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SPIN selling – an ultimate guide for achieving sales success

Most salespeople are half prepared. They know everything about their company and their product. They know nothing about their prospect. –  Jeffrey Gitomer

Did you know that 70% of purchasing decisions are made to solve a problem? You might have come across people who hold on to their old phones till it breaks. Only when they reach the end and have a problem in connecting, the thought of purchasing a new phone comes to their mind.

The same is the case with most businesses that don’t think about a solution until they have a severe problem to address that threatens their business. For succeeding in sales, it is important to understand and provide a solution to this problem.

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

Finding it too complex? Wondering how to do it?  Don’t worry, Neil Rackham’s SPIN selling model can come to your aid.

What is SPIN selling?

SPIN selling is a widely adopted model that’s highly relevant in today’s demanding sales environment. It comes from Neil Rackham’s best-selling book – “SPIN Selling” which is based on 12 years of research and analysis of more than 35,000 sales calls.

SPIN selling eliminates ambiguity and struggles in closing sales opportunities. It helps in dealing with challenging sales situations and shows sales reps the path to creating healthy connections with customers. Neil Rackham argues that for winning larger consultative deals, sales reps must abandon traditional sales techniques.

SPIN selling explains the science behind consultative selling or rather uses the impactful questioning process to discover customer pain points, concerns, challenges, and expectations. It makes the buyers get down to the minute details and understand the problems they are facing.

Spin model

Few essential things about SPIN selling

Before delving deep into this methodology, here are a few facts and key principles you should follow

  • Salespeople trained in the “SPIN” model showed 17% improvement in sales results.
  • SPIN model is not supposed to be used as a checklist of questions. The questions should flow naturally into a conversation.
  • Businesses invest in a solution when the pain of the problem is greater than the cost of the solution.
  • Don’t make the buyer uncomfortable with too many situation questions, instead do your research before connecting.
  • Problem questions require planning; find in advance what problems can your product solve.
  • SPIN selling is useful only when you attentively listen to the answers for the questions asked.

SPIN selling- questioning conventional sales

The traditional selling models, methods, and techniques that most of us have been trained to use work best in small sales. For now, let me define small as a sale which can normally be completed in a single call and which involves a low dollar value. Unfortunately, these tried-and-true low-value sales techniques, most of them dating from the 1920s, don’t work today. – Neil Rackham

SPIN selling is the culmination of an in-depth sales study. Many sales professionals displayed interest and supported this project of Neil Rackham. More than half the US fortune 500 still uses this model for training their sales team.

Neil Rackham’s study widely criticizes and challenges traditional selling methods. Though this wasn’t his aim; he began this study for validating the effectiveness of traditional methods. However, when he audited the sales processes of large companies like IBM and Xerox the scenario changed.

Major large-scale companies were abreast of the ineffectiveness of their sales reps once the sales became complex; especially when the investment demanded a deeper relationship than a simple and single phone call to the client. Having expertise in simple sales doesn’t mean you are good at complex sales too.

Most of the traditional sales methodologies were developed around the early years of the 19th century. They were created for simple sales where the client would make a buying decision at the end of the call. Well, such things don’t happen now as the clients have become quite smarter and cautious in making buying decisions. Here the sales reps run into a series of failures which makes sales quite complex. Simple and complex sales are two different worlds.

  • Simple sales are mostly the widely available routine products that have a shorter sales cycle. While in the complex process, there are many steps involved in convincing a buyer to make a purchase.
  • The risk of uncertainty is greater in complex compared to simple sales.

This implies that both need to be treated differently. In complex sales, sellers are expected to establish a relationship by asking relevant questions to the buyer. They need to gain the buyers’ confidence and make them feel comfortable discussing their business issues. As per the study, there are more chances of completing the sales when the buyers conduct the conversation.

Rackham’s research questions some major misbeliefs when it comes to sales

Spin selling book pages

It is recommended to read the book SPIN selling to learn more about this methodology.

Breakdown of the SPIN acronym

Here are the four different pieces of the SPIN methodology that needs your attention:

1. S – Situation

What’s going on in the buyer’s world?

Gather facts about the buyer’s current situation to have a meaningful conversation with them. Here you need to get a good understanding of their background. It is the starting point of your conversation, so ensure you don’t bore the prospect with many irrelevant questions.

The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer- Thomas J Watson

I mentioned it above am I repeating it that ‘do your research before connecting’? As if at all you come across a senior buyer then you might land up in trouble. Such buyers are quite judgemental; they feel that a seller who asks aimless questions is incapable of helping them in resolving the issue. Moreover, you can find answers to many basic questions on their website, press release, or social media profiles. So, why bother them? Determine what is important and be very specific while questioning the buyer.

Here are a few examples of situation questions:

  • Am I right that you are facing heavy competition from(X)?
  • How do you manage a complex process like(X)?
  • How do you keep a tab on (x)?
  • What processes do you follow for (x)?

