How to use the SPIN Selling method to boost sales?

How to use the SPIN Selling method to boost sales?

In sales, the outcome always depends on the approach you use in selling. If you get the approach right, you can ace the selling game. As someone in B2B sales, you must have heard about the SPIN selling method. It is one of the oldest selling systems that help reps work on and close complex deals having a stretched sales process. 

So, let’s find out what SPIN selling is about, what its stages are, and how you can use it to close more deals. 

What is SPIN Selling?

SPIN selling is a sales technique with its roots in the classic book written by Neil Rackham, ‘SPIN Selling’. According to Rackham, salespeople have to let go of the traditional sales techniques when they have to crack bigger consultative deals and choose SPIN selling. 

The theory behind SPIN selling is that relationship selling revolves around the customer. 

SPIN selling is a sales methodology that focuses on the communication between the seller and buyer. It trains salespeople to ask the right questions to know whether their offering fits into prospects’ needs. 

The approach helps engage potential buyers, understand their needs, build trust and help provide a solution for the issues they face. The aim is to kindle their interest and eventually close the deal. 

The term SPIN stands for the four different kinds of questions you should ask prospects,

Situation questions

Problem questions

Implication questions

Need-payoff questions

Let’s discover the SPIN selling method further. 

SPIN Selling Method

In his book, SPIN Selling, Rackham makes observations based on 35,000 sales calls over 12 years. He says that the close-win rate is the highest when the sellers listen more and allow the buyers to do the talking.

The concept may seem practical, but it is not a part of regular selling. Salespeople know their product or service well and how it can benefit prospects, and that is why they get straight into it. Time is also a constraint when it comes to using a consultative selling technique like SPIN selling. 

Many feel that they can cut back on the steps and save time while going from the conversation to finalizing the deal by jumping directly to the solution. However, that isn’t how it works.

As a salesperson, you have to get a wide-angled view of the potential customer’s situation, or else you can’t understand the challenges they are facing. Setting aside the time to listen to the prospect can put both to better use while moving ahead with the deal. 

It is also worth noting that, at times, SPIN involves finding whether the lead is qualified or not

When you use the SPIN selling technique properly, you have to carve your sales pitch to match the prospects’ needs. 

4 Stages of SPIN Selling

There are 4 stages of a SPIN selling method, and are as follows:

1. Opening

As a salesperson, you should not try to push your products on the prospect. In this stage, your focus should instead be on building a bond with them. It is all about pleasant introductions and leaving a good impression on the minds of prospects. It would help if you tried asking relevant questions to gather as much information as possible about the potential customer. Ask about their role in their organization and the challenges they face. You have to show a genuine interest in your prospects if you want to build a friendly relationship with them. 

2. Investigating

In the opening stage, you try to build a bond with the prospect. Moving ahead, in the investigating stage, you should ask questions regarding the problems the prospect is facing so that you learn about the issues and their priorities. It would involve asking about the problems your product or service can solve. By being keen on knowing the pain points of the prospect, you pose as a trustworthy person.

3. Demonstrating Capability

In this stage, the prospect will be willing to know how your solution can address the problems they face. You can tell them about your product or service features and how they can help their company. Here it is about connecting the prospect’s issues with the features of your product or service. You have to demonstrate the capability of your product or service. Try to showcase the features of your offering by providing product demos at this stage.

4. Obtaining Commitment

This one is the conversion stage where you want the buyer to commit. There can be 4 outcomes here: an advance, a continuation, an order, or a no-sale. We will discuss these outcomes in detail later in this blog post. If the customer signs up and gives you the payment information, you can celebrate the successful closing of a sale!

SPIN selling involves the following categories of questions you have to ask during the different sale stages, as mentioned above. 

a) Situation questions  

Asking these questions helps you understand the current state and situation of the prospect that you couldn’t find out through research. Situation questions help qualify the lead. It would help if you asked these questions during the opening stage of selling. You use the information you gather by asking situation questions for the rest of the sales cycle

To make your questions seem more intelligent and to the point, you must try to carry out more research before the initial conversation with the prospect. 

Examples of Situation questions you can ask the prospect are the following:

-What are the tools you are using currently for cold emailing?

-What is the amount you spend on marketing?

-How do you manage the contact details of your customers at present?

