ve included a few examples of what you might ask during each stage, based on where things stand with the prospect at any given point in the process. 

1. Need - Example Questions

  • What is the biggest challenge you’re facing today?
  • What barriers are preventing you from solving X problem?
  • What happens if you don’t solve X problem?

2. Economic impact - Example Questions

  • What is the economic impact of X problem?
  • Do you currently have a budget allocated for a solution?

3. Access to authority - Example Questions

  • Is there anyone else in your company that needs to be included in this discussion?
  • How do you reach them?
  • Who makes the final decision?

4. Timeline - Example Questions

  • What is your deadline for getting this problem solved?
  • What happens if you don’t solve the problem within X weeks/months/years?

Click here for a complete list of NEAT selling questions to add to your playbook, share with reps, or combine with questions from other favorite methodologies. 

Conclusion

While NEAT certainly checks all requisite boxes of any good qualification framework (validating prospect-solution fit, building trust, identifying and solving for critical pain points), it’s better to think of it as a philosophy of sorts for driving all “revenue-centric conversations.”

Implemented correctly, NEAT allows sellers to identify buyer requirements and position solutions based on how they respond to questions.

But – ultimately, success is driven by empathy, adaptability, and a focus on helping people solve problems. 

Create your own NEAT Selling templates using Weflow’s free notepad - all while auto-updating Salesforce.