SPIN Selling Book Review — How to Sell More & Close More Deals
How to sell more & close more deals? If you’re a B2B salesperson, you’ve probably heard about SPIN Selling. It’s one of the oldest, most prominent sales methodologies businesses have at their disposal. The system gives sales reps a research-backed framework for working and closing complex deals with extended sales processes.
SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham is a practical how-to guide for making big sales.
First published over 30 years ago, the book has become a sales classic. Based on pioneering research, Rackham’s sales method of questioning customers about their needs challenged 60 years of traditional sales training in hard-sell techniques.
SPIN Selling is a method that helps you ask the right questions when it comes to selling.
This book is essential if you sell to businesses or sell high-value products, the famous “complex sales” and want to learn how to ask better. Asking yourself better will help you hear your customer better and thus sell more. SPIN Selling is similar to Consultative Selling: the approach of building a relationship with a prospect in order to explore their needs before you offer your product as the solution.
When seeking a good salesperson, many recruiters are looking for a good closer.
According to Neil Rackham, if the customer the salesperson is serving is a corporate buyer making a major purchase, that would be a mistake. When a salesperson tries to close a transaction before the customer understands why the purchase is in the best interest of the company, the customer will be more likely to refuse the offer or the transaction can unwind because of a decision change.
Want to learn the ideas in SPIN Selling better than ever? Read the book review of SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham here.
The information in SPIN Selling was developed based on research studies of 35,000 sales calls. It’s well worth investing the time to study this book and apply the ideas in your selling process. Are you excited to learn how to beat out the competition and become the salesperson of the year? Let’s get right to it!
SPIN Selling Questions
Neil Rackham noted that the quality of the salesperson’s questions was the key factor in whether the sale was closed or not, and with that huge stack of data Neil and his team analyzed the success map and named it SPIN. SPIN is an acronym that represents the key factors that must be explored in a sale for it to be successful.
SPIN selling’s technique focuses on a core foundation: sales reps need to ask pointed questions at an appropriate time.
If used correctly, the SPIN selling methodology can highlight common themes and problems a customer is having, enabling your sales reps to position your product as a viable solution. With this encouragement, the prospect comes to the conclusion that your product can help them, making it easier for your rep to close the deal.
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 and 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.
Then, problem questions will highlight the explicit and implicit needs of the prospect to uncover a major problem to be solved!
Less experienced reps don’t ask enough of these questions. Selling your product means you have a solution to offer. Problem questions help illustrate the different problems your product solves for your client. 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.
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. These questions will magnify these problems and uncover how they can negatively affect the organization. According to Neil Rackham, prospects should have a new appreciation for the problem by the time you’ve finished this part of the conversation.
Your prospect is now aware of the difficulties he is going through.
Need-Payoff questions should enable the prospect to explain your product’s benefits in their own words for their context, which is more persuasive than listening to you describe those benefits. At this stage, the client can picture himself using your product/services and benefiting from the solution to the problem highlighted by the previous questions. These questions prepare your customer to the next stage of his buyer’s journey: the purchasing stage.
The 4 Stages of a SPIN selling Call
As you begin to implement SPIN questions when talking to prospects, consider the lifecycle of your conversation. Neil Rackham says there are four basic stages of every sale: Opening (also called “preliminaries”), investigating, demonstrating capability and obtaining commitment.
Preliminaries are the opening events that set the tone and warm the business.
Reps shouldn’t immediately jump into their product’s features and benefits — not only will this overly aggressive strategy turn prospects off, but salespeople will lose the opportunity to learn valuable information. The purpose of the connect call is to get the buyer’s attention and start to earn their trust. Lead with a compelling insight or thought-provoking question. An example would be to open a conversation with these questions: How are you? How’s the weather? This phase should be short, always.
The Investigation Stage is the most important phase of SPIN Selling.
Almost every sale involves finding something out by asking questions, uncovering needs or getting a better understanding of your customers and their organizations. At this stage, you are figuring out how your product can help the buyer. You should also be identifying their priorities and their buying criteria. In this stage do not focus on what you will tell the customer about your solution. Always keep in mind that if you’re getting too many objections early on in the call, it means you’re not asking enough questions. Simply wait longer to offer a solution and ask more questions to fix this.