-How do you gauge the performance of individual sales reps?

-How do you know about the activities taking place in the sales pipeline?

Asking all of the above questions can benefit the seller, but it is of no use to the prospect. That is why as a sales rep, you should not spend too much time here. Avoid asking too many generic questions; otherwise, it can be too annoying.

b) Problem questions 

With the help of the problem questions, you can find out the prospects’ needs and what matters to them the most. Here you know about the frustrations of prospects and their pain points. These questions are for the investigation stage. You will propel the sales process based on the problems and issues of the prospect. You can make the prospect identify even less significant issues with the help of Problem questions. 

Examples of Problem questions you can ask the prospect are the following:

-What is the main problem you face while managing your sales pipeline?

-Is adding users to your CRM expensive?

-Are you satisfied with the current conversion rates?

As a sales rep asking problem questions is essential, but you shouldn’t spend all your time here. That is not the only information you need. The answers to Problem questions are helpful only when you combine them with the two steps you will find below. 

c) Implication questions 

These questions throw light on the potential effect the problems and issues of the prospect can have on their business if not addressed. You have to ask implication questions in the selling stage, where you show the value of your product or service. 

When you ask the right kind of Implication questions, you make the prospect realize the problems that need to be resolved on top priority. You can make the prospect realize the seriousness of the issues they are not dealing with.

Examples of Implication questions you can ask the prospect are the following:

-Has this issue affected your customer success team?

-Has there been an issue because you didn’t know that your sales rep is underperforming?

-If training on your CRM is costly, what does this mean for the new reps you hire?

Implication questions are the most important ones in SPIN selling as they help you, as a sales rep, determine what issues the prospect’s company is facing and how they are handling it. These questions need the maximum attention from you. 

d) Need-Payoff questions

These questions ask the prospect how important or urgent it is to get a solution for their problem. Using Need/pay-off questions is a closing technique and has to be used in the closing stage of the sale. It aims at removing a negative opinion of your product or service from the mind of the prospect. With Need-payoff questions, you can encourage the prospect to imagine the change in their situation after the problem is resolved using your product or service. 

Examples of Need-Payoff questions you can ask the prospect are the following:

Why is it essential for you to look at the big picture overview of your sales pipeline?

If it was possible to reduce the amount you spend on giving CRM training to your new staff, how would it affect you? 

What can be the advantage of using a tool that improves the performance of your sales reps?

-Do you feel that resolving this issue can help you achieve your sales goals?

Your Need-payoff questions must bring positive vibes as the prospect would be happy to know that their problem has a solution.

 SPIN Selling Outcomes

Some salespeople take the customer through all the four stages of selling in one sales call. However, for complex and high-ticket products or services. It can even take up to 2 years to complete the four stages. The possible outcomes of using the SPIN selling method for such cases are the following:

1. Advance

Mid-market and enterprise sales reps can gauge their progress using the concept of advances. So what is an advance in this context? An advance refers to an action the buyer commits to which brings you closer to closing the deal. 

The keyword here is action. You may want to take the prospect’s request for more information as a hint of interest in your product or service, but that will place the matter in your hands. Note that if the buyer is interested in your offerings, they will be willing to do some work. 

2. Continuation

When the outcome of a sales conversation is not desirable, you can call it a continuation. It means when you finish a meeting with the prospect, they don’t agree to the next steps that would take the deal forward. 

Examples for advances are a potential customer taking a look at the pricing page of your product, making inquiries, signing up for a free trial, and using your tool. 

As a sales rep, you have to place as many advances as you can because when there are multiple paths to closing a deal, the chances of making a sale are higher. If the prospect turns one of your advances down, you must stay calm and offer something else.

3. Order

Order is another possible (and the most desirable) outcome of a sales call. In this outcome, the buyer agrees to buy the product or service and reveals the strong intention by signing a contract. 

4. No Sale

No-sale is the outcome that would disappoint a salesperson to a great extent, but being one of the possible outcomes of a sales call, you cannot ignore it. In this outcome, the prospect rejects your request. There won’t be any further meetings with decision-makers, and they will say that there is no possibility of the deal taking place.

What makes SPIN Sales Technique Work?

There are many factors due to which the SPIN selling technique works. The chief reason is that it focuses on the customer. 

