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A 12-Minute Summary of “SPIN Selling” by Neil Rackham

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Overview

Chapter 1: Practice Makes Perfection

Chapter 2: Small Fish Bait Does Not Work On Sharks…

Chapter 3: All Sales Have Four Basic Steps

Chapter 4: Changing How To Close

Chapter 5: Mapping The Situation

Chapter 6: Mapping Problems

Chapter 7: Escalating To The Implications

Chapter 8: Supplying The Needs

Chapter 9: Demonstrate The Solution With Mastery

Chapter 10: The Easiest Way To Avoid Objections

About Neil Rackham

Overview

Practice makes perfect. After some 12 years of research and 35,000 sales calls, there’s no question that Neil Rackham has perfected the ultimate sales technique. In theory, selling is simple, but in an increasingly competitive market and with consumers becoming more informed, adopting a sales methodology can be a differential. SPIN Selling by author Neil Rackham is a method that helps you ask the right questions when it comes to selling. This book is essential if you sell to businesses or sell high-value products, the famous “complex sales” and want to learn how to ask better. Asking yourself better will help you hear your customer better and thus sell more.

SPIN Selling Summary

Chapter 1: Practice Makes Perfection

To develop the SPIN Selling methodology, Neil Rackham had created a scientific research that looked at and measured the behaviors of sellers and buyers. He ran the largest study on the subject ever done so far, counting with more than 30 researchers who studied more than 35,000 sales leads in more than 20 countries. Neil noted that the quality of the salesperson’s questions was the key factor in whether the sale was closed or not, and with that huge stack of data Neil and his team analyzed the success map and named it SPIN. SPIN is an acronym that represents the key factors that must be explored in a sale for it to be successful. They are:

S – Situation

P – Problem

I – Implication

N – Need-payoff

Asking the right questions is crucial for a successful sale, but you will not close many deals if you do not adopt a method.

Chapter 2: Small Fish Bait Does Not Work On Sharks…

In sales, the routine of calling dozens of people every day can be exhausting and less than glamorous. Traditional sales techniques are poorly assertive, slow, and monotonous. The traditional process says that you should open your calls or emails or meetings with open-ended questions to understand the interests of the client. Present the benefits of the product that relate to these interests, work the objections and close the sale.

Easy, isn’t it? The bad news is that this does not work when it comes to high-value sales. Neil, however, saw an interesting opportunity in the sales market. He realized that the conventional wisdom in the sales world was that “selling is selling.” And so the simpler sales techniques – used in smaller markets and contracts were replicated in the same way for larger, more complex sales between companies.

But, big fish do not bite the same bait as minnows. To fish for sharks, you have to use the correct bait. Let’s assume you sell servers, for example. First, you explain that you work for HP, describe the features and specifications of your servers and finally try to close the sale, right?

Wrong! In the above example, you forgot to investigate your customer, which is where you always get the sale. You need to understand what the customer really needs before attempting to depart for demonstration and closing.

Chapter 3: All Sales Have Four Basic Steps

  • Preliminaries: These are the opening events that set the tone and warm the business. An example would be to open a conversation with these questions: How are you? How’s the weather? This phase should be short, always.
  • Research: Find facts, information, and needs. Examples of questions that you can ask during the research phrase include: How much growth do you project for next year? How does your management system help you design this growth?
  • Demonstration of capabilities: This is the phase where you show that you can solve the prospect’s problem. Avoid going into this phase until the prospect makes explicit that your demonstration will solve the problem. Examples: if the prospect says, “It’s clear to me that I’m going to need software to help me design my best growth,” then you can begin this phase.
  • Get commitment: Have the seller accept the sale and the next steps of how to proceed. First, you must ensure that you handle all the concerns/needs, then summarize the benefits and ultimately propose the next level of commitment.

Chapter 4: Changing How To Close

In smaller sales, especially direct to the end consumer, simple closing techniques can work. You can use short deadlines or inventories to create urgency.

