B2B selling: SPIN selling

Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash

For a long time, I seldom directly study the steps, rules, or theories behind sales.

The main reason is that the sales expectations at that time were still accurate. However, looking back at that time, I believe I was a bit too arrogant about it. There are still many things that could be improved.

As a result, I recently revisited the B2B sales rules. One of them is SPIN.

SPIN selling is a sales method published by Neil Rackham in 1988. Mr. Neil Rackham’s SPIN selling was built from a survey on many marketing and sales experts, who know niche techniques, under the sponsorship of companies such as IBM and Xerox.

SPIN selling is “built on the needs of clients” , and it is practiced through “asking the questions that clients value”. Those are the keys to why SPIN selling works.

Common Questions in Sales’ mind

Many experienced salespersons always have a question in their minds: “Why do effective general sales techniques and theories fail in large-scale sales?”

The SPIN selling is an easy sales method to approach, and it’s highly practical. Furthermore, it can provide solutions for all the possible predicaments in large-scale sales and B2B sales.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

SPIN selling is “built on the needs of clients” , and it is practiced through “asking the questions that clients value”

SPIN Selling

SPIN selling includes 4 questions that you can use in the sales process. They are Situation Questions, Problems Questions, Implication Questions, and Need-payoff Questions.

Successful sales person adopts SPIN as follows:

Situation Questions

Using Situation Questions to understand the status quo of your prospects and establish the data by getting familiar with their background.

Only through data collection can we have the opportunity to further conduct the accurate analysis on the demand. In Situation Questions, we will ask:

  • How did you know our company?
  • How much do you know about our product / service? Have you used it in the past?
  • If yes, could you share the experience?
  • Have you tried other companies’ products or services like ours? If so, how is your experience?
  • What is the current state of the industry?
  • What is the overall competition state in this market?
  • Why did you come to our company this time?
  • Which department of the company issued the demand?

But please note that if you focus on large-scale sales, these basic Situation Questions are only used to help you with the preliminary stage of information gathering, please make sure you don’t go too over.

Once the Situation Questions are overused, it will cause the clients’ boredom and disgust.

Problems Questions

An experienced sales person will quickly move from Situation Questions to Problem Questions.

Problem questions will help you discover the client’s problems, difficulties, or dissatisfaction, and only by then can you have the opportunity to help the clients.

For Problem Questions, we will ask:

  • What do you think are the difficulties the company will encounter at the moment?
  • Are you satisfied with the current service/product?
  • What are the shortcomings of the current usage?
  • What are your reasons for changing or looking for new suppliers?
  • For your users, is this service/product difficult to use?
  • For your users, why do they not use this service/product?
  • Can this service/product help you achieve the annual KPI?
  • What are the task indicators for your department or yourself?

You must accompany your clients to figure out the causes of these problems layer by layer. Don’t rush to propose solutions and prices at this stage.

Although clients have shown many “signs of purchase”, what has been mentioned so far is likely to be hidden needs. I suggest you:

  • Don’t rush to introduce service/product
  • Don’t rush to quote

Be sure to listen to the various problems your clients encountered or their complaints about the original service/product. This is a good thing, because they are revealing where they need you most.

Photo by Sebastian Svenson on Unsplash

Don’t rush to introduce service/product

Implication Questions

From the explanation in the MBA think tank(MBA 智庫), we can know: “Salespersons will ask implication questions to make clients feel the importance and urgency of the hidden needs. Salespersons will list various clues to maintain the prospect interest and stimulate their desire to buy.”

The key here is “purchasing desire.” We don’t focus on why he wants it, but why he clearly wants it, but not in a hurry.

At this stage, you can focus on: first, the possible consequences if the client does not achieve their goal; or second, the impact it would have if they don’t purchase your services, products or cooperate with you, even though it might reduce their costs a bit.

For example, they might fall behind their rivals, their internal user experience might become very awful which will lead to an import failure, they might not be able to achieve their performance goal, the market share becomes smaller, so on and so forth.

You should let clients speak out about these possible negative effects, instead of directly telling them “ So if you don’t cooperate with us, your market share will become smaller, right? “

So we can use the following questions to promote potential clients from “not in a hurry” to “in an urgency ”. There are some key words you can write down, usually the questions must have “number” and “time”.

  • What is the best time to contact you? When is it convenient for you to have a meeting?
  • When the other party wants to first think about it or discuss with their teams, you can say: Of course there is no problem. Then can I contact you someday next week? (You’d better provide a certain date.) If your team comes up with any questions, I’ll elaborate more on those for you.
  • Is there any challenge that you could imagine if you don’t use our product/service in the upcoming year?
  • If you adopt a competitor’s product/service, what difficulties might you encounter in the coming year?
  • Whether your performance indicators for this year will become more difficult to achieve without using our product/service?
  • Before purchasing our product/service, how long can your team continue to bear with the current pain points? If they’re no longer able to endure it, what impact will this have on their work performance?
Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

Need-Payoff Question

Following the previous paragraph, here’s a quote from the MBA think tank: “Not all sales situations follow the questioning sequence of the SPIN Selling. For example, when a customer expresses a clear demand, the salesperson can immediately ask a Need-Payoff Question; sometimes when a salesperson asks Implication Questions to explore clients’ hidden needs, they need to utilize Situation Questions to obtain more background information from customers. But generally, most sales visits will follow SPIN Selling.”

In a course I designed, I mentioned that “ You must give the other party a declaration of Victory and take care of the relationship. Keep your proposal simple and easy to remember.

Keep your proposal simple and easy to remember.

There are 3 key points in this sentence, which are also closely related to the last question of SPIN Selling, Need-Payoff Question.

  • Relationship management: Because clients in B2B sales are not only buying a product/service, but a long-term “relationship” with the salesperson.
  • Simple and easy to remember: When a large or complex sales decision occurs, the salesperson is often not present. Does the client have the ability to defend or explain your product/service? Keeping your sales briefing simple and easy to remember is the key. At the same time, we help the client tell how the product helps him with the Need-Payoff Question. This is what we are going to do.
  • Declaration of Victory: How do clients remember and use the Declaration of Victory you gave? Here are the three things you’ll need to confirm:
    1.What is the KPI of your client according to their contact person? And what else?
    2.Are you able to help with what other decision makers care about?
    3.Can their contact person explain your proposal well back to their team?

Yes, when your client considers an urgent purchase, once the client agrees with the seriousness and urgency of the demand, and must take immediate action, a successful salesperson will raise Need-payoff Questions.

Let clients come up with clear needs, and encourage customers to focus on solutions, understand how to purchase, and the benefits that the purchase could bring.

Then, it’s time to introduce your solution to your clients!




張智鈞曾任創業社群媒體 Meet 創業小聚社群經理,主要負責社群關係拓展工作。任職企業溝通諮詢公司寶渥的營運經理兼核心講師期間,主要負責營運管理和商業開發工作。 張智鈞專注於商業開發及教育訓練兩大領域,他為知名上市公司與中小型獨資企業提供溝通顧問服務。目前經營 Podcast 節目《上班阿叔》、《擺渡人》

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張智鈞曾任創業社群媒體 Meet 創業小聚社群經理,主要負責社群關係拓展工作。任職企業溝通諮詢公司寶渥的營運經理兼核心講師期間,主要負責營運管理和商業開發工作。 張智鈞專注於商業開發及教育訓練兩大領域,他為知名上市公司與中小型獨資企業提供溝通顧問服務。目前經營 Podcast 節目《上班阿叔》、《擺渡人》

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