The sales methods of the time were not suitable for all sales
Neil Rackham shares a great story in the first chapter of the book. He met with a VP of Sales to report on his findings. The VP's preconceived ideas about what made sales rep successful were completely off. The VP completely dismissed the findings of the study and kicked him out.
This is what Neil Rackham’s team found out:
- The conclusion of the sales meeting is NOT the most important step.
- Asking a lot of open-ended questions does NOT lead to increased sales.
- Being able to handle customer's objections does NOT necessarily lead to a sale.
Neil Rackham demonstrates that while the above findings may be true for "small sales" (i.e., those priced below $109), this was not the case for "major sales", like B2B Sales.
These complex sales require much more than a phone call and do not rely on aggressive selling techniques or marketing. It is all about the customer, and his own journey towards making a purchasing decision. He will make his own mind, but the sales rep’s role is to provide the right information at the right time to convince the decision-makers and get their trust.
This is what the SPIN method is all about.
By focusing on people's real needs and asking relevant questions during the discovery phase and throughout the sales cycle, salespeople get better conversion rates!
The four main types of SPIN Selling questions
Questions are the foundation of SPIN Selling. Asking the right questions at the right time enables you to understand your client and better serve him. Rackham and his team found that every question must have a clear purpose and that the order in which you ask those is strategic as well.
To this end, the book provides a methodological framework for implementing this approach.
SPIN is the acronym for the four types of questions that must be asked by a salesperson to a prospect in order to establish a relationship of trust in a sales process.
The SPIN questions are:
- the "Situation" questions
- the "Problem" questions
- the "Implication" questions
- the “Need-Payoff” questions
The “Situation” questions
SPIN Selling starts with the situation questions. They allow us to establish an initial connection with a prospect and get details about his or her context.
For instance, they provide answers about processes & tools currently used by the prospect, as well as the prospect's responsibility within his organization.
The goal at this stage is to gather facts, figures, and information about the client.
Here are examples of situational questions:
- What is your role at [company]?
- Who is responsible for [X]?
- What is your process for [X]?
- Who is your current provider for [X]?
Now that you can discover key details about your prospect with online searches, many situational questions are no longer relevant. Not only can they test buyers' patience, but these questions also leave less time for the most important ones.
Do your research before the call so that you can ask as few “situation” questions as possible.
The “Problem” questions
Problem questions will highlight the explicit and implicit needs of the prospect to uncover a major problem to be solved!
The idea is to understand the current challenges and difficulties of the prospect and identify potential areas of opportunity.
They may be unaware they have a problem, or maybe they did not know a solution existed.
Often, salespeople with more experience are more comfortable conducting this type of interview. For example, you can try to find out:
- How long does it take to do [X]?
- Are you satisfied with the equipment/tool [X] that you are currently using?
We recommend using the Meddic sales technique to identify all of the elements you need to qualify your prospect at this stage.
The “Implication” questions
Once you’ve identified an issue, figure out how serious it is.
Implication questions reveal the depth and magnitude of your prospect’s pain point while providing you valuable information for customizing your message and instilling urgency in the buyer.
According to Rackham, prospects should have a new appreciation for the problem by the time you’ve finished this part of the conversation.
In the section devoted to these issues in the book, the author highlights an example of a sales conversation powered by “Implication” questions.
Rather than asking point-blank to the customer if he is interested in a new machine, the salesperson asks relevant questions. How do you train your employees to use your current machine? What are the training costs involved? Are you satisfied with your current machine?
In this case, the sales rep transformed the nature of the conversation and changed a “NO” into a “YES”. How?
The client went from thinking "No, your machine is too expensive" (the scale tipping towards not buying, see picture below on the left) to appreciate the merit of the proposed solution because he realized the hidden costs of his current equipment. Because of the seriousness of his problem, the scale tips towards buying the equipment. The cost of the solution is actually worth it for the client.