spin selling

One of the most well known sales methodologies in the world is the SPIN Selling framework. It’s been around for over 30 years but it still being used by many organisations. Here’s an overview of SPIN Selling and what parts of it are still relevant today.

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Way back in 1988, Neil Rackham published a book titled, Spin Selling. In the book, Rackham took the lessons he learned from observing more than 30,000 actual sales calls conducted by sales experts over 12 years. One of his major findings was that by asking the right questions, at the right time, it was possible to increase the likelihood of closing a deal. In Spin Selling, Rackam fleshes out his theory through developing a question-based sales framework and providing practical applications to follow. 

The Basics of SPIN Selling

The SPIN selling framework takes its names from the first letters of each of the four types of questions which make up the phases of the system. These questions are those dealing with Situations Problems, Implications, and Need-payoffs.

Situation Questions

The answers to the questions in this stage form the foundation of the sales relationship. The aim for the salesperson is asking the right questions in order to gain a better understanding of the nature of what the company desires to accomplish, the processes and the resources the company currently uses to pursue their objectives, and whether the business is reaching its targets.

Remember, customizing situation questions for each prospect is critical. It is also important to note that although modern technology has made it much easier for salespeople to answer many of these situational types of questions before contacting a prospect, it is still common practice, and a good idea, to confirm any previously gathered information. 

Examples of the types of situation questions appropriate for a food delivery business may include:

     How many vehicles do you currently have in your fleet?

     How do you manage orders currently?

     Do you use GPS in all your vehicles to help with deliveries? 

Problems Questions

Problems exist in every business. A few of them are quite obvious, but most of them lie under the surface and require a bit of prodding to uncover. At this stage of the SPIN selling framework, the goal of a salesperson is to help the prospect identify both the clear issues the company is experiencing and the more obscure challenges which the prospect may not immediately recognize. To do this effectively, the questioning must move from direct yes or no questions about known issues to more open-ended questions about possible problems.

Remember, it is always more effective if a potential customer can discover the problems on his own rather than being told which problems exist by someone else.

Problem question help the prospect self-identify issues they are experiencing in their current situation. Several examples of how a sales rep can guide a food delivery business into uncovering problems may include:

     Do you ever find your staff using company vehicles for personal errands?

     How often do you run into problems with your POS?

     How often does a GPS malfunction? 

Implication Questions

Situations are problems only if they result in a potential and probably negative outcome. The purpose behind the implication questions stage of the SPIN selling method is to allow a potential customer to conclude that the problems uncovered in the last step of the process are real and that they have real consequences, or implications, if not corrected quickly.

Salespeople need to be cautious when asking implication questions to avoid falling into the trap of asking questions with an obvious answer or one which appears too self-serving.  

Appropriate implication questions concerning a food delivery business may include:

     What would happen if an employee got into an accident while running a personal errand?

     If your POS is malfunctioning how long would it take to get it fixed?

     Would a malfunctioning GPS significantly increase delivery times? 

Need-payoff Questions 

In the final stage of the SPIN sales framework, the questions need to relate to the benefit of providing a solution to either prevent a potential problem or alleviate a existing issue. At this point in the process, it is critical to allow the potential buyer suggest the benefits of a solution on his own. This is because while a prospect may feel certain a salesperson is on her side, there is no one whom anyone trusts more than herself.

The objective for the salesperson is to design questions with answers which perfectly fits the solution she is selling. Examples of need-payoff questions for a company selling a mobile app for food delivery services:

     How would receiving a text message if your vehicles deviated from an approved route prevent personal use of your vehicles?

     How would receiving orders through text eliminate the need for a POS? 

     How does connecting a GPS directly to a food order customer location save time?

Asking the right questions is still very relevant in today’s sales situations and using the SPIN Selling questions is a good starting point.

We recommended building a Needs Analysis (questioning sheet) based not only on the needs of the customer but also designed to position your product as the right solution.

But questions are only a fraction of the whole sales process, sales teams also need to learn how to effectively move prospects from each stage of the funnel so they aren’t left asking great questions but have no closed deals.

Author Profile

Tom Abbott
Tom Abbott is the author of 'The SOHO Solution' and 'Social Selling' and the creator of the online sales training platform SOCO Academy. Sales leaders engage Tom for his proven solutions to building high performance sales teams that exceed targets and for motivational keynotes that energise their audiences.

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