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When you are looking for a better way to sell your products to other businesses, you might have looked everywhere for advice or inspiration. The reality is that today, in 2020, the time of automation at scale, we can still leverage the sales techniques from the past to succeed in B2B selling. Why?
Because even though technologies have significantly changed the way we work, they have had little effect on the way we communicate to persuade.
If your goal is to sell your product or service by leading your potential buyer to their own conclusion about the value of what you offer, SPIN is the best method to follow. SPIN allows you to take your prospect on a journey of discovery, avoiding annoying sales pitching and an unpleasant feeling of “being sold”.
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A model of SPIN selling was first explained in 1988, when Neil Rackham published a book of the same name. SPIN Selling has since gone on to be recognised as one of the New York Times business bestsellers.
The model is based on extensive research and analyses of more than 35,000 sales calls in order to identify the conversation patterns that lead to success.
SPIN is made of Situation, Problem, Implication and Need-Payoff questions. The model promotes a consultative selling style and is based on these four groups of questions. By asking the right questions, you help your prospect to challenge the current situation, to investigate problems and to conclude about a need for your product or service.
You will start with the situation questions, trying to understand your prospect’s current workflow. Problem questions will help to identify pain points while implication questions aim to show the implication of the current problems on other aspects of the business. The need-payoff questions reveal how your solution will be useful to solve problems and improve the business.
Read more to learn about these questions and how you can use them to lead a sales conversation with your prospects.
When you open a sales conversation, you want to know as much as possible about your prospects: who they are, what they do, and how their business processes are organised. For example, if you are selling a CRM software, you want to understand first what they are currently using, how many people have access to the existing software and what the main function of the current solution is.
In a typical conversation, you might ask:
In order to continue a consultative conversation with your prospects, you want to know what is going on, what their business goals and strategy and who the key decision makers are. It is important not to fall into the trap of an interview-style conversation where you ask too many questions. These questions deliver value to you, but not to your prospects and therefore they can easily lose interest in commenting on all your inquiries.
Try to ask less questions but think about their quality in order to get more information. Ask open ended questions and use the phrases like “Tell me more about…” or “Could you help me understand how…”.
You sell a product or a service that addresses specific needs and problems for your customers. In a proactive sale process where you are reaching out your prospects yourself, you can’t expect them to acknowledge the problem immediately. The problem and implication questions will help to identify the pain points and expand them, so that the prospects are more incentives to react and execute the changes.
Start by asking some problem questions like:
When you are asking about problems, think of questions to identify what keeps your prospects up at night. Usually prospects appreciate these questions because they help analyse the business and spot the weak areas.
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Very often a customer might not even realize that they have some issues. In this case you can demonstrate your expertise in the subject and ask more direct questions, such as “I speak to many companies in your industry and some of them pointed out that the biggest problem they face is […]. Is it something you are experiencing too?”. This type of questions will help you guide your prospect’s attention into the right direction.
Implication questions can lead the discussion into two different directions, negative and positive. The negative implication questions aim to investigate how the existing problem affects other areas of business. For example, low operational efficiencies might lead to missed deadlines on clients’ orders, which in return will lead to clients’ dissatisfaction and potentially lost clients and revenues.
In this scenario, the problem of low operational efficiencies becomes much bigger because it leads to lower profits. If you were in the place of this prospect, wouldn’t you want to react immediately to avoid a decrease in revenue? This is the exact goal of the implication questions.
The positive implication questions aim to show the positive outcomes of fixing the identified problem. Let’s take an example where we are selling a recruitment software and the established problem is that the existing recruitment process is very slow. To show a positive implication, I can ask how the business will benefit if the recruitment process were twice faster.
Below are a few examples of implications questions.
Negative implication questions:
1 . How does this problem affect your business/the productivity of the team etc?
2. What is the implication of [state the problem]?
3. If you don’t change your process now, how might this problem affect the future productivity/etc…?
4. How much is this issue costing you?
5. Have you ever missed any opportunities because of […]?
6. How does that affect your revenue (or productivity etc.)?
Positive implication questions:
1 . Will it help you save money? What will you do with all that extra money?
2. Can you save time by changing the process ? What will you do with all that time gained?
3. Can your business start new projects if you have this product or service?
4. How will solving this problem improve investor confidence?
5. Will solving this problem help with recruiting?
6. Will solving this problem increase sales?
Remember to create a list of responses even if not everything your prospect is saying directly links to the solution you want to offer. You can always return to some of the points mentioned, in case your company might be able to solve some of these problems, and you can become your client’s best friend because they know they can trust you. You have thought of everything, and they look at you like you are the expert.
The final step of the SPIN selling model is to share a payoff that your product or solution can provide. It is the right time to offer your product but, in the way, so that your prospects themselves are willing to learn more. The easiest structure to use for this type of question is “if/will you?”.
Need-payoff can be called “value” because you are explaining the precise value of what you have to offer. Also, don’t forget to ask for commitment, as it will help you to advance your sale. By using the structure “if/will you” it is difficult to get “No” as an answer.
You can use the SPIN method today if you want to sell to other businesses (or even to persuade your friends or family members). Think about the questions in advance, learn about the situation of the one you are trying to persuade, identify the problems or needs, anticipate any negative implications of not reacting now (or positive implications of reacting now), and offer value. When you do this, you will have happy customers and a script you can use for future sales.
Karina Collis accumulated over 15 years of sales and international business development experience, working for global blue-chip software and information services companies. Over the last ten years, she notably designed and executed an effective go-to-market and sales expansion strategy for Central and Eastern Europe at Bloomberg, the largest financial technology company. Her activities also included negotiating complex infrastructure projects aimed at transforming underdeveloped financial markets.
Karina is the founder of Liinea Sales Advisory, a consultancy helping growth businesses to structure scalable sales processes and high-intensity execution. Current clients include startups, venture funds and accelerators across Europe (UK, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain,…)
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