Key Points: SPIN Selling
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“Learn to sell. In business you’re always selling — to your prospects, investors and employees. To be the best salesperson put yourself in the shoes of the person to whom you’re selling. Don’t sell your product. Solve their problems.” — Mark Cuban
With this in mind, I wanted to improve my ability to sell. In my role as a Tech Evangelist, I don’t actually have anything to sell in exchange for currency, but instead, I am always selling my brand.
I came across Neil Rackham’s 1988 book, SPIN Selling, which is the end result of 5+ years of research and listening in on thousands of sales calls. The big isn’t about the “hit-and-run” approach, but instead covers how to build genuine relationships and solve the problems your customers or community face.
I find that I remember books in great detail if I mark them up as I go. That means I use dozens of stickies, have a highlighter in one hand, and a pen in the other, so that I can mark up the book.
What you see below are all of the notes I wrote in the margin, or at the end of each chapter. I’ve transcribed it to my website so that others could benefit from it too. I’d love to know if this style of learning works for you as well, and if you have any other recommendations for books that I should read.
*Product / Service can be used interchangeably here.
Chapter 1 — Sales Behavior and Sales Success
When a buyer hears a good pitch, they will remember it temporarily. When they hear a great pitch, they’ll remember it forever.
There are 4 stages of sales:
- You should list arguments which show how their problem is big
- Demonstrate Capability
- Obtain Commitment
- Small Sales
- Buyers are less aware of it
- Large sales
- You must build your perceived value
There are things which may work in small sales, but will not work in large deals. For example:
- Offer product benefits
- Appeal to the buyer’s personal interests
- Give Benefits
- On Dealing with Rejection Handling
- Clarifying the objection
- Rewording the objection
Chapter 2 — Obtaining Commitment: Closing the Sale
What is closing?
Putting a person into some kind of commitment.
In small sales:
Closing is strongly related to success, you should use many types, and close frequently during a call.
These are ineffective in/when:
- Large sales
- When a customer is sophisticated
- There is a post-sale relationship
There are four types of closing techniques
- “Where would you like it delivered?”
- “Prefer Monday or Tuesday for delivery?”
- Standing Room Only
- “Buy now or I have to offer it to someone else….”
- Fill out the order form before the buyer even commits
The bigger the decisions, the more negative a buyer reactors to pressure during a sale. Instead of pushing a closing technique, have a goal to achieve one of these forms of success:
In large sales, there are three (3) forms of success:
- Commitment to buy
- Move forward toward a decision
- The conversation will continue at a later date, but with no specific action taken
Chapter 3 — Customer Needs in the major sale
As a sale becomes larger:
- Needs take longer to develop
- Commitments are likely to involve elements, inputs, and influences from several people.
- Needs are more likely to be expression on a rational basis
- There are more serious consequences for the buyer if things go bad with the purchase
What is a need?
Made by the buyer, which expresses a want or concern that can be satisfied by the seller
What is a want?
Personal emotional appeal
Needs start with minor imperfections. They evolve into clear problems, difficulties, or dissatisfactions.
There are two different kinds of needs:
- Same definition as above
- The number of needs are not important, but what you do with them is
- Specific customer statements of wants or desires
- These are most important
Your questioning should unveil what the customer’s implied needs are, which then lead to explicit needs. Those are what is important.
Chapter 4 — The SPIN strategy
- Part of most sales cycles
- Not linked to success
- Too many Qs? Buyers get bored
Problem Questions (good)
- Better than situational Qs
- Not linked to success
Some cultures are not comfortable with sellers probing into their problems. Ex: Japan
Implicit Questions (better)
- Build a customer’s perception of value
- Are the language of the decision maker
- They make customers more uncomfortable with the problem. They feel negative and sad
Need / Payoff Questions (best)
- About the value or usefulness of a solution
- They focus the customer’s attention on the solution
- Gets the customer telling you about the benefits
- These create a positive effect
- They also allow someone to become an internal cheerleader for you / your product
How to use SPIN questions
- Come up with potential problems the customer may face before the call
- Come up with questions to uncover those problems
Chapter 5 — Giving Benefits in Major Sales
- Facts, data, or info about the product
- Don’t help or harm a sale
- Users respond more positively than buyers
- By listing features, buyers come to expect a higher price!
- Show how a feature can help
- Much more powerful than features
There are two types of benefits:
Can help the customer — useful in small sales
Fulfill an explicit need — useful in large sales
- Don’t demonstrate too early in the call
- Beware of just listing advantages of your product
- Instead, illustrate what problem your solution solves
Chapter 6 — Preventing Objections
Everyone will receive rejections. Skilled sellers receive fewer though, because they know objection prevention, not how to handle rejection.
Most objections are to your solutions that don’t fit a need of the customer.
If a customer has an objection about the value of your product, that means you are not developing a strong enough understanding of a customer’s needs.
Chapter 7 — Preliminaries: Opening the Call
Early stages of a meeting
Ever forget someone’s name, immediately after meeting them? That’s because we are overwhelmed with information when we meet someone new. Be sure not to overload them with even more info.
These are OK in small sales, but will have limited success in larger sales
- Relate to a buyer’s personal interest
- People become suspicious of you when you do this!
- Make an opening benefit statement about the product
- You can get trapped!
- Don’t demonstrate benefits / capabilities too early in the call
- You don’t get to ask any questions and investigate the customer’s problem!
Focus on the objective, which is to get consent to move on to the investigation stage
- Get down to business quickly
- Avoid offering solutions too soon
- Concentrate on asking questions
After the call
Did you complete your objective?
What would you change?
What did you learn that could benefit future calls w/ the customer?
What did you learn that could benefit future calls w/ other customers?
Chapter 8 — Turning Theory into Practice
Keys to learning
- Practice 1 behavior at a time
- Do it 3x
- Quantity before quality
- Focus on just doing something, and not on perfecting it
- Practice in safe / comfortable situations
Creating a needs-payoff question with the customer
You should ask them:
- How do you think our solution could help you?
- What do you see as the plusses of this approach?
This way they feel as though they came up with the solution, and they become internal cheerleaders for you and remember the benefits of your product.