How to Use Spin Selling to Close More Online Sales
Anyone who’s had an introduction to sales has probably heard the term SPIN selling. It’s one of the oldest sales frameworks, and therefore also one of the most tried and tested. This method was considered revolutionary in its time of publication, but is it still relevant in today’s digital marketplace?
How exactly can spin selling help with online sales? Ultimately, the foundation of SPIN selling is on building relationships, trust, and value – which are the exact three things any modern buyer is looking for.
Read on to learn the core ideas behind the SPIN method, how to incorporate it into your sales calls and emails, and how to use it to close more online sales.
Everything You Need to Know About SPIN Selling
What does the SPIN acronym stand for?
SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff. SPIN describes a questioning sequence sales people are most likely to have success with.
Published in 1988, the SPIN methodology was revolutionary in a time when the focus of sales conversations was selling. This research-backed method suggested that, instead of trying so hard to close, sales reps should prepare the prospect with a series of questions that would ultimately help the lead understand:
- What their needs are, both obvious and undiscovered
- How your services/products can help them
- Underlying bottlenecks that stifle their growth
- Why you are the best provider for that service or product
- How their current processes can be optimized using your service or product
The SPIN method involves asking questions like:
- Would you say this process is blocking your time?
- What issues prevent you from reaching your business goals?
- Do you think implementing our product/service could help you achieve this goal?
- How much can you save on resources by shifting to this solution?
Who proposed the concept of SPIN selling?
The concept of SPIN selling came from Neil Rackham as published in “Spin Selling”, a book now regarded to be a must-read for anyone involved in sales.
Neil Rackham is the former president and founder of the Huthwaite Corporation, a global brand known for sales training and negotiation. The book “Spin Selling” is a byproduct of a $1 million dollar, 12-year research involving over 35,000 sales calls.
Rackham’s goal was to help enterprises understand the nuances between selling easy accounts from big ones. In this book, SPIN selling aims to redefine the tenets of traditional sales, helping companies understand what is truly required to land big contacts.
What is SPIN technique in selling?
At the time when the book was published, traditional sales techniques involved strong arming clients into agreeing to a sale. From coercion to persuasion, traditional sales tenets suggested the best way to land a sale is to remain persistent until a deal falls through. This may have worked for simple products and services, but it certainly wasn’t compatible for more complicated deals.
SPIN selling acknowledges the intricacies involved in selling more valuable products and services. For instance, you wouldn’t be selling software the same way you would sell a t-shirt. If you treated a potential software buyer the same way as a t-shirt shopper, you would be met with objections before you could even explain how relevant and beneficial you are to their organization.
Instead of going on call with a prospect and proceeding with “the sell”, SPIN suggested a new way of interacting with clients. Rather than “going straight for the kill” SPIN selling emphasizes the importance of building value and establishing rapport with your client.
SPIN selling is all about identifying your prospect’s needs, helping them realize it, voicing out your solutions, and ultimately guiding them to understanding how your product or service can be beneficial.
SPIN’s Practical Applications In Sales
The research published in “Spin Selling” was groundbreaking because sales people now had a guideline on how to introduce open-ended questions into their sales calls. Not only that, the method also outlined the types of questions you should be asking, and the order in which these are asked.
The questions are broken down into four categories: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff.
The Situation stage is all about understanding your customer; your goal is to ask questions that will help you figure out their pain points, their ongoing processes, and their goals.
The situation phase should involve questions like:
- Which provider are you currently working with for [solution]?
- Why did you choose this provider for [service/product]?
- Are you currently happy with your solution?
- What is your budget for X?
- What is your strategy for reaching [goal]?
- How long have you been doing [process] this way?
- How important is [variable] to your business?
- What are your objectives when using [product/service]
Notice the lack of questions like “What is your position at the company” or “What products/services do you provide?”. In a time when information is available to anyone, potential buyers are expecting you to know the basics about their organization.
Only include key information that will help you understand their day-to-day routine, the tools they are currently using, their reasons for using those tools, and other situational questions that will give you an overview of how this organization’s current situation.
The Problem questions are designed to create awareness. More often than not, organizations are unaware of problems, especially if they already have another provider or if they don’t see the value in optimization.
Maybe they are not satisfied with the level of service they are getting, maybe they don’t see a certain gap or inconsistency that you could fill; maybe they have objections that you can now accommodate.
The Problem stage is all about bringing concerns, inconsistencies, and problems into the light, and guiding them into how your solution can add value.
Your problem questions should include things like:
- How difficult is it for your team to use your current tools?
- Are you happy with your current results?
- How reliable is your tool in [list different scenarios]?
- How flexible are your solutions when dealing with…?
- Is it expensive to operate [solution]?
- What problems do you have [relating to your product or service]?
- Have you had issues working with your current solution? Are these issues easy to fix?
- Are you happy with your provider?
The Implication questions are the main event of the SPIN technique. With these types of questions, you are turning their concerns into palpable, immediate problems.
After identifying their concerns, follow up with implication questions that are able to reflect just how serious the pain point is to your customer.
For instance, if your prospect reveals that they are not happy with the onboarding time required for new employees, your implication questions could go like:
- By using a less complicated software, how much time would you save with a more streamlined, straightforward onboarding process?
