SPIN selling

Defining The Sales Methodology Known As SPIN Sales

Zurab Samushia
Aug 25, 2021

There are many techniques of sales, most part of which are specific for a certain sales channel, the method of attraction, and the step of a client’s lifecycle (from a cold client to lead to a prospect and to a client). In this article, we are speaking about SPIN selling, which is best applied to cold and warm clients.

What is SPIN selling?

What is SPIN? SPIN is an abbreviation standing for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff. It is a formalized 4-step sales process, which defines the sales based on the client’s needs, not on your product or brand. Basically speaking, to define SPIN in simple words, you’d say:

Why trying to sell cookies to a thirsty person? They need water!

So, everything in SPIN sales starts with learning about the client. Below, we are considering each step of the SPIN methodology.

SPIN technique

  1. S. Situation. At this stage, a salesman learns about a client: who they are, what they do, what current position do they have, what processes or software they use, what is the usage of processes, and what outcomes do they have.
  2. P. Problem. This step is a logical continuation of SPIN questions asked at the previous stage: what pains exactly do clients have with what they currently do, how they feel about solving them, and what efforts or changes do they think are required to do that; how and when they would like to close their pains (if a client has such an understanding already).
  3. I. Implication. This is a stage, where a salesperson keeps finding out, what client pain is in detail, and asks a client about how exactly the pains would be closed or eliminated. At this stage, a client may develop an understanding of possible solutions (non-existent before), which are the main source of information about how a client wants to close their pains – this would largely help a salesperson adapt the following offer to the client’s exact needs as if this offer has been specifically fine-tuned to them a long time ago.
  4. Need-payoff. Here, you present your product or service not as a product per se but as a set of value-added possibilities under one umbrella, which are able to address (most of) client pains effectively. You do not offer a product; you explain how your solution helps in each particular problem and pain. If a client is interested and asks more questions, it is a good opportunity to make a presentation of additional product possibilities.

The main mistake of inexperienced or too pushy salespersons is to start selling a product as a head start, not even asking what a client needs and whether they need anything at all. Even if they do, your disinterest in their problems will likely turn the deal down, often, without any feedback given to you.

Another mistake is to lead a one-sided conversation. It is when you talk, and talk, and talk… Without interruptions from the customer’s side – i.e., without genuine interest in what you’re saying and without a desire to buy from you. Talking is always a two-way road, where you, probably, give more space to a client sometimes.

It doesn’t mean that product presentation and talking aren’t great – it’s just they have to be made at a specific time of the sales process (when you cover customer questions and denials (as a part of deal closure)).

SPIN questions examples

It is commonly believed that open-end questions allow clients to talk about them and their needs, giving a ton of useful information to salesmen. In practice, it turned out that not always so. When the authors of SPIN sales methodology were analyzing tens of thousands of sales deals to formulate the SPIN, they’ve concluded that open questions do not push the sales as they should, actually having little impact on the outcome.

So, now as you know what SPIN definition is, you would like to read examples of questions to ask to effectively lead a prospect through the SPIN sale.

It is possible to start with a type of questions like “What do you feel about (your process)?” and “Why is this a problem?” then getting to more specific questions giving two/three types of outcomes (semi-closed questions): “How do you want to deal with the problem – using this, that or that?”. In the latter two stages, questions without alternative answers would help: “Using this method, what would you do to close a problem?” and “Let me tell you about how my solution deals with your problem” (which is more like a statement than a question since you only leave “yes” option to a customer). The more precise examples are:

  • How this process flows in your company?
  • What tools do you use to measure its effectiveness and do managing influence?
  • How much do you spend on marketing and promos?
  • Why do you think this tool is good for what you need?
  • How expensive is your current software?
  • What happens when your sales process fails at the “X” stage?
  • How do you segment your client and how the product differs for various segments?
  • What are your conversion rates and are you happy with them?
  • What issues does this problem cause?
  • How do you plan to impact the “Y” process/problem? How come you chose that option?
  • How do you plan to decrease the product defect rate?
  • What level of automation do you have? Would you like to increase it by Z percent to cut off W% of your current costs?

Choose questions wisely depending on the exact situation and sales opportunities, asking them at the right time, creating a strong feeling that you want to help the customer and, luckily, your product is here to do that.

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