What is SPIN selling?

SPIN selling is a set of sales techniques formulated by Neil Rackham, a well-known sales consultant. However, SPIN selling is as much a mindset as a set of techniques. In its time, the book ‘SPIN Selling’ paved the way for a more customer-oriented approach in selling. But what is behind yet another acronym? How exactly the SPIN technique can help you make a comprehensive and effective presentation?

How SPIN questions can help you with sales presentation? 

What makes this SPIN model particularly applicable to the presentation process is that it  motivates the salesperson to ask the right questions to customers when the timing is right (for example, it helps the salesperson to steer the first call with the customer on the right course). Right answers to your right questions heavily define the contents of your further presentation and, therefore, its effectiveness. 

In fact, the word SPIN itself encapsulates the classification of these questions. SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff. Thus, there are four types of questions that are targeted at these four essential categories. It should be noted that these four types of questions don’t have to be used in the strict order that the SPIN abbreviation seems to dictate. You can change the order of the questions as long as it is reasonable for the deal.

Also, the SPIN model can be implemented even if there’s no hurry to close the deal right away. The model may serve as an important stepping stone to the next negotiating phase (another meeting or presentation) and eventual closing of the deal. 

Situation questions

Situation questions are the first to be asked. They are all about facts and figures that make up the context of the deal. However, their aim is not only to get a line on your customer (your best bet, though, is to do your homework beforehand). What situation questions can provide is the fertile ground for finding the customer’s pain points, though at this stage you just dip your toes in the problem you’ve got to provide a viable solution to. 

The questions can cover the following areas: business goals, workplace efficiency, business expenses, processes, etc. Identifying the decision-maker is also important. 

  • Who is responsible for …?
  • How long do you use …?
  • How much do you spend on…?

Although they have nothing to do with persuasion inherent to sales, bombarding customers with situation questions can do no good. To avoid this pitfall, ask only relevant questions. 

How Situation Questions Help You with Presentation?
  • Personalize the presentation by incorporating into it the facts and figures you’ve got to learn on your first call.
  • Add the company’s or customer’s name in the presentation.
  • Don’t just provide figures. Show them in relation to one another by visualizing them in graphs, tables, charts, infographics.

Problem questions

The problem questions uncover a customer’s implied needs and determine whether your solution addresses the customer’s problem. And it’s essential for a salesperson to make sure that the product remedies the identified problem.

If situation questions allow you to dip your toes in the matter, problem questions prompt you to take a plunge. It’s time for you to ask what emotion is behind the facts and figures:

  • Is it difficult to use…?
  • Do you have difficulties with…?
  • Are you happy with…?

When something the customer says hints at an unmet need, get into the nuts and bolts of it:

  • How much time do you spend dealing with…?
  • Who usually tackles this problem?
  • How often do you face delays/system failures/breakdowns…?
  • At what stage of the process does the problem occur?

Sometimes it doesn't take a genius to put two and two together and understand what exactly causes the problem. However, it’s often helpful to get the customer to speak and explain what the problem is down to. How? You can just ask a simple “Why?”, listen carefully to the answer, and, most importantly, resist the temptation to instantly offer a solution to the problem. Why? Because there are also implication questions that can motivate the customers to approach their problems even more seriously.

How Problem Questions Help You with Presentation?
  • Your presentation should have a coherent and logical structure. Formulate the customer’s problems clearly and use bullet points to list them. 
  • If your company has some experience in solving the similar problems that your present customer addresses, don’t hesitate to mention some successful cases. Social proof provides valid and compelling arguments that can resonate with your customers. Moreover, social proof greatly contributes to the company’s reputation which is a major trigger for the customer’s attention, as Ben Parr stresses in his book ‘Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention’.

Implication questions

With implication questions, sales start to remind of сhess. The salesperson acts as a strategic thinker predicting what the identified problem is about to bring. Formulating effective implication questions means anticipating the negative effects and repercussions if the problem remains unsolved.

  • Does the problem stifle the growth of the company? Will the problem hinder the future expansion of the company?
  • Does the problem drive up the cost of production?
  • Does the problem lead to a poorer customer experience? 
  • Does the problem slow down the performance?

Interestingly enough, sometimes even the customers themselves have tunnel-vision views on their problems: they are often unaware of the implications they experience. The task of the salesperson at this stage is to point at the link between the cause and effect, often explaining it in a roundabout way and asking some situation questions to clarify the details. 

The deeper you and your customer peer into the rabbit hole of the problem, the more urgent it is for the customer to solve it. And the solutions the salesperson provides may turn out to be more personalized and valuable for the customer if the implication questions are thought-out.

On the flip side of the coin, going over the top with such in-depth questions may be too overwhelming for the customer who may feel boxed into a corner. The salesperson should anticipate when the conversation might get bogged down in implication questions.

How Implication Questions Help You with Presentation?
  • Visually demonstrate the causal link between pain points and implications by, for example, mind maps.
  • Introduce those figures that justify your arguments. Focus on the unseized opportunities to cut costs, improve customer feedback, boost workplace efficiency, etc.

Need-payoff questions

If problem and implication questions revolve around the customer’s problems, need-payoff questions finally allow the salesperson to get down to the solution, namely the value and importance of the solution offered:

  • Would it help you if you had…?
  • What do you think are the benefits of solving the problem?
  • Would solving the problem significantly impact you in…?
  • Do you find it important to avoid such problems in the future?

Need-payoff questions not only shift focus on the product. When asking need-payoff questions, the salesperson pulls out the trump card by getting the customers to elaborate on the product’s benefits all by themselves. When the customers see the benefits for themselves, any doubts and objections may just gradually slip away the more the customers recognize the product’s value. 

Need-payoff questions help dispel doubts and overcome objections while simultaneously spurring customers into action. However, asked too early, need-payoff questions can actually have the reverse effect and trigger points of friction that put the customer off.

How Need-payoff Questions Help You with Presentation?
  • Connect all the dots and demonstrate the product’s versatility and viability in terms of resolving the customer’s pain points and their implications.
  • You may provide a cost-benefit analysis of implementing the solution and use data visualization tools (charts, diagrams, etc.).
  • You can review competitive products and compare them with your product if you stick to agenda sales presentations. These are the sales presentations that go beyond just enumerating the product’s benefits (as Summary-of-Benefits presentations do). They also rely on the market research and comparison of the variety of the solutions available. Agenda sales presentations strike customers as being more credible and insightful. We have an article on different types of presentations that you might be interested in. (https://convolo.ai/blog/how-to-make-a-sales-presentation)

What is the most impactful thing about the SPIN model is that it motivates both salespeople and customers to understand the full scope and root causes of the problem concerned. And customers start to find the further presentation to be the prerequisite for solving their problems, not just a formality.