- Do you think your sales team can go beyond their monthly quotas by prioritizing a more effective onboarding system?
Ultimately, the foundation of implication questions is immediacy; you are illustrating why this problem needs to be solved and how solving it could improve the way they work. Ask questions like:
- When was the last time your solution failed to deliver your desired results? Is it a recurring problem?
- How much of your resources do you devote to [solution]?
- Would it be easier to achieve [goal] if you didn’t experience [issue]?
- Would you consider [issue] a bottleneck in your operations?
- How long have you been dealing with [issue]? Has it prevented you from reaching [goal]?
- Do you think your customers would be happier if they didn’t experience [issue]?
Need-Payoff is where all your questions culminate. At this point, you have already guided your customer from awareness to realization to urgency. Now that they understand their objections, pain points, and the consequence of ignoring these problems, your potential buyer is now ready to hear the value of adopting your product or service.
When done right, the Need-Payoff questions will even lead your prospect into explaining the benefits of using your product or service in their own words. This stage is all about helping prospects visualize what happens after the problem is solved.
The key to setting up the right Need-Payoff questions is by building directly off the answers they give from the Implication stage. Shine a positive light on the problem by presenting it as a solvable issue.
This stage should involve questions like:
- Would implementing [solution or tool] help your company achieve [goal]?
- How would eliminating [bottleneck/issue] help with [goal]?
- How would doing [operation] this way optimize your business processes? How would it benefit your business?
- Would your teams be happier adopting [your product/service]?
Be careful not to ask redundant Need-Payoff questions. If you ask something as general as “Will reducing onboarding time help you save more resources?”, your prospect might be turned off and move on to a different seller.
Instead, you can frame it into something more specific like, “By reducing 20+ hours each day on onboarding, how many more sales will your team be able to make on a weekly basis?”
Using SPIN In Online Sales
SPIN selling is founded on asking the right questions, but this framework goes beyond the open-ended questions and guides salespeople on how to properly present value. It trains sales reps how to:
- Obtain commitment and secure an action
- Overcome objections
- Clearly present the benefits of the product/service
In a saturated online market, the SPIN techniques do exactly what modern buyers expect: a valuable relationship. People no longer want to spend resources on solutions they think won’t work. Now more than ever, customers have become more discerning and are more scrupulous when it comes to picking the right provider.
Obtaining commitment from prospects has become harder now more than ever. Here’s how you can stay afloat in a competitive online world with the help of SPIN tactics:
1) Stand Out with the Right Questions
Let’s say you’re an SEO company hoping to land a big client. You want to stand out from the sea of cold emails but don’t know how. You can glean from the SPIN framework to find the right questions that will make you stand out.
With research, you can skip the Situation and Problem stage and theorize what their pain points could be. The idea behind getting the right question is to let your prospect know that you understand who they are and what they need, and that’s about enough to get your foot in the door.
2) Project Compatibility
Whatever you are selling is likely not going to be the first of its kind. There is a good chance that there are hundreds of other providers with similar features, competing to land the same pool of customers.
This is where SPIN selling comes in. Rackham says there are three ways to describe what you are offering: Features, Advantages and Benefits.
The FAB framework leaves no room for confusion. You are clearly presenting an ideal feature and situating it in the context of utility and everyday benefits.
Let’s use the SEO agency example again. If you’re trying to woo a dental clinic, you could use the FAB framework and say: “Our campaign involves 10 content pieces specifically targeted for local SEO (feature), which will help your team rank better locally (advantage). This means that customers in your area will find you through Google rather than your competitors (benefit).”
3) Anticipate and Overcome Objections
One of Rackham’s golden advice is to never sell right away – a piece of wisdom that has never been more relevant for modern marketers. Gone are the days when salespeople booked all the leads. Nowadays, customers spend more time with marketing material and make decisions before they even get in touch with a salesperson.
Rackham says potential customers usually object because of value (they don’t agree with the cost of what you’re offering) or capability (they don’t think you can provide what they need).
Through content, ads, and other online material, you can focus on building the value and comparing it with competitor providers. You can highlight cost-effectiveness, additional features, or any other advantages you have over other sellers.
By featuring these in your content, you prime readers and lessen their objections before you even get on the first phone call.
4) Develop Targeted Content
Online sales is all about content marketing. Develop valuable, actionable, informative resources that will turn readers into loyal paying customers. At the end of the day, content marketing embodies the foundational aspect of SPIN, which is prioritizing value building and relationships over selling.
Using analytics, you can optimize your content and find out the most popular pages and topics. What benefits do your prospects respond to the most? What selling techniques do you find most effective? How does your average customer respond to the resources you’re putting out?
Ask these questions to find out what people want to read and create targeted content that will convince them to buy what you’re selling.
Is SPIN Selling Still Relevant?
SPIN selling came out as the ultimate guide on how to close on sales calls but its applications are relevant in the digital age. Its principles can easily be translated in writing email, copy, articles, ads, and any other resources for the online world.
Ultimately, SPIN selling isn’t just for calls; it’s a guidebook teaching salespeople (and marketers) the undeniable, universal truth: that the most important precursor to a sale isn’t selling but building valuable relationships.