2. P – Problem

Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize themselves – Steve Jobs

Your product will only be valuable to the buyer when it appears as a solution. You must understand what’s troubling your buyers. Problem questions can help you with this. Most of the buyers don’t even know what their problem is; some processes are going wrong, but they have no clue about the cause. So, be a helpful consultant and guide them. For others, who are aware of the obstacle, collect the details from them by asking relevant questions. The information you collect in this discovery phase can help in stimulating buyers’ interest in your product. As per the SPIN selling model, it is better to unearth more than one problem before the implication stage.

Ensure you are aware of the problems your product can solve. Analyze your past sales data to find out which needs can be addressed and what kind of issues can be handled. This will help you in reaching out to the right target audience and achieve the best results.

Here are a few examples of problem questions:

  • Is it disappointing to lose (x)?
  • Why couldn’t you fulfill your last quarter’s priorities?
  • Is the issue negatively affecting your business?

3. I – Implication

Implication Questions develop a problem by asking about its effects or consequences. In major sales, Implication Questions are very strongly linked to success during the Recognition of Needs phase.
― Neil Rackham

In this phase, expert skills and knowledge about the buyer’s present state are essential. Using implication questions, you can explore the source and effects of the buyer’s problem. Many factors can be responsible for the buyer’s pain.

“know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those to meet” – Kevin Stirtz  

Proficient sales reps wisely use this set of questions to get the buyers themselves to acknowledge the severity of a problem instead of explicitly telling them. Implication questions are very powerful as they dig to the root of the problems and provide buyers with the necessary insights about their issues. Create urgency by highlighting the impacts the problem will have on the buyer’s business for motivating them to take quick action.

  • What has been the outcome of facing (x) situations in the past?
  • What effect did it have on your profit margin?
  • Do you foresee your business growth without making the required changes in the current process?

4. N – Need-payoff

Consumer do not buy a product, they buy benefits – David Ogilvy

The final set of questions in the SPIN selling methodology is the need-payoff questions. You won’t face difficulty in this phase if you have handled the previous set of questions smartly. In a common sales scenario, it is the seller who presents the benefits of their product to influence a buying decision. But SPIN selling flips the script where it is the buyer who explains the benefits instead of the seller.

Need-payoff questions help the buyers in understanding what they will gain if they move forward with this solution. For instance, ask the buyers to visualize what they could achieve if the problem weren’t blocking their path. This way they will be able to ponder over the value you are offering. You don’t need to put in much effort here, the need-payoff questions automatically lead the buyer to the culmination and give them reasons to invest in your solution.

Here are a few examples of Need-payoff questions:

  • How much time will you save if you automate the (x) process?
  • What would have been the results if you would have chosen (X) technique instead of (Y)?
  • What are your views about (x)approach? Do you think it can be a competitive differentiator?

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Why use the SPIN selling model?

SPIN model is a great approach for thoroughly understanding your customer’s pains and tailoring your solution to their needs. The SPIN sales model is simple to implement and extremely practical.

SPIN selling-

  • Draws out customer’s need
  • Directs you to the problem and helps in framing a solution
  • Aids in convincing the buyer that they have a requirement
  • You don’t need to force a close, it happens on its own if you have been successful in asking the right questions


practice is just as valuable as a sale. The sales will make you a living; the skill will make you a fortune – Jim Rohn

Here are a few exercises that can help you adapt and implement the SPIN selling methodology:

Exercise 1
Assume you are an advertising firm who came across a start-up endeavoring to establish itself in the market. What specific information do you need to gather about this start-up’s current situation? What can you find through research and what questions would you be asking?
Exercise 2
Visualize a selling situation between a B2B portal and a bag manufacturer. List at least one question from each set (situation, problem, implication and need payoff) that will help in discovering the bag manufacturer’s issues and guide him to the solution.

Empower your SPIN selling with CRM

An efficient CRM solution is a must if you want your SPIN selling to be truly effective. As you gather the information, you will require a repository to store it to ensure you don’t misplace any crucial detail. In CRM software, the data related to your buyer is systematically stored in a centralized location that you can easily access from anywhere.

For example, if you use a CRM for advertising, it can help you manage leads from all channels in one single place which enhances your sales process.

SPIN selling needs planning and preparation. With valuable information at your fingertips, you can easily strategize and plan your questions for achieving positive results. The best part is that you can directly call from the most advanced CRM software without any third-party integrations. So, all the previous answers are in front of you when you are interacting with the buyer. Moreover, you can even record calls and take notes to refer and focus on the areas of improvement later.

Wrapping up

SPIN Selling model has been helpful for many organizations from different business verticals. This effective sales technique can also help you in improving your win rates provided you use the SPIN model wisely. To achieve perfection, you need to keep testing and refining your situation, problem, implication, and need-payoff questions set. Look at the various SPIN selling examples and try to put forward the right question.

Make the most of CRM tools like Salesmate to track your SPIN selling methodology and optimize your approach. With this smart sales tool, you can keep an eye on your prospects as they pass through different stages of the buying process. It makes your work easier and faster.

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An avid writer who likes to explore new fields and research about interesting subjects. She is a versatile content developer who plays with words to express her thoughts. Calm, carefree and creative are the words that describes her the best.

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