Demonstration of capabilities is the phase where you show that you can solve the prospect’s problem.
Once you have connected the dots between your solution and the prospect’s needs, you need to convince the buyer that connection exists and that it is worth his time and money to consider your solution. Sales reps need to start amplifying the prospect’s sense of urgency around solving their problems. They should begin to introduce your product as a solution to the prospect’s problems, but without implicitly mentioning the product. It’s at this stage where social proof, testimonials and other trust signals come into play.
Lastly, a successful sales call results in a commitment from the customer.
Whether scheduling a demo or offering a free trial, it’s at this stage that sales reps lock in a commitment from the prospect. If the sales rep genuinely listened to their prospect’s situation and positioned your product well throughout, they won’t have to sell too hard in this phase. Have the seller accept the sale and the next steps of how to proceed. First, you must ensure that you handle all the concerns/needs, then summarize the benefits and ultimately propose the next level of commitment.
Small Fish Bait Doesn't Work On Sharks
In sales, the routine of calling dozens of people every day can be exhausting and less than glamorous. Traditional sales techniques are poorly assertive, slow, and monotonous. The traditional process says that you should open your calls or emails or meetings with open-ended questions to understand the interests of the client. Easy, isn’t it?
The bad news is that traditional closing techniques do not work when it comes to high-value sales.
Neil Rackham, however, realized that the conventional wisdom in the sales world was that “selling is selling.” And so the simpler sales techniques — used in smaller markets and contracts were replicated in the same way for larger, more complex sales between companies. But to fish for sharks, you have to use the correct bait.
For the most part, sales reps are told to ask open-ended questions to try and find out as much about their prospects as possible.
The thought process behind this is that the prospect will tell the sales rep about their problems in hopes they can solve them together. Close-ended questions, which can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, are off the table. SPIN selling’s research found that the sales industry’s obsession with asking open-ended questions wasn’t backed up by hard evidence. The book established that the number of open-ended questions asked by sales reps didn’t make a difference in their closing rates. In fact, And discovered that successful salespeople used closed questions, too, but only to find out information that would advance the sale.
Any good salesperson will tell you that closing well takes time and practice, but it’s something they always worry about!
Closing a deal is an important step in sales. It’s when you get a client to commit to purchasing your product. However, the more money involved in a sale, the less likely that person will be to react positively to aggressive and assertive techniques. If they’re pressured into making a large purchase too quickly, people may lose interest or even get insulted. When a real estate agent tells you that you’ll lose the deal if you don’t decide within 24 hours, it’s more likely to annoy than make you sign.
In simple selling, closing is the most important aspect, and you can try many types of established closing techniques to get this result.
But with large, complex selling, it is different. Once again, it is crucial to stick to asking questions and gaining information at first, not attempting to make a sale. And lastly, the best sales people review the calls after they made them to recognize what worked, what didn’t, and adjust accordingly. The best sales people understand the key to success is in the details of knowing what to ask and what you are going to do before the call even starts.
Features Are NOT Benefits
In Simon Sinek’s famous Start With Why, he outlines an important truth about people’s purchasing habits. Nobody buys items, they invest their money in a “why”, or a purpose. But how can you take advantage of this and sell the “why” instead of the “what?”
In SPIN selling, the key is knowing the difference between your product’s benefits and features.
A feature is merely a fact, and they don’t really sell. On their own, many features mean next to nothing. It might be tempting to get caught in the trap of identifying advantages. These are better than features but not as powerful as benefits. Advantages identify what your product is going to do to help the customer. At the end of the day, these are just informative though. What you need to do is understand and describe the benefits of a product. This is a matter of finding matching your client’s needs with what the item can do to make those possible. A good way to do this is to look at people’s values, or what is important to them.
Do not present the features of your product just because they exist.
Presenting your solutions and demonstrations too soon invites the customer to show objections. The benefits are that they are the elements of your offer that make your prospect’s life better. Amateur marketers focus primarily on features or advantages of a product and identify these elements as benefits when they are not.
When you demonstrate the benefits of your product, you show exactly how your product can meet a specific need of your prospect.
