The term “SPIN Selling” originates from a book of the same name, written by Neil Rackham and released in 2000. SPIN Selling was a brand new sales methodology at the time and the book was so popular that the concepts are now taught in business schools around the world.
This methodology came to be after sales experts carefully examined the results of 35,000 sales calls. The experts noticed a pattern: the root cause of a sale’s success usually depends on whether the salesperson is asking quality questions. Good questions speed up the sales process by engaging the prospect; whereas, poor questions not only delay the sale, but often end the sale.
One of the most fascinating conclusions of the study was that many good salespeople do not necessarily excel at talking. What makes them good salespeople is the opposite—they thrive on getting their prospects to do most of the talking and they make the effort to actively listen to what the prospects have to say. The more a prospect talks, the more likely it is that a sale will be made; however, the salesperson can’t just be asking random questions. He or she should strongly consider asking SPIN questions.
You might be wondering what SPIN stands for. It’s an acronym of four different forms of sales questions that are intended to pique the interest of a prospect:
Let’s go over each of these four types of sales questions in detail.
The goal of situation questions is to ensure that you understand the prospect’s circumstances as best as you can. Here are some examples of situation questions to ask:
How do you usually go about handling your customer’s contact information?
What methods do you use to track everything in your sales pipeline?
How do you track the metrics that determine how your salespeople are doing?
Questions like these are crucial due to understanding your prospect and the answers can be utilized throughout the rest of the sales cycle. Remember, the more research you do before your sales calls, the more situational information you’ll already have. Keep in mind that you are disrespecting your prospect if you go into calls without having gathered any information on your own. Prospects will be turned off by this because they’ll be able to tell you you’ve made no effort, prior to the call, to figure out their situation and that you’re just going through the motions. The least you can do is plan your situation questions in advance. Write them down so you don’t waste any time on the phone and you can get right to the point. Good situation questions seek to understand the prospect’s pain points quickly.
Problem questions are designed to make the prospect aware that he or she has a problem that needs to be solved. The salesperson will take advantage of this by using the prospect’s admitted problem to set up a sale. Additionally, problem questions are great for getting prospects to realize issues that they were overlooking. Here are some examples of problem questions:
-Was the training you had to do to get comfortable using your CRM ever a problem for you?
-Do you find it expensive to add new people into your CRM?
-What’s the biggest issue you and your company are facing right now when it comes to your sales pipeline?
If you haven’t worked in sales for very long, improving your problem questions is one of the most important things you can do to make more sales. Solutions can’t be offered if problems never become apparent. No matter your experience, you must view yourself as not just a salesperson, but a PPS: Professional Problem Solver.
Don’t put off implementing more problem questions into your sales calls. You could even get out a pen and paper right now and write down every single problem that your product is capable of solving. If you list isn’t long, don’t give up. Just be as thoughtful and creative as you can to think of all the solutions you product can offer people.
Once your prospect admits a problem, never put it on the back burner. Keep bringing that problem up so that the prospect realizes how damaging it is and also bring up solutions. Don’t focus too much on one specific problem, ask more problem questions. Maybe your prospect has an even bigger problem that hasn’t been mentioned yet.
Now that you’ve identified the problems, it’s time to ask implication questions. These are designed to convey to prospects just how much is at stake if their problems are not solved. Implication question must imply that problems need to be solved quickly and that the prospect can’t afford to sit back and wait. Here are some examples of implication questions:
-If leads do not receive input in your CRM, how will this impact your sales outlook?
-If the CRM training is expensive and taking up a lot of time, how does this affect your new sales reps when they start working for you?
-If you’re struggling to clearly see your recent performance metrics, how much time do you have to find a solution if your sales numbers are smaller than you expected?
These questions don’t just bring up a problem, they imply that there will be serious ramifications for the prospect and his or her business if a solution is not quickly reached. One of the top buying motives of most people is the desire for change, and implication questions definitely tap into this motive.
Inexperienced salespeople have trouble connecting problems to solutions, which is why it’s absolutely crucial for you to teach your sales team the importance of problem questions and implication questions; otherwise, how are salespeople ever going to know what solutions they can offer their prospects if they’re not even aware of the prospect’s problems and pain points?
Implication questions are more powerful than problem questions because they induce pain. The prospects should realize just how serious their problems are and that a change must be made or negative consequences are going to happen. Implication questions will turn someone’s implied needs into explicit needs.
Just remember to be natural when you ask implied questions. You do not want to seem like you’re interrogating your prospect.
Now that your prospect has realized that serious consequences will take place if his or her problem isn’t solved, it’s time to get the prospect to consider and visualize a solution. This is exactly what need-payoff questions are designed to do. Here are some examples of need-payoff questions:
-Why is having an effective overview of the sales pipeline helpful to you and your company?
-If you had the ability to decrease the time that goes into training new reps to use your CRM, how would that affect you and your company?
-If you could actually see your pipeline opportunities, would that help you and your company reach your sales targets?
The key to need-payoff questions, well, paying off, is that you prompt the prospects to verbalize the benefits they’ll receive. You’re essentially having your prospect tell you how your product will help them rather than you having to go over scripted benefits and seem pushy. Visualization should be encouraged. The prospect is a lot more likely to agree to make a purchase if he or she can imagine the problem being solved. Need-payoff questions trigger positive emotions in your prospects due to realizing that their problems finally have an effective solution.
A great deal of SPIN selling focuses on simplicity. This means that you should never bombard your prospects with too many questions. In fact, you should ask as few problem and situation questions as you can. Prospects do not have the patience to help you with your homework. You’ve got to do the homework (research) on your own. Many salespeople make a crucial mistake. They work too hard to identify pain points that the prospect is already aware of. Prospects would have already bought a solution if they knew how to solve the pain points. But here’s where a SPIN seller’s value comes into play. Reps can discover pain points/opportunities that the prospects are not aware of. This means that you shouldn’t ask people tons of questions. Instead, you should ask thought-provoking questions. Here is an example. “Has your company ever considered doing X?” A smart question like this will make the prospect consider the solution that you can provide. Consider asking fewer generic questions if you want to improve your sales numbers. This concept is crucial toward becoming an expert-level SPIN seller.
Due to all of the important information that reps learn about their prospects while utilizing SPIN selling, it’s absolutely necessary that they should record everything they learn about each prospect into their CRM. Even if a sale can’t be made today, there’s still important information that can be utilized tomorrow.
Remember, selling is not about convincing people to spend money, it’s about providing the right conditions so that prospects convince themselves that they are in need of what you have to offer. SPIN selling perfectly makes this concept a reality, due to implementing effective questioning that will set up prospects to realize not only that they have pain points, but that those pain points can be alleviated, thanks to you and your company.