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SPIN Selling: Research-Based Methodology

June 16, 2011

I want to speak to those of you who, like me, have searched the far reaches of the Internet for the elusive sales processes, tips, and techniques to get on the fast track to closing deals.  I began my online approach to becoming more aware of sales methodology with search queries such as, “how to close a deal” and “how to overcome objections”.

My searches initially lead me to former salespeople-turned-motivational speakers. These people provide interesting insight into sales and help me keep my profession in perspective.  However, these types of resources tend to be heavy on theory and anecdotes rather than offering a methodical approach  to increasing your knowledge of the sales process.  I am not saying these are poor places to turn to in enhancing your sales career.  On the contrary, they can provide motivation and inspiration in developing creative ways to sell.

The shortcomings with these speakers, it appears, is that the information they convey seems to be limited to their experiences. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  However, their experiences do not always translate into actionable, measurable results.  I do love how these speakers motivate me toward pushing myself to be better at sales, but I was seeking methodology for improving the way I sold.

In my last semester of college I took a sales class.  I signed up for it because I had an elective left to take before graduating and, with a marketing degree, sales seemed the most relevant.  At that time in my life I swore to myself I would not pursue sales as a profession.  I hated salespeople and the idea of becoming like them.  The class was taught based on the SPIN selling methodology.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have been more attentive in class.  I love sales.  I love digging into a prospect’s problems and offering them a solution to their problems. I absolutely love being paid commission–knowing that I benefit directly from the amount of effort I put into my work.

Since my college days I have devoured the SPIN Selling book several times.  The information provided in that book is based on 12 years of research in analyzing over 35,000 sales calls.  The researchers dug through the data to identify the elements that contribute to making a sales call successful.  They defined key areas of focus and structured a system based on their results.

Their system is based primarily around the investigative stage of the sales call.  They explain that newer sales professionals more often than not lean toward dumping features and capabilities of a solution rather than questioning to uncover needs.  The successful salespeople asked strategically-placed questions based on the following model:

  • Situation questions – These identify what the prospect is presently doing to address their process, issue, or concern.
  • Problem questions – These uncover any part within their current strategy where they see room for improvement or that has fallen short of their expectations.
  • Implication questions – These are used to help the prospect understand, and even quantify, the damage of their problems within their organization if the status quo is maintained.
  • Need-Payoff  questions- These lead the customer to envision how your solution can help them in improving their process, issue, or concern.

As a disclaimer, I am in no way being compensated by Huthwaite, Inc. to promote their literature.  I am just hoping to promote a methodology which I have found immensely helpful in my career. So, if you are looking for a great sales reference based on a multitude of studies I would suggest looking into SPIN Selling.

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