For over thirty years successful sales reps around the world have been using Neil Rackham's sales method defined in his bestseller SPIN Selling.
Before Rackham's book was published in 1988, sales were simply sales, and sales reps primarily focused on the successful conclusion of a deal. But, as Rackham simply proved to more attentive sellers, their conventional sales techniques work perfectly in small transactions. But they are not suitable for large and complex business operations.
Unlike smaller transactions that are either carried out once or the generated profit is essentially negligible, most big deals depend on a functioning relationship between the seller and the buyer even after the sale is completed.
The real business takes the form of a complex purchasing process, in which, besides responsible managers, a number of other factors is involved including follow-up client support. This point is especially important if you offer consulting service or sell SaaS, i.e. software as a service.
Business does not end upon signing of a contract
Prior to popularizing Rackham's SPIN concept, most business trainings focused on testing of a product, dealing with potential objections, and closing the deal. Rackham was able to offer a much broader perspective. However, as development is so rapid, the ever-increasing amount of available data and the boom of social media have also influenced principles of proper use of SPIN selling in the modern business process.
At first, let's summarize what Rackham's concept really is about. It is often misunderstood as a sales technique. But SPIN Selling is more a communication-oriented sales methodology that teaches sales reps to ask the right questions. With their help, your sales reps can convince the client that only your product can solve all their problems.
The whole method is based on a system of questions. By asking them a skillful businessman can gain the trust of the client, identify their needs and offer them the necessary solutions.
Questions are asked on four levels:
S – questions related to Situation
P – questions related to Problem
I – questions related to Implication
N – questions related to Necessary profit
First of all, it is necessary to find out the maximum amount of information about the client and their current position on the market. The questions asked must refer to your product or service. The answers you receive should help you identify possible problems in the implementation of your offer.
Who else could better describe their requirements than clients? All you have to do is ask specific questions. Since only you benefit from the initial phase of inquiries, it should be as short as possible for you and your clients. Try to get as much information as possible in advance so that sales reps don't have to waste time on unnecessary questions.
During the second phase, you try to identify possible opportunities when the client can use your service or product. Basically, you need to find out what the client is bothered by and what problems they are solving at the moment.
If your sales rep asks the right question, the client may run into problems they haven’t even realized before. If you can direct a potential customer in the right direction and offer the necessary solution, you are half-won. Therefore, this step is often overestimated. But for the sake of a successful business deal, you must not underestimate the following two steps.
Once you are able to identify the problem your potential client needs to solve urgently, try to forcefully explain to them what may happen if they do not stop neglecting the problem.
By asking correct questions successful sales reps are able to compare threats resulting from currently solved problems at relatively low costs of their services, with the help of which the client will easily solve not only their current problem but also prevent its possible repetition. The implementation phase is crucial for SPIN Selling, as it provides sales reps with valuable information about the problems a
potential client is currently facing and how they are trying to solve them. Therefore, sales reps should be particularly attentive to these questions and dedicate enough time to them during conversation with the client.
The last set of questions should depict the key benefits of the product or service you offer as a solution to the client's problems. With their help, capable sales reps should be able to react to any possible objections of the client.
The benefits that your solution brings should distract the client's attention from their own problems. When you appropriately choose questions your client can summarize the benefits of the offered business.
SPIN Selling at the moment
Three years ago, Neil Rackham was invited to the conference of the Association of Professional Sales (APS) to explain why SPIN Selling works in the 21st century. Due to the broad range of information available on the Internet, social networks, and user reviews, sales reps can find an unprecedented amount of information about their potential clients and issues they might face.
In addition, the findings will work perfectly at the start of business negotiations. You can also skip the classic "who is your typical customer" or "how your competitors are doing" questions and focus on really important ones. With thorough preparation, you will also convince your business partners that you really do care about dealing with them.
Implication phase is still the most important one
In his speech Rackham mentioned his recent findings that the most successful sales reps still ask four times more questions about the implication than other areas. The implication remains a key aspect of SPIN Selling because it helps the client visualize consequences of unsolved problems. Then the sales
reps have just to offer a suitable solution.
Modern technologies also enable sales reps to better demonstrate benefits and model profits of the solution. The more real data the sales rep can get from the client, the more realistic results of each offered solution they can offer.
By asking questions about the implication and the resulting profit, the client is able to realize the seriousness of the problems they are facing. They also see the possibilities that your solution can bring them. Therefore, your sales reps must become real masters in searching for companies whose problems can be solved by your product. And is there a business problem that a properly deployed CRM system could not solve?