SPIN Selling is the result of 10 years of Neil Rackham’s research, making it one of the bestseller sales books in history.
Founder of Huthwaite, one of the world’s largest sales training companies, Rackham has invested a million dollars and a decade of work to analyze which sales methods work, which don’t and why.
The result is the method that gives his name to his book, SPIN Selling, which stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need.
Throughout the 256 pages of this book, the author develops a method that has already been adopted by top sellers around the world.
And after reading our summary, you too will be able to adopt this technique.
The SPIN Selling method
Sales will not get you to close million-dollar sales. This part is very sexy, but selling is something else.
Selling is much more like routine, consistent work.
That doesn’t mean you have to follow outdated and ineffective methods:
- Make a call related to a client’s interests
- Examine your client’s needs using open-ended questions
- Describe the benefits that your product will bring him or her
- Deal with any objections
- Bing! Conclude the deal.
This approach is good for being a hit with selling encyclopedias, but not much more. We like to imagine this kind of sale:
“Do you like history? Then The Larousse encyclopedia is made for you!
– … Oh, you can’t read?
– Don’t worry, all the volumes I’m going to send you now are full of pictures.”
All kidding aside, this approach can work for selling low-value products. But if you want to improve your sales process or sell more valuable items, you need to take a different approach.
How does the traditional approach to sell look like?
All sales go through 4 stages: the preliminary, the research phase, the demonstration and the signing.
Imagine you are selling several computers for a small office:
You explain to your customer that their best option is the HP brand (preliminary), you go deeper in the technical characteristics of their processors (demonstration) and you try to reach an agreement for the purchase of 10 new laptops for their employees (signature).
This method may work, but you can imagine how different the dynamics would have been if you had just asked it:
“What do you like most and least about all the computers you use right now?”
Indeed, the only essential step in selling is signing, which is why pressure methods like Always Be Closing (ABC) became popular a few years ago.
However, steps such as research usually turn any negotiation upside down.
The question then becomes: if the only mandatory step is signing, but it’s not the most important, what step should a good salesperson focus on?
The author’s answer is the SPIN method.
Forget about signing up or doing repetitive prospecting calls.
To close a deal, you really have to know your client’s needs, which are often quite complex.
Needs can start with small problems that turn into real and larger problems, which then give the opportunity to create a strong desire for solutions.
Customers who know exactly what they want have explicit needs.
In the example I gave above, an employer has to replace his staff’s computers with modern ones.
But customers can also have tacit needs, and your job as a salesperson is to find and resolve them.
In the previous case, you might find that the reason the employer is changing the computers is that they are full of viruses every 2-3 days and they communicate poorly with the company server.
Without knowing about this problem, you sell him 10 computers for a value of about 8,000 euros.
Now that you know the big picture, you can sell him 10 computers, a new server, several virus scanners, and yearly maintenance of the whole system for double the amount (minimum).
To go further in his research and understand all of a client’s needs, Mr. Rackham defined an acronym, SPIN:
A smart salesperson will ask their prospect questions that address each of these points.
Questions about the situation
The key to these questions is to understand the client’s starting point.
These questions about the situation provide clear information, such as “What hardware are you currently using?” Or “Who is your current Internet service provider?“.
Questions about the problem
Problem-solving questions aim to get to the heart of the matter and uncover your prospect’s difficulties or dissatisfaction.
“So, are you happy with your internet connection and your computers?” Or maybe, “Isn’t it too hard to have to do the maintenance yourself?“.
Although your prospect may consider their problems to be unimportant, if they are really wasting their time or money, it is your role to emphasize them, to develop them, by talking to them about the possible consequences that they may not have considered.
Once the problems are detected, you must move on to their solutions. You get it now, these solutions must come from the use of your product.
Presenting the solutions seems like a simple part, but there are some points to consider.
Turning into a robot and telling everyone the same benefits and features your product offers is tempting. It’s tempting because it’s easy.
However, this is a serious mistake.
First, you should focus on the features that provide a solution to that customer’s specific problems, and not all of the features.
Second, you have to understand the difference between features and benefits.
- One of the characteristics of a computer is that it has a new generation Intel Core i9 processor.
- One of the benefits is that thanks to a very powerful processor, the computer will run without ever crashing.
Most of the customers don’t care about the first but are interested in the second.
Complete the SPIN sales method with needs and signature
Although the benefits are a little more persuasive than a simple list of features, they can certainly spark customer interest, but the benefits are primarily informative.
And you can’t close a deal only with information.
Also, by addressing the causes of the customer’s problem rather than its symptoms, you are much less likely to face objections and can more easily move on to signing.
Start to apply the SPIN selling method
Now is the time to start implementing the SPIN strategy into your overall business approach.
It can be “expensive” at first but don’t give up. The best way to incorporate SPIN into your sales practice is to do it slowly.
Try to integrate one step of the SPIN method and only move on to the next when you are sure you have understood the lessons from the previous one.
Any new technique, whether in the sales arena or not, needs to be practiced repeatedly if you want to use it with confidence and make it successful.
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