Spin Sales is one of the most effective techniques for sales prospecting.
At a macro level, I always believe a salesperson has two major functions. The first is to qualify a customer and the second is to convince a customer. Questioning skills is one of the most effective techniques to do that. There are very little scientific researches undertaken in the field of B2B sales. SPIN selling technique is among the very few. I have done my research on SPIN selling techniques. I have tried using SPIN selling techniques myself in my interactions with my clients. I find this is by far the best method in sales questioning or prospecting. So if you are ready to learn, get ready for some note-taking.
All about SPIN Sales
Neil Rackman invented SPIN selling. He is a world-famous professor of Sales. In 1988 he released his book after researching 35,000 sales calls. It took him 12 years. There were 40 researchers on it. It was a mammoth project.
Now here is a disclaimer. I am not an affiliate marketer for SPIN selling techniques. Nor is anyone paying me to recommend this technique. I have used SPIN sales technique myself. And I believe it’s a effective technique to qualify and progress a sales opportunity.
Coming back to SPIN selling. So why is it important in the first place? Every B2B sales opportunity has two common characteristics:
- It takes many meetings to close a B2B sales opportunity.
- There is more than one person included in decision making.
Unlike B2C sales, a B2B sales opportunity is a series of small wins. We call these wins progressions. They move a sales opportunity forward. As a B2B seller, it is our job to get this progression from the customer throughout a sales cycle which leads to deal closure. SPIN selling is one of the most effective techniques to progress a sales opportunity.
The Questions under SPIN sales.
Planned and well-articulated questions learnt through SPIN selling and asked during sales can do 5 things;
1. They are a planning tool for a sales call
2. They make your prospective buyer think and help you to build a strong need inside the buyer’s mind
3. In answering these questions, the buyer convinces himself of the importance of buying the product/service you are offering
4. Through your questions, you can understand if the client has a need for your service. Based on this understanding you can qualify your client
5. Progress a sales opportunity and take it to the next stage.
Before learning and embracing SPIN selling there is one big mindset change that you must do. You have to view yourself as a problem solver whose job is to solve problems for customers and get paid in return.
SPIN selling needs a lot of practice. You need to keep practising until it becomes a part of your muscle memory. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t have to put in as much effort as you had put in at the start. Based on the principles of SPIN Selling, all the questions which we ask during a sales call fall into 4 buckets. Situation questions, Problem questions, Implication questions and Need payoff questions.
1. Situation questions :
Situation questions are questions related to customers’ current situation and facts.
These are factual questions that give details about customers’ current setup or situation. Situation questions provide salesperson facts and customers’ backgrounds. These are the easiest to ask. You should restrict these as much as possible. Otherwise, it puts off the customer and he might feel it’s more of a prosecution call than a prospecting call. Many times you can find the answers to most of the situation questions through research. So, as a salesperson, you should ask only those questions whose answers only the customer can give you.
Some examples of Situation questions are
1. What is the current speed of this device?
2. How many months in advance do you plan your social media strategy?
3. What are enablement sessions you have conducted with your team?
4. How much inventory do you have to stock every quarter?
2. Problem questions:
People buy only if they have needs. Needs almost always start with a problem or dissatisfaction with the current situation. The clearer and more explicit the need the more likely is the buyer to buy your product or service. As a professional salesperson, you have to uncover problems you can solve. This way you have something useful to offer to customers. Problem questions provide the raw material you need to have for the rest of the conversation.
By answering problem questions customers reveal difficulties and dissatisfaction with the current situation.
Some examples of problem questions could be :
1. Are you facing challenges with Employee attrition?
2. Is lead generation your main concern?
3. Are you facing challenges with cart abandonment?
4. Are you facing any performance issues with your IT products?
All the above examples are talking about a specific problem that a customer might be facing.
Using these questions in a sales call gets customers talking. It helps salespeople identify problems that they can solve.
3. Implication questions :
Implications questions are questions related to the consequences of the problem. They help you build the seriousness of the buyers’ problems. This way they become large enough to warrant a justifiable action.
Their purpose is to develop the clarity and severity of a buyer’s problems in their mind. This in turn can develop a sense of urgency.
Implication questions are especially effective when selling to decision-makers. These are people whose success depends on seeing beyond the immediate problem. They are more concerned about underlying effects and Possible Implications.
For example, the performance of one of the IT equipment might bother an IT Manager. But, the CXO might be more concerned about the implication of this. It could result in the loss of productivity or poor customer experience.
Implication questions help transform problems into direct needs. They can link various departmental problems into one serious company problem. It increases the sense of urgency of the problem.
Examples of Implication questions:
1. Has data loss created any compliance issues?
2. Does lack of automation slow down your team’s ability to deliver faster products?
3. Has regular unplanned downtime let you lose clients?
4. How has the increase in online transactions affected your system’s performance?
If you observe the above questions, they are leading towards implications of specific problems which the customer might be facing.
4. Need Payoff Questions:
Need Payoff questions helps the salesperson to make the customer acknowledge the payoff they will receive after buying the product or service.
These questions make the buyers think about how your solution can help them. It convinces the buyer of the value of your solution. Problem questions and implication questions to a certain extent create a sense of concern and fear in buyers’ mind about the current situation. But, Need payoff questions creates optimism and relief in the buyers’ mind. They move the discussion forward towards action and commitment.
Some examples of Need Payoff questions are as follows:
1. How much would you save in a year if we could cut seasonal overtime costs?
2. If we could automate the order processing cycle, how much productivity improvement you might see?
3. How much more revenue will you see if we can increase organic traffic by 25%?
4. If we help to fix 10 qualified meetings for your sales team every week how will it impact your pipeline?
As a customer, if you answer the above questions, you actually end up talking about the value delivered by the solution.
This is why need payoff questions are so powerful. It convinces the customer of the importance of your solution. And that too without you trying to convince them.
In B2B sales, there isn’t always a direct relation between real problems and solutions. This is so because the solution you are proposing could be a small part of a larger business goals. Need Payoff questions gets the buyer to explain which parts of the problem your solution can solve.
The conclusion of it all:
SPIN Selling is one of the best sales books I have ever read. I would recommend this book to everyone who is in sales. Do you want to improve your questioning and prospecting skills? Then this is the book for you.
If you have read this blog please do let me know one takeaway you gathered after reading this. If you liked this article please share it with others who might find it helpful.
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