You are not selling a standard product, rather you are selling a solution tailored to your prospect’s interests and problems. The advantages of a product show how it can help your prospects and although they are more persuasive than the features and can attract a prospect’s interest, they are also just information. So, forget the advantages and features and instead focus on the solution.
A benefit is the promise of value created by features.
The uniqueness of a product or service can set it apart from the competition. Features can communicate the capability of a product or service. But features are only valuable if customers see those particular features as valuable. You want products or services with features which customers perceive as valuable benefits. By highlighting benefits in marketing and sales efforts, you’ll increase your sales and profits.
The Art of Objection Handling
Objections are more often than not seen as a sign of real interest in an offer, and not necessarily as the problem. Sellers are trained to deal with objections and to resolve them when the answer could have often been to avoid them. The easiest way to avoid objections is to work well at the implications stage and make your prospect explicitly mention their problems, consequences, and needs.
By positioning yourself as a doctor treating the problems and their causes, you become much less prone to objections.
In every deal, objections are inevitable. In fact, you should worry more if you’re not getting them — that means your prospect has reservations they’re not sharing with you. Your goal is to discover why the buyer hasn’t already pulled the trigger on this purchase, then help them understand why their concerns aren’t true blockers.
It’s important to prevent as many objections as possible.
The majority of objections are actually avoidable if you avoid selling too soon. Neil Rackham’s research revealed that reps can cut the number of objections in half by using implication and need-payoff questions to build value before presenting a solution. Skilled people receive fewer objections because they have learned objection prevention, not objection handling.
Neil Rackham states there are mainly two types of objections.
Value objections when your prospect isn’t convinced about your product’s ROI. And capability objections when your prospect doubts that your product can meet their specific needs. Note that every clarification breeds new questions so that you can dig down deeper into understanding the client’s problems. Clarification of the client’s position ensures that we see the world from their point of view and to make a clear and informed judgment on this. When you clarify you are making sure that you understand their reason for objecting so you can help to overcome it.
When customers are close to making a decision, their attention begins to shift to the consequences and down-stream risks associated with any particular offer.
Buyers begin to question the claims that sellers make and may be drawn towards what they consider to be the lowest risk option. Average sellers tend not only to ignore or minimize the concern but use this stages as the time that they apply pressure on a customer to make a decision. World-class sellers tend to have already spent time identifying potential concerns earlier in the process. They’ve effectively per-handled them so will support the customer to have resolved their concerns.
It is relatively easy to separate the seller from product in case of small sale but with the larger decision, seller and product become much harder to separate. In a small sale the customer is less conscious of value but as the size of sales increases at is essential for successful salesperson to build upon perceived value of their products or services and this is probably the single most important selling skill in larger sales as the risk involved in larger than that in small sales.
If you want to sell expensive products or services, ask questions until the buyers sell your product to themselves.
Most salespeople don’t spend enough time helping the buyer investigate the business’s problems and how the product or services solves the problems. They demonstrate their product or service before the customer has defined a problem that the product or service will solve. The salesperson should seek to be of service to the customer by asking relevant questions and help the customer think through the decision.
To successfully use the SPIN selling method, you need to be responsive too.
Listen to the client’s answers and choose your subsequent questions accordingly. The SPIN framework isn’t meant to be rigid — take advantage of the flexibility, adapting your approach as the call progresses. For the best salespeople, the SPIN questions are second nature. They react to client input in-stride, moving seamlessly from situation questions to need/payoff.
Of course, there are downsides to SPIN Selling.
It takes time to adopt the methodology into a sales team, and the process itself can’t be automated. But the latter is one of the reasons it works so well. Just as every customer is different, so are the questions a sales rep should be asking.
SPIN selling reconciles empathy with effectiveness. If you’re interested in incorporating a thoughtful, consultative approach that delivers results into your broader sales efforts, consider looking into it.
Now that you have the knowledge of decades of selling experience, it’s time to go out there and start selling! Keep in mind that following the SPIN selling model is easier said than done, so be sure to practice scenarios on your own, and properly prepare for any upcoming calls. Liked it? Let us know what you thought of this book review in the comments section below. We’d love to know what book we should summarize next.
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