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SPIN Selling

An essay about Sales behavior and Sales Success inspired by Neil Rackhams’s book ‘’Spin Selling’’, written by Cécile Gasparoni.


Which Sales technique leads to success? Is there a fixed formula that ensures a safe and profitable outcome? Many books and many Sales experts have been teaching the traditional way of selling. They teach you to uncover needs with open and closed questions and to close the deal as soon as possible. This traditional selling-closing style has been successful in small sales; but is this also the way to succeed in larger sales? In this essay we will go deeper into sales techniques that are mainly used in larger sales. Techniques that build up perception of values. Techniques that help building a steady relationship between seller and buyer.

Customer Needs: Implied and Explicit Needs

Fact – Without having the customer needing our product or service he won’t buy it. So our goal in a sales call is to make our customer needing what we are offering. But what if that’s not the case? What if he’s already ‘’happy’’ with his current situation? Is that it – are we accepting it and call the next customer on our book?
The answer is No, we don’t.
Exactly that is the point about sales. The ‘’magic mind switch’’ if you will. Of course no one NEEDS an XL Super Auto Espresso Machine to survive. But hasn’t there always been these annoying problems with the old office coffee machine; like clogged tubes and the constant bug with the On/Off switch? These things can be annoying but as long as they still work (sort of), then who cares?!
This kind of need is the first step, and is described as an ‘’Implied need’’ [Neil Rackham, N.R., published 22. May 1988. Book: Spin Selling, page 57].
It is a slight dissatisfaction or a difficulty the customer has with his current product/service. But nothing tragic that must be changed – so far(!).
We, the sellers, want to discover this implied need, dig around, until we have found the weak spot and transform it into a so called ‘’explicit need’’. [Neil Rackham, N.R., published 22. May 1988. Book: Spin Selling, page 58]. It is a specific customer statement of wants or desires. But how can we get Implied needs turning into Explicit needs? How can we build up a connection between a current situation with a certain problem and a product that seems to be needed, to solve the problem? And here comes the point where I will introduce the so called SPIN Strategy.

Sales Behavior and Sales Success: SPIN Strategy

Situation Problem Implication Need-Payoff

Situation Questions
Let’s imagine we are going to have a sales call with a new (potential) customer and we want him to purchase our product. What would be the first thing to do? Calling and asking as many open questions as possible to gain information about the wants and needs? Asking questions like ‘’What sort of business do you run?’’ or ‘’What’s your current position?’’, et cetera pp…
When we’d step into the shoes of our customer, these question can easily become annoying, followed by being impatient. Ergo: Not a good start for a sales attempt.
Situation questions are indeed an essential basis of a sales call but they are easily overused, as they just seem safe enough. To avoid this mistake, make sure you gather all the necessary information about your customer beforehand and ask only, for your product relevant, questions.

Problem Questions
So after defining the situation, we come to the problem questions. With these type of questions, we want the customer to determine the problem himself. We want him to realize what his implied needs are to turn these into explicit needs. A problem question could look like that: ‘’Are you satisfied with your current return on investment?’’ or ‘’Do you have problems reaching new customers?’’ These questions reveal the negative emotions the
customer is having about his business. Now, that the customer has told us about his dissatisfactions, we need to make aware, that the problem that seemed so small in the beginning, actually generates a (bigger) loss for his company. How will we make sure that the customer comes to this realization? Correct – with the right Implication questions.

Implication question
Now we need to lead our customer to talk about the aftereffects of the mentioned problem. With questions like ‘’What effect could that have on your company’s success?’’ or ‘’Can you tell me something about the consequences this problem might causes?’’
We basically ask the customer to tell us, what the implication would be, of not solving this problem. The whole point is to have them feel the pain.
And that’s the shout for the last move. After focusing the attention on the problem, we now need to move the attention to the solution. We need to get away from the pain and move towards to pleasure – Our product!

Need-Payoff Questions
Need-Payoff questions shall make the customer telling us how our product would help him in his business. So the question could sound as followed: ‘’How would appearing on the first page in Google affect your business’ brand awareness?’’ or ‘’How do you think would a better brand awareness help your business?’’.
The customer is sort of forced to name you the benefits of your product and admits in the same time how needed your product really is. The emotional level turns from negative into a positive state as we have now built up a perception of value and discovered a solution for the issue.

Obtaining Commitment – Closing

Closing the deal is the supreme discipline of a sales call. We always get to hear that closing is the most important step. But is that true?
Of course it is the final step that may leads to a successful outcome but imagine the sales call would only consist of presenting your product, followed by a pushy attempt of closing the deal. In larger sales – no chance.
It is the whole package of Situation-, Problem-, Implication- and Need-Payoff Questions that make it possible to obtain a commitment. There are many different closing techniques that try to trick the customer. But these tricks aren’t necessary anymore, when the customer has gained trust in you as a seller and in your product.

The Final Word

There’s no magic formula for a 100% closing rate. Every customer is different and for every customer a different method will work. A few very important characteristics of a sales person may be to understand people, understand what they want; what they need.
So what is it, that makes a sales person successful?
In larger sales, honesty, knowledge combined with the right use of techniques is a good basis to start with. But in the end, the most important factor is