All successful sales deals are the ones that involve a constructive conversation between the sales rep and the potential customer. Ideally, the prospect has to speak more than the sales rep, and you can achieve that by using the SPIN selling method. As per the methodology, the salesperson asks questions and gathers valuable information from the prospect in the form of answers. That information is put to use in presenting the product or service before the prospect.

Apart from the above, SPIN selling works because of its flexibility. There may be general guidelines for asking questions such as Situation questions, Problem questions, Implication questions, and Need-payoff questions, as discussed above. However, no hard and fast rule says you only have to stick to those questions. As a salesperson, you are free to make relevant tweaks to the method and use it for your benefit. 

How to use SPIN Selling Method to Close more Deals?

If you wish to apply the SPIN selling for your new startup, it is better to start applying one principle of the methodology. It will take some time for you to get accustomed to the approach and get it right. Begin using the SPIN selling approach on smaller customers or existing ones. Avoid taking a risk with a big prospect. 

Your ultimate aim is to understand the prospects well and not to ask a specific list of questions. So you can make tweaks here and there to help you close the deal.  

Modern-day SPIN Selling Tips

SPIN selling may be a different selling approach, but it is more than 3 decades old now. That is a lot of time, and there have been many changes in the sales world over the years. Though the techniques and principles of SPIN selling are great, you still have to update them a bit so that they are relevant to the present-day scenario.

Here are some modern-day SPIN selling tips that would be helpful to you,

1. Keep the number of Situation and Problem questions as low as you can

Prospects lack patience these days. They are certainly not interested in you pin-pointing at the pain points they already know about. What is the point when you tell them what they already know? You will be helpful to them only when you can identify the pain points that buyers are not aware of. 

On a similar note, asking prospects about their turnover, the size of the team, and so on can sound absurd in an age when you can get all such details by visiting their website. It would show you in poor light as the prospect would think that you have not done your research before fixing up the meeting. 

It is important that you ask questions that make the prospect think in the right direction.

They can be – “Has your company ever thought of {{new_strategy}}?” or “Are you aware of {{statistics}}?”. 

Though these questions are not there in the existing SPIN selling technique, you can add them to make your strategy more powerful in these modern times. 

2. Make social selling a part of your strategy

Back in the late 80s, there were no social media platforms, but still, Rachkam mentioned the importance of social selling. In this age of LinkedIn, you can gather a lot of information about prospective buyers. You must try to leverage the power of networking sites like LinkedIn to boost sales. Take a look at the prospect’s profile, read the group comments, their articles, and see what their recommendation section has.

You need not stop with LinkedIn alone. You can visit the company’s page on other platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The aim is to gather as much information as possible. Also, when you interact with prospects on social media, you are more likely to make a sale. 

Try to become familiar with them so that your first meeting has no awkwardness at all. You should make the prospect feel that you know them well already. 

3. Find out the e-reputation of prospects

Before fixing an appointment with a prospect, try to assess the online presence of the prospect’s company. Find out what all information is related to your product or service. If they are hiring, you can find out a lot about them by looking at the open positions. The job description can also give you a lot of details. Their website will also give you details of who the current clients are and their strengths and weaknesses. In short, do your research so that you know the company inside-out before your meeting. 

4. Guide the process of purchasing

With the growing count of stakeholders in B2B sales, the internal process of buying gets complex. If you have the expertise, you can guide the prospect and help them purchase your product or service. If you have found job titles and names who the point of contact has to consult or inform regarding the purchase, it will work in your favor. Guide the person and give them tips on how to deal with their manager. Try to help them sense and avoid roadblocks. Though this is not a part of the SPIN selling methodology, you must incorporate them into your modern sales strategy.

 

Conclusion

SPIN selling is a customer-centric sales method that is effective enough to drive a lot of sales. The term SPIN stands for the essential parts of the approach – Situation questions, Problem questions, Implication questions, and Need-payoff questions. Instead of looking at the questions as must-haves, pick the ones that seem right to you when meeting the prospect. Make sure that they seem relevant instead of looking forced. You have the complete flexibility to use the SPIN selling method the way you want to in successfully closing a deal. 

All you need is practice, and soon you can do SPIN selling on full throttle. You have to see what works best for you and how you can adapt the technique to meet your goals. 


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