What more could a marketer want than a customer who wants, needs and wants to buy his product. But how do you get a customer to think like that? The key is to ask the right questions at the right time. And that's where the SPIN selling method can help.
It was developed by Neil Rackham and his team based on research of 35,000 sales conversations and described in the book SPIN Selling, published in 1988. The SPIN Selling method is based on the premise that the decision to buy stems from a need or as a solution to a problem. The salesperson therefore needs to know these needs and problems.
How to ask the right questions
SPIN selling is a set of 4 types of questions that salespeople are asked to ask the customer in a given order. The name SPIN is an acronym for these 4 types:
- Situation - situational questions to find out information and facts about the customer,
- Problem - problem questions revealing the customer's problem or concern,
- Implication - implication questions raising the need for a solution,
- Need-payoff - reinforcement questions that direct the customer to our product.
1. Situational questions
It is not the product that comes first, but the customer and his need. Therefore, don't start a sales call with what you sell and why the customer should want it. First try to understand the customer's situation, in which you will later place the product you offer.
For example, if you sell a CRM tool, ask:
- What do your current processes look like?
- What tools do you use?
- How do you keep track of information from clients?
- How do you evaluate the business?
2. Problematic issues
Next, focus on the customer's problem that you could solve. Ask clients what's bothering them and what they're solving. Again, don't talk about yourself and your product, instead try to understand how the client sees the problem.
When selling CRM, these questions might look like this:
- Does communication with the client and across the team work well for you?
- Does your current business tool make your job easier?
- Or is the system holding you back and you feel communication could be more effective?
3. Implication questions
Now your job is to create a desire in the customer to seek solutions to problems. Show him the causes and consequences of the problem so that he begins to see the value of the solution.
For CRM sales, we can ask:
- How much time per week does ineffective communication cost you?
- What could you spend this time on?
- How would you make your work more efficient with a new tool?
4. Fixing questions
In the last phase, you direct the customer to the solution you offer. If you have asked the previous questions well, you have led him to the conclusion that he has a problem, he needs to solve it and your product will help him to do just that.
Don't boast or push the envelope at this time either. Rather, ask questions:
- Would a system where you have all your client information together be helpful?
- Would it make it easier for you to share information and work within your team?
The course of the business meeting and the selection of questions will also be facilitated by the CRM, where you have all the current information about the clients in one place. Try CRM with all functions for 30 days for free and practically test its benefits.
4 stages of a business meeting with the SPIN selling method
If you use questions from the SPIN selling method, it will change the whole structure of the sales meeting. So plan it all over again - typically it looks like this:
- Initial alignment (situational questions)
- Quest (problem questions)
- Proof (implication questions)
- Building rapport (consolidating questions)
In the first phase, you use situational questions to build the foundations for the following three phases. In addition, you gain the client's trust from the start by showing an immediate interest in their business. It is a much more natural and pleasant start for the client than if you immediately talk about your product and its hundreds of benefits.
Then, using problem questions, you search for how you can really help the client with your product and services. This way you create a playing field for knowing which functions to push in the next phase.
In the third proving phase, you follow up on everything you have learned so far using implication questions. Here, SPIN selling author Neil Rackham recommends talking about products and services in three related ways:
- about functions – what the product can do and what it is used for,
- about use – how the product helps companies in everyday practice,
- about the benefits – how the product will help the client sitting in front of you.
If you describe the product in this way, the client will get a comprehensive idea of it and make a decision for it more easily.
And in the final phase, with the help of confirmation questions, you hook the client and encourage him to easily decide to purchase your product in the following days or weeks.
General tips from practice
1. Ask as few situational and problematic questions as possible. Think them through so that you learn as much information as possible with as few questions as possible. If you spent most of the meeting investigating the situation in the client's company, he might think that you did not prepare enough for the meeting. Or he'd start to get nervous that you've been sitting together for half an hour, but you still haven't moved to the core of the poodle.
2. Do not bombard the potential client with questions. When writing about SPIN selling, the meeting can resemble a cross-examination. But it's not like that. Don't try at all costs to go through a list of prepared questions, but let the conversation flow freely. If you don't get answers to some prepared questions, that's okay. It is possible that you will learn much more interesting and important insights from a flowing conversation.
3. Use open questions. If a potential client were to give you only yes/no answers, they would leave feeling like you didn't learn anything about them and their problems. Open-ended questions allow the client to talk, which is a win-win for both parties.
If you are interested in the method of open questions in detail, we have written a separate article about them.