In sales, no two scenarios, and neither two customers are alike. So sales professionals have to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of what a client wants.
The best way to do this is by asking the right questions—questions that help salespeople build a strong rapport with sales prospects.
Following the SPIN sales methodology can be a good step in the direction where you can use sales questions with the most impact, easily overcome objections, and close more sales.
What Is SPIN Selling?
The SPIN sales technique makes it easier for sales reps to close deals. It identifies the core stages of questioning that a salesperson must go through to convert a prospect.
Neil Rackham introduced the sales training methodology in his 1988 book titled SPIN Selling. Based on data collected from 12 years of research and 35,000 sales calls (!), he outlined a framework for developing and timing structured questions sales reps should ask to close a deal.
The SPIN acronym represents four categories: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff.
Here’s a breakdown of each category, along with SPIN selling method you can use to learn more about your target customer, build trust, and eventually close the deal.
This stage of the sales process is all about gathering information. You ask situation questions during the opening stage of a sale to better understand the prospect’s current situation.
The purpose here is to understand the prospect and their exact situation (hence the name) and whether it aligns with your offering.
- How do you achieve X?
- What process does your organization use for X?
- What is your role at the organization?
- Do you have a person responsible for X on your team?
- What do you currently use for X?
- Why did you choose these tools and how often do you use them?
- Do you have a solid strategy in place for X?
The problem stage of your sales call involves identifying pains and problems that the prospect experiences. Questions here are asked during the investigation stage to probe the prospect’s frustration and pain points.
You want to bring the prospect into an awareness that they have a problem or highlight the problems they need to solve. Once you know the problems and issues, you’ll use them later to drive the sale forward.
- What’s the biggest challenge you face with X?
- How much time do you spend on X?
- How much money are you paying for your tools to do X?
- What are the common points of failure for this process?
- Are you happy with your current vendor?
- Is your current product always reliable?
- How many people are currently working on X in your organization?
Implication involves underscoring why the prospect should focus on solving their problems. In addition, these questions highlight the potential impact of the discovered issues and issues that aren’t addressed.
Your purpose here is to relate the prospect’s frustrations with the previous stage’s problems when demonstrating the value of your product or offer.
- How much money and time did you lose during your last outage?
- If it wasn’t for (challenge), how much time do you think you would have saved?
- What happened the last time X failed?
- How does (problem or issue) affect your KPIs?
- How do your team members feel about your current tool?
- Are you happy with the efficiency of this process?
This stage is all about leading B2B sales prospects to your desired conclusions on their own instead of you telling them how your product or service can address their pain points.
In the closing phase of the sale, you ask the prospect how important or urgent it is for them to solve the problem or issue and hand and tie the light on the benefit of solving it. You want the prospect to consider how valuable a real solution to their pain points would be.
- Do you think your team members would be more productive if they had more time?
- How can you simplify X?
- What do you think will make a good tool for your organization?
- Would your team like a tool that does X, Y, and Z?
- If you find out that you can double your productivity by switching products, would you?
- What do you think your team needs to succeed?
- How productive do you think your organization would become if you gave your team the right tools?
Understanding the 4 Main Stages of SPIN Selling
Rackham and his team also details the four main stages of the SPIN selling method in his book. Let’s take a look to get a better understanding of the sales process methodology.
Stage 1: Opening
The opening stage involves introducing yourself to your prospect.
This should be a warm, polite, and gradual process instead of you immediately rushing into a sales pitch about why your product is the best on the market. Stop talking about your features and benefits. Stop being the traditional sales pest.
You don’t want to overwhelm or annoy your prospect; focus on establishing rapport and trust.
Stage 2: Investigating
Once you successfully engage your prospect in a conversation, you can start investigating. Focus on the common customer needs. Ask the SPIN selling questions you just learnt.
Your chances of selling your product or offering to a prospect you don’t know are slim to none. It’s a hard fact. You don’t know what your prospect wants, needs, what they are willing to pay, and other critical questions that can help you tailor your sales pitch according to them. So how can you make them see value in your product?
That’s why the investigation stage is all about discovery and asking questions that can help you learn more about your prospect. Getting this right will guide you on the remaining steps of the sales funnel.
Stage 3: Demonstrating Capability
At this stage we’re accelerating through the buying process, you’ve established trust with your prospect and know about their needs, preferences, and likes and dislikes. Next, you start demonstrating the main capabilities of your product, where you highlight your offering’s best features, advantages, and benefits.
When dealing with end-users, you want to focus on the descriptive elements of your product that make it functional and unique. On the other hand, emphasize your product’s advantages and how it’s better than what your rivals offer when talking to decision-makers. Decision-makers are more interested in benefits and the overall value provided by a solution.
Stage 4: Obtaining Commitment
In the obtaining commitment stage of SPIN selling, you want to overcome objections and get your prospects to commit to a purchase.
Objections fall into one of two categories: value or capability objections. While value objections stem from the prospect’s belief that your product isn’t worth their money and won’t guarantee a stable ROI, capability objections stem from a premise that your product isn’t going to help them solve the biggest problem.
Both objections won’t bode well for your deal if you don’t eliminate them effectively.
Under the SPIN methodology, the best way to deal with objections is to prevent them from arising in the first place. Then, by asking the right questions, you can get the prospect to see your product’s value on their own.
Additional Tips to Succeed at SPIN Selling
According to Neil Rackham, “the best selling isn’t at all about your products and what you can offer. It’s very much about the customers and their needs. ”
Keeping this in mind in your sales training, here are a few additional tips to help you master the SPIN sales methodology:
A) Get Specific
The best SPIN selling questions aren’t too generic or vague. You want to be as specific as you can and avoid beating around the bush. For example:
- Bad Sales Question: What would your team members do if they had more time?
- Good Sales Question: How do you think your team members would perform if they got six extra hours every week?
B) Customize Questions—But Don’t Go Overboard
Your SPIN selling questions should be customized for the specific prospect you’re having a conversation with.
As mentioned, no two prospects are the same. If you ask everyone the same set of questions, it’ll only come off as insincere and monotonous. It’s why SPIN Selling emphasizes getting to know your customer before pitching your product or service.
While you want to ask thoughtful questions, asking more questions isn’t necessarily better.
The best tactic is to adopt a minimalistic approach, so the entire selling process is efficient and valuable for your prospects. Ask a select few questions at a time—and make sure they count.
C) Listen and Adapt
When questioning prospects, you want their answers to fuel your approach. In addition, you want to use them to learn more about your prospect and improve yourself.
Think about how you can incorporate the information into your next sales call. It’s also good to consider whether you’re getting any customer feedback that can help you sell more effectively to other people.
D) Demonstrate Expertise and Authority
What makes you an expert in handling your prospects’ pain points? How can you ensure the client sees your expertise without deviating from the process?
Figuring out the answer to these questions is critical to establishing your credibility, which, in turn, will help you close deals faster and more effectively. Play to your strengths, but always keep your prospect’s requirements a top priority.
Become better at selling! Empower yourself with SPIN Selling knowledge, and improve your close rates right away.