Sebastian Cass has been a good friend of mine for many years.
Recently, we’ve been enjoying the work of best-selling author and Forbes columnist Michael Ellsberg. In one of Ellsberg’s most famous public appearances, a speech he gave at the Google headquarters, he recommended the book SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. Since this was the second time it had been endorsed by someone I respected (the other person being Josh Kaufman, author of the The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business), I decided that I should check it out for myself sometime in the near future.
Sebastian, on the other hand, was eager to read it right away since he has already worked in several sales jobs and possesses an utterly absurd amount of knowledge on the subject. Less than two days later, he had finished it.
So I’ve invited Sebastian to guest post about SPIN Selling and he’s agreed to share his notes and thoughts about the book with you guys today. In this post, you’ll learn about some of the most uncommon, unconventional wisdom behind sales and why the phrase, “high-integrity sales” is not a contradiction in terms. (D.S.)
SPIN Selling contains by far the best advice I’ve ever come across when it comes to selling. This short explanation is only meant to show you the speciﬁc things I took from it and why I think it’s a great tool for sales/marketing professionals looking to improve their results exponentially.
This book is based on a massive amount of research conducted by the Huthwaite group and by Rackham himself. The advice of the book is aimed at “large” ticketed items, items that will sometimes take longer than a single sales call to sell. The term “SPIN” is an acronym for the 4 kinds of questions that make the model, they break down as follows:
-Situation questions: A question in which the seller ﬁnds facts about the current state, short and long term plans, and overall condition of the buyer’s company
(Note: Research shows that they are not very critical in making a sale successful, and one should keep them short as a customer might become impatient.)
-Problem questions: These are the types of questions that most people should consider improving, they’re designed to ﬁnd any dissatisfactions or hassles that the customer is having at the moment (these should be aimed at the kinds of problems the customer would no longer have if he owned your product).
-Implication questions: This is where conventional selling techniques verge off, most training would direct people to give solutions that their product could offer to solve the customers “needs” as explained by the customer in the previous phase, however, this model takes it a step further. Implication questions are meant to show the customer/buyer the implications and future hassles his current problems will lead him to (ie: fast turnover on workforce, training costs of new employees, time that could be spent more wisely). In short it makes his problems become EXPLICIT NEEDS; he is now aware that the problem is more severe and he is now looking for a solution.
-Need-payoff questions: This is the ﬁnal step in which the seller posses a different set of questions. These are aimed to get the customer/buyer talking about how if he had a solution to his now-explicit needs (from the implication stage) and the other ways in which having such solution (seller’s product) could help him (customer/buyer) and his business.
The SPIN model however is only one part of the bigger 4 part breakdown of a sales call. The whole model looks like this:
Opening –> Investigating (SPIN model for questioning comes in here) –> Demonstrating Capability –> Obtaining Commitment.
Opening: the research shows that staying on point is key, conventional wisdom on opening may not work so well for bigger sales, specially “starting off with chit-chat” or “open by demonstrating advantages”; a good rule of thumb to follow will be to establish:
-who you are
-why you’re there (but not by giving away product details)
-your right to ask questions.
Investigating: I’ve explained above in the SPIN model.
Demonstrating capabilities: The main thing to learn from this is the difference between features, advantages (usually referred in sales training as benefits), and “true” benefits.
Features – have low impact over the long and short term, they don’t really relate to the customer. Over-featuring a product will always lead to price objections, which might either be a service or disservice to the product depending on whether the price is low or high respectively.
Advantages – these are the ways that a customer/buyer could benefit from using the product, but since it does not tie in to their Explicit Needs, they’re very easy to forget.
(True) Benefits – They tie in strongly to the customer/buyer’s explicit needs and are the answer to their Need-Payoff statements. Customers/buyers will remember them because they relate to their deepest needs.
Obtaining commitment: the main point here is to understand the four kinds of outcomes that can come from a sale.
- No Sale
Since immediate No Sale/Sale situations only make up 10% of sales calls for high price items, one should pay attention to Continuation and Advances instead.
Continuation is usually made up of flattery of the product: “that was a great presentation”, “we look forward to hearing more”, but no actual commitment to follow the relationship in any meaningful way. This is why they are considered unsuccessful.
Advances on the other hand offer a “next step” kind of mentality. The sale won’t be done right there, but both parties are taking steps forward and it is considered a success since it’s more likely to lead to an actual sale.
The book also covers how research suggests that the areas in which most sales training focus most of their energy (closing techniques, open-closed questions, objection handling) are far less effective for large sales. Instead there’s obtaining commitment, SPIN model for questioning, and objection prevention.
These are the main points I drew from this book; I’d recommend you read the book if you saw any information here you’d like to improve and/or learn more about. I’ve decided that I’m going to work in a position in sales that pays solely on commission for the next little while. The items I’m aiming to sell will be high-ticketed items (cars sales, real estate, corporate tech solutions).
I’m not doing this for the ﬁnancial remuneration but rather to apply the skills and mindsets that this book has taught me. As with anything you read, I also recommend that once you ﬁnish SPIN Selling (either the actual book or just my notes) you should take action in the near future to practice the ideas that Rackham presents.
Entelechy – the becoming actual of what was potential.
This word is used towards the end of the book to emphasize the importance of actually integrating any skill one learns in order to make it truly ingrained. I included here as well to reiterate its importance.
Until the next time guys.