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The Ultimate 4 Step Guide to SPIN Selling

Learn how to use SPIN Selling from Neil Rackham's book. Reach your sales goals & increase revenue. Get the secrets to SPIN Selling & close better deals.

Eric Melillo

Eric Melillo

Eric is Chief Growth Officer and President of Meticulosity.

The business of sales in any industry vertical can be fiercely competitive - some more than others. That's why sales teams should consider SPIN Selling as the cornerstone of their sales strategy.

Effective use of SPIN will not only offer a unique selling process but also provide a competitive advantage.

What is SPIN Selling?

SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham was developed after analyzing over 35,000 sales calls by top sales reps. SPIN uses specific open ended sales questions you ask of prospects to gain their trust and business. SPIN questions are Situation, Problem, Implication, and need-payoff.


SPIN Selling Questions

The best SPIN Questions uncover buyer details critical to your sales process. Sales success comes when asking the questions in the order below:

1. Situation

Use situation questions to collect facts, background information, and other important data about the customer. For example, you could ask the customer which markets their business is hoping to reach.

While you may have already done some research on your own, asking situation questions will kick off the conversation even if you already know their answers. However, limit these questions as too many can weigh the conversation down.

2. Problem

When you ask problem questions, you’re looking for information about the customer’s challenges, shortcomings, or setbacks. These questions uncover implied needs and other desires important to the consumer.

Problem questions are very effective with smaller sales or shorter sales cycles. For large sales, problem questions often require more discovery and better understanding in order to position your solution.

3. Implication

Implication questions compel the buyer to reveal the consequences of the problem. Most times, this means the financial repercussions caused by the issue.

So, when you skip from problem questions straight to offering a solution, the act of committing to a purchase may seem overwhelming. Asking implication questions allow the prospect to build his or her own case... in their own words. The questions build momentum, allowing the customer to realize the benefits of your product or service are worth the investment.

Neil Rackham interview on YouTube

4. Need-payoff

This type of question focuses on the solution — which, of course, is your product or service. While you may want to tell the prospect how effective your product could be for their business, hold on. Talking too much will only put you into the weeds.

The best strategy is to ask a few more need-payoff questions that position your product as the clear choice to improving their bottom line.

In "SPIN Selling," Rackham notes sales associates who were successful with large sales used a high number of need-payoff and implication questions. They could go beyond the simple problem-solution model and present a more comprehensive sales process.

What is SPIN Selling?

SPIN Selling Summary

If you’re ready to incorporate SPIN into your sales training, there are several basic principles to help you win over the decision makers:

  • Use SPIN Selling as a blueprint, not gospel.
  • The process is not always a perfect fit. The time spent at each phase depends on your buyer persona’s unique needs and pain points.
  • SPIN works best when your prospect is in the Awareness Phase. So, it’s your job to help understand the implications to their problem, then show capability and finally position your solution.
  • The original SPIN book is 30+ years old. So, it’s best to relate to the current sales culture. Consumers educate themselves with 7-12 pieces of content before engaging with a brand. They may be further in the buyer’s journey which means you may educate less than in discovery during the Problem and Implication phases.
  • Do your recon in advance. Show that you’re prepared and gather vital intel ahead of time. Don’t waste the prospect’s time by asking questions you can find online. That way you can concentrate your efforts on Problem/Implication/Need-payoff.
  • Don’t interrogate with a list of questions. You want prospects to open up to you. Forcing questions will only weaken your position. Keep it light and conversation - remember you’re there to help.
  • The buyer should sell his or herself the product: While it’s tempting to push a product on the buyer, it’s important to stick with asking questions. This typically leads to the buyer asking you a question, which gives you an opportunity to showcase your product’s strengths.
  • People will purchase from a person they like: Be personable and show interest in your buyer’s thoughts and concerns. Thoughtful questions will communicate this.
  • Customize your conversation around their answers, be respectful of time and keep to your agenda. If the prospect mentions revenue growth then this is the topic you refer back to. Stay on track and don’t talk tactics - only benefits and goal oriented solutions. Always book your next meeting before leaving the current meeting.

SPIN Selling Book

The SPIN Selling Book by Neil Rackham (1988) offers helpful selling tips backed by industry-tested research. Research which was conducted by making over 35,000 sales calls over 12 years. The book is a must-read for anyone who works in high-value sales, but SPIN Selling can also apply to small business sales.

SPIN Selling Book by neil Rackham

Today, businesses can use the lessons from Rackham's book to fine-tune their sales training. Here, we’ll outline some key SPIN sales techniques and reveal how your business can use SPIN Selling to meet your goals.

SPIN Sales Training

If you're interested in SPIN Sales Training and SPIN certification, I've found two groups offering courses.

Huthwaite International

Huthwaite International offers courses several times per year and in many locations around the world. Their SPIN Sales Training course will provide you with the tools and behavioural skills to help you develop new and existing customer accounts.

SPIN Sales Training course certification - PDF Brochure

Miller Heiman Group

Miller Heiman Group offers SPIN Conversations as a SPIN Selling sales training program. The program will teach you best practices for B2B selling and help you master the art of customer conversations.

SPIN Selling training course by Miller Heiman Group

Is SPIN Selling Still Relevant?

Although it's been some time since Neil Rackham originally published SPIN Selling in 1988, this ultimate sales guide is still relevant today. Sales professionals from around the world use these selling techniques every day to solve prospect challenges. This creates a lasting bond that establishes trust in the sales process.

Final Thoughts

Even if you’re already aware of the answer to a question, ask it anyway. With personal relationships, asking questions that make the prospect feel safe and comfortable can help you foster communication and trust.

By incorporating these SPIN Selling tips into your sales communication, your customers will sell the products to themselves and you won’t need to resort to half-baked closing techniques.

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