The Art of SPIN Selling

The advent of different types of technology has definitely changed the way we sell. Selling, arguably started with the door-to-door and direct selling that everyone is all too familiar with. Within years, the introduction of communication technology like the telephone gave birth to telesales, or telemarketing; as most of us know it. With the advent of the internet, there are even more media to use when it comes to selling. We now have selling through websites; and also came in one of the newest innovations: selling thru social media.

Different technology, different approaches, and different media, but the art of selling has never changed. In an interview with sales guru Neil Rackham, he explains to us the secret behind any successful sales person. He introduces us to the term ‘SPIN selling.’

As Neil has put it, there is nothing more important in selling than asking questions. With years of extensive research in selling techniques, there have been numerous studies when it comes to asking sales questions. And as Neil points out, based on these studies, there is a certain sequence of questioning that make the most successful sales people very effective. This sequence can be summarized in the acronym SPIN.

S: Situational Questions (Fact-Finding Questions)

The first set of questions that a successful sales person asks are fact-finding questions. Fact-finding, or situational questions basically allows a sales person to find out some ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how ‘ details about a certain customer or business.

P: Problem Questions

Every sales person’s mission to solve problems for customers. As Neil Rackham has put it in the interview, “How can you solve problems, if you don’t ask about them?” As sales persons, our goal is to discover how customers view the problem they are experiencing from their own perspective – and not from ours.

Likewise, the most common mistake that sales people like us make is that once a prospective customer has already indicated his or her challenges, we jump into conclusions right away and tell them that we know how to solve their problems. Never jump the gun and start telling customers that we know once we hear what’s causing their pain.

I: Implication Questions

As per Neil, the most intelligent sales people do not stop with asking problem questions, they also ask implication questions. An example of an implication question is “If you get to solve that problem, what’s going to happen?” Another example of an effective implication question is “What’s the problem costing you?”

The goal in asking implication questions is that you want the customer to realize and explicitly say how the problem directly affects him or her.

N: Need Pay-off Questions  (Value questions) 

After the customer has explicitly stated how a problem is affecting him or her, a smart sales person then follows up by asking a ‘Need Pay-off’ question or a value question. One classic example of this type of question is “How would it help you to be able to do this?”  The goal of asking these types of questions is to let your prospective customer articulate on how it would actually help him or her if he or she decided to get your product or service.

The goal of SPIN selling is to make your prospect articulate and visualize what it would look like if they get your services. Telling the customer about the benefits of the product might appear too pushy for some; but getting the customer to think how he or she would benefit from your service is like making the customer sell to himself or herself.

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