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SPIN Selling


bullPerception is Everything

Sales is all about perception.

The perception that you are competent and that you care.

The perception that you understand the situation.

The perception that you understand the problem.

The perception that there even is a problem, and that it’s important to solve, and solve NOW.

The perception that your solution will provide the payoff — the payoff that solves their need.

Notice that none of that has anything to do with your cost, or the price you ask the customer to pay. It’s all about perceived need and perceived value. It’s about truth, clarity, insight, relationship and belief.

In other words, to close the big sale you can’t skip any steps. But what are the steps? That’s our next insight.

bullThe Four Stages of the Big Sale Sales Process

Every sale goes through four stages:

  • Preliminaries » takes place before the sale begins; includes introductions and first impressions.
  • Investigating » uncovering customer’s needs while growing a better understanding of their organizations
  • Demonstrating Capability » the customer becomes convinced that you have something to offer
  • Obtaining Commitment » this is where you ask for the sale.

Of these four stages, Investigating is the most crucial.

Think about it… the preliminaries is simple.. demonstrating capacity is simple… asking for the sale is simple. There’s not much you can do differently in any of those steps.

But the Investigating step is different. That step is infinite — and therefore — full of infinite possibilities.

That make sense in theory — and I have good news — the study of reality proves the theory correct. Rackham’s research shows that there is a clear statistical association between the use of questions and the success of an interaction.

And what’s more important than just using questions is the specific questions that are used, questions that are IMPORTANT to your customer. When it comes to the BIG sale, the SPIN sequence really hits home.

bullThe S.P.I.N. Investigative Process

SPIN selling isn’t about manipulation. It’s about investigation.

Here are the 4 types of investigative questions

  • S » Situation QuestionsThese are used to find facts about the customer’s existing situation — the larger context that will frame everything in the upcoming discussion.
    • “What equipment do you use now?”
    • “How many people do you employ?”
    • “How old is this unit?”
  • P » Problem QuestionsThese help you learn about the customer’s specific problems, difficulties, or dissatisfactions
    • “Is your existing machine hard to use?”
    • “Do you have quality problems?”
    • “Are you satisfied with…?”
  • I » Implication QuestionsThese are designed to build up problems so that they are accurately perceived to be as serious as they are. Most customers live in DENIAL about problems, let alone the implications.
    • “What effect does that have on output?”
    • “Could that lead to increased cost?”
    • “Will it slow down your proposed expansion?”
  • N » Need-payoff QuestionsThese are designed to build up the proposed solution — and prevent unfavorable perception. They ask about the value of solving the problem.
    • “Why would you find this useful?”
    • “Is there any other way this could help you?”
    • “Is it important to you to solve this problem?”
    • “What are you going to do with all the cost-savings/profit?”

And while each of these four types of questions can and should be used to varying degrees during the sale, Rackham’s research shows that 10 times as many Need-payoff questions were used in larger sales. So, of course, that leads to the next insight.

bullNeed-Payoff Pays Off

Don’t you just love it when you’ve been dealing with a problem for a while and you’ve found the solution?

Suddenly your focus changes from the negatives to all the positives… you start brainstorming new possibilities… you get into a “YES” frame of mind.

Well, that’s the idea behind the use of Need-payoff questions.

By asking the right kind of questions, you can get your customers to stop focusing on problems and difficulties and start focusing on the benefits and solutions that your product provides. Here are some examples:

  • “Suppose you had a material that was easier for your technicians to use, would this help?”
  • “Could you explain to me how having an easier material would help you?”
  • “And that would be worth doing?”
  • “Is there any other way an easier material would help?”

These are the kind of questions that actually get your buyer explaining the payoff. And that makes your solution favorable to them. They won’t object to what you’re offering, and you get the BIG Sale.

But there’s a major difference with BIG sales. Unlike the smaller sales, it can sometimes take months to eventually close the larger sale. You’ve got to develop a relationship with the buyer by asking those important questions.

And you’ve got to understand that there’s more to success than just the closing of a sale. We’ll look at this in the next insight.

bullSuccessful Closings for Larger Sales

You may be used to the idea that success does not happen until the order is placed. But Rackham shows us that there are actually three ways to positively close a sales call.

  • Orders— the customer commits to a purchase and places an order
  • Continuations—the customer agrees to move forward, but no specific action has been agreed upon. For example, “We’re very impressed. Let’s meet again sometime.” OR “We liked what we’ve seen. We’ll be in touch if we’d like to take things further.”
  • Advances—an event takes place either in the call or after it that moves the sale toward a decision.
    • Customer agrees to attend an off-site demonstration
    • An agreement to run a trial of your product
    • Clearance that you will get to meet with a decision maker at a higher level

You’ll notice a similarity here from our Brevity Brief for Guerilla Marketing. Just like in that one, where success is defined when customers seek more information, that’s a big part of how successful SPIN Selling happens.

Just because the order is not placed immediately, that does not mean that you failed. In fact, your goal should be to gain as many advances as possible. Advances move the sale forward. And movement gets the BIG sale.

It takes time for customers to make decisions about large purchases. You’ve got to build relationships with your customers before they’ll give you the BIG sale you’re after. Getting those advances gives you the perfect platform for developing that relationship.

But SPIN Selling, like everything else we’ve briefed you on here at Brevity, is not something you can just sit back pondering and nodding to in agreement. You’ve got to turn the theory into action—our final insight.

bullFrom Theory to Action

Selling is a skill. Like any other practical skill (golfing, swimming, playing a saxophone), it takes practice. And you don’t learn everything all at once.

Rackham gives us four very practical rules for learning the skill of SPIN Selling:

  1. Practice only one behavior at a time. Start practicing one new skill (asking situation questions, for example), and do not move on to another until you’ve mastered that one.
  2. Try the new behavior at least three times. You’ve got to try it out enough times to get comfortable and effective. Don’t abandon the idea if it doesn’t work immediately on your first attempt.
  3. Quantity before quality. You don’t have to do everything exactly right every single time you do it. But you do have to get out there and actually do it, and as often as possible.
  4. Practice in safe situations. It is NOT a good idea to make your first attempt at SPIN selling be the next big meeting you have with your most important client. You stand to lose too much in that case. Practice with smaller accounts, or with customers who you already know very well.

You break it down into the basic building blocks of the behavior and focus on one thing at a time. But you do it. You practice. You take action. Then you win.

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