SPIN Selling (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff)
By Lawrence P. Howorth
of our Sales Team
Attitude of our Organization
Leveraging our Strengths
Strategy of our Business
Ask the Question, Shut Up and Listen
The best salespeople are like expert detectives searching
to find the exact needs of their customers and prospects.
These needs are not exactly clear, so the detective looks
for clues and puts the pieces together to better uncover the
potential customer's hot buttons and close the sale. The best
method for uncovering clues and needs is to ask the right
questions. Here are a few ideas to help you understand how
questions can separate great sales people from those that
Facts Don't Lie
In the book SPIN®
Selling, author Neil Rackham, discusses traits
of the most successful sales people. Rackham observed 35,000
sales calls over a 12-year period and analyzed why some sales
people succeed and others fail. He found that the best sales
people are highly skilled at matching the needs of their products
and services with specific, customer-defined benefits. This
is easier said then done. Many sales people can claim to understand
this concept, but only a very small percentage can pull it
off. It is the art of asking the right questions and listening
Types of Questions to Ask
Rackham found that top producers in sales ask four types of
questions: situation, problem, implication and need-payoff,
thus the title of the book SPIN®
Selling. The book reviews what the best sales
people do when qualifying prospects. They use probing questions
to best meet customer needs and add real value.
These questions are used to gather the facts and data. They
are concerned with the specifics of the situation and the
Examples of good situation questions include: What is your
budget and time frame? How many employees do you have? How
long have you been in business? How many children do you have?
Other than you, who are the key decision makers? What do they
do? What are you looking to do? What are your greatest challenges
and goals? What is your vision for your business? What is
your level of commitment? You get the idea; fact and data
collection. Most sales people have very little difficulty
in this area. However, the problem is most go no further in
their question asking process.
Problem questions are used to uncover the pain experienced
by the prospect. This is step one in getting a handle on how
you might actually help the prospect. Understanding why they
need to buy your product or service is connected to what they
are looking to change or fix in their lives. This can be described
as the pain you are going to take away from them when they
buy from you. Experienced sales people generally have a handle
on these questions, however the real pros realize that before
the sale can be closed, there must be a direct connection
between the pain experienced by your prospect and the solution
you are recommending.
Examples of these questions include: Where are your problem
areas? What would you like to fix? What is your current problem?
What kind of obstacles are you facing in this area?
These questions are very important, as they determine the
consequences of the pain and how it is unique to your prospect.
Implication questions include: Why is solving that problem
important? What would it mean for you? What are the implications
of fixing that problem (cost/time saving)? How do you see
this moving forward?
The final set of questions reveal how the product or services
offered can add real benefit. These questions bring it all
together so your solution makes sense to your prospect and
they are ready to buy. Examples: How can I help you reach
your goals? Why is this important? How would that help? Where
do you see returns? How can my product or service help them/you
do it better? Would it be useful if...? Is there any other
way this could help you? What kind of benefits would you like
The author is Lawrence P. Howorth of
Global Management Solutions, and member of Hostedware's Advisory
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