In complex sales, this kind of approach does not work. In certain cases, the prospect may react negatively. And when they work in a complex sale, it is possible that the contract has been closed at a much lower value than it could potentially be. The best way to close larger and easier sales is to understand that not all sales have to result in immediate closure or loss. The most important thing about selling is not the closing itself but helping the prospect figure out what they really need. In complex sales rather than “closing”, the important thing is to understand the customer’s needs, tie up the small issues that could get bigger together and create urgency for a solution. Unlike smaller and simpler sales, in complex sales, these needs arise in different situations. In a company, the buying environment requires reflection and research by the buyer. It involves moving many stakeholders in the organization. It involves understanding the explicit needs of the buyer as well as the implicit ones. Good salespeople know how to identify these implicit needs, but making a big sale requires more than being a good listener. And to do this, you must, after identifying an implicit need, turn it into an explicit necessity! An implicit need is a weak signal that a prospect wants to buy and it needs to be strengthened. If you can turn implicit signals and point them out as explicit needs to your prospects, you’ll be able to convince them more easily to buy a solution that solves all the needs that are visible to them. SPIN Selling’s strategy is one way to help you achieve this. It helps you ask the right questions at the right time.

Chapter 5: Mapping The Situation

To learn more about your prospects, you must begin with questions that explore the situation and the problem. Questioning your prospect’s situation helps you get an understanding of the larger context, and this helps you to build a relationship in the right way. To develop authority, you need to know your market, your product/service, and your prospect’s product/service. That is why it’s essential to do pre-meeting research and preparation. Ask questions that lead you to the facts directly. It is vital to ask a lot, but also not to tire your prospect with many questions. Examples of useful situational questions:

  • What equipment do you use to manage your network?
  • What is your segment of customers with less satisfaction?
  • How have you scaled your organization’s sales team?

Chapter 6: Mapping Problems

Once you have identified your prospect’s scenario through situational questions, it is now time for you to understand the real issues. You can then use the questions about problems as they will help you discover the difficulties of your prospects. Good problem questions include, “Are you satisfied with your vendor?” Or perhaps “Is it not too difficult for you to do this task manually?”

Chapter 7: Escalating To The Implications

The implications questions deepen the real consequences of your prospect’s problems. The reason to make the sale happen starts at this stage. However, most vendors stop the investigation process in the previous two phases: Your prospect may be blind to the impacts and consequences of their problems, and their job is to highlight them, bringing to the conversation the consequences of these problems that your client may not have considered, such as overtime costs, etc. The idea of each implication is to make the problem even bigger and, if done correctly, the implication questions will accelerate the closing. Examples of good implications questions include:

  • What are the effects of this problem on your billing?
  • How many customers will you lose next year if it stays that way?
  • What happens if we do not solve this until next December?

Chapter 8: Supplying The Needs

In the final stage of SPIN Selling, your objective is to make the prospect realize the value and urgency of solving the identified problem. You need to ensure that the buyers recognize the product’s benefits to the problem. You need to be able to ask how they intend to solve the company’s problems. You can also make the prospect imagine what the future would look like if that problem disappeared. If everything has happened as planned and you have drawn up a good plan, your prospect should see your proposal not only as an effective but also the most obvious solution. In the problem-solving phase, you have to focus on the problem and move on to the solution. For this, it is necessary to create a positive tone, to have good intonation and motivate the prospect to feel, to live in a world without the problem. Examples of good solution questions include:

  • What would be the revenue impact if we could implement this software?
  • How many hours will this save from your staff each month?

Chapter 9: Demonstrate The Solution With Mastery

Do not present the features of your product just because they exist. Presenting your solutions and demonstrations too soon invites the customer to show objections. Features and functionalities are just facts. The benefits are that they are the elements of your offer that make your prospect’s life better. Amateur marketers focus primarily on features or advantages of a product and identify these elements as benefits when they are not. The advantages of a product show how it can help your prospects and although they are more persuasive than the features and can attract a prospect’s interest, they are also just information. When you demonstrate the benefits of your product, you show exactly how your product can meet a specific need of your prospect. You are not selling a standard product, rather you are selling a solution tailored to your prospect’s interests and problems. So, forget the advantages and features and instead focus on the solution.

Chapter 10: The Easiest Way To Avoid Objections

Objections are more often than not seen as a sign of real interest in an offer, and not necessarily as the problem. Sellers are trained to deal with objections and to resolve them when the answer could have often been to avoid them. The easiest way to avoid objections is to work well at the implications stage and make your prospect explicitly mention their problems, consequences, and needs. By positioning yourself as a doctor treating the problems and their causes, you become much less prone to objections.

About Neil Rackham

SPIN Selling Neil Rackham

Neil Rackham is the founder and former president of Huthwaite, Inc. Huthwaite researches, consults, and provides seminars for over 200 leading sales organizations around the world, including Xerox, IBM, and Citicorp. His academic background is in research psychology. It was at the University of Sheffield, England, that he began his research into sales effectiveness that resulted in SPIN Selling. Neil Rackham is the author of more than 50 articles and several books.


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