Eric Wolfram's Writing, How To Sell -- SPIN Selling®

Sales Training -- SPIN Selling®. A quick guide quick sales

This book report is derived from Huthwaite, Inc.'s text entitled SPIN Selling®, and I have permission from Huthwaite, Inc., to share it here so that others will find out about Neil Rackham's excellent "SPIN Selling®" sales strategy which he developed using research and the scientific method.

I tried it and it works. It does take practice. For best results, practice one behavior (type of question) at a time. Choose safe places to practice -- small sales calls or practice on your friends and family first. Concentrate on using a lot of the behavior rather than on using each behaviors well at first. It takes practice to make it flow right, so that's why you want to concentrate on the quantity of questions when you practice, and not the quality. Try each behavior at least three times on real customers before judging if it works .

Spin stands for four types of questions: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff. These questions come into play during the lengthy "investigation" phase of any sales meeting.

When you SPIN® sell, you still follow the basics of a regular meeting, ie, after some preliminary small talk and finding out how much time your prospective client has for the meeting, you then establish that you have to ask them some questions. Then go on to part 2 -- the lengthy investigation phase -- this is where the spinning happens.

A quick review -- First, here are the four basic phases of an ordinary sales meeting -- a simple sales agenda:
  1. Preliminaries -- Warming up events at the start of the call
    How are you? Nice Weather? Is that a picture of your daughter? Did you catch that fish? Keep these questions and this phase short. One or two, and don't let them go on.
  2. Investigation -- Finding out facts, information, and needs.
    How much do you see your company growing next year? How do you keep track of how much work your managers are accomplishing? What is your current work order s ystem? Lots of time is spent in this phase. It is here were you try different SPIN® strategies (more on that below.)
  3. Demonstrating Capability -- Showing you can solve their problem
    resist going to this phase until the prospect has stated an Explicit need that your demo solves such as, "I'm starting to think that a centralized CRM tracking system could help me keep track of my managers and vendors."
  4. Obtaining Commitment -- Getting an agreement to proceed to a further stage of the sale.
    First check that you've covered all of the prospect's key concerns. Then summarize your benefits. Finally, propose the next appropriate level of commitment.

During part 2 above, is where you spin. You ask four types of questions during this phase: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Needs (the acronym of SPIN®.) You ask the questions in that order. Most of your questions will be implication questions. Here is a summary of the questions.

Situation Questions
Facts about the background of the customer and what the customer is doing. Do your research before the meeting to find answers to these sorts of questions. Situation questions bore the prospect. You may have to ask a few of them to find out stuff -- place them well to lead you down the SPIN® but use them sparingly.
example situation questions
Tell me about your company?
How many customers do you have?
What type of software do you run here?
Which offices have DSL?

Problem Questions
Questions about the customer's difficulties or dissatisfactions. Problem questions give good results in small sales, however, they don't help us much here. H ere are some examples also use them sparingly.
example problem questions
Is it frustrating to lose sales to CitiView Painting Supply?
How easy is it to use Yardi?
How do you keep track of all your customer's phone calls between two offices?
When someone goes on vacation, what happens to the properties that he or she manages

Implication Questions
Questions about the consequences or effects of a customer's problems. This is the crucial line of questioning. Practice this skill often. Successful calls contain many of these "implication" questions. The goal of using these questions is to persuade the customer to EXPLICITLY state a need that you can solve. Like Socrates's, you ask many of these questions to get someone to realize that they have a problem. Every business can be improved one way or another. Ideally, you ask these questions to get a customer to admit a costly problem. The ultimate goal is to increase the customer's perception of the value of our solutions. Implication questions are so important that it's often helpful to break down the problems of a specific customer,

detailed implication questions analysis

more example implication questions

What happens when your managers neglect the property owners needs?
Do you lose customers when people complain?
Do you think it hurts your sales efforts if you're getting bad referrals from your customers?
How much money do you lose when you lose a customer?
How much does it cost you to get a new customer?
What's the lifetime value of your customers and how much will you make when you double it?
Would you make when each of your managers were handling two more properties?
How much does it cost you when three managers are only working at 6o% of your other managers?
How long does it take you to find out who did what every day?
How many more properties can you manage if all your administrative assistants handled 30% of your incoming issues?
Did you have to hire someone to set up JenArk?
How long do you spend going through old email to find old communications?
How do you tell when you're charging a HOA enough?
Will you customers start to insist upon better service now that others are using it?
Will property owners seek and demand better reports?
Do customers get pissed at the service?
Do you get a lot of legal issues in property management?
How much time is wasted with dissatisfied customers?

Need Payoff Questions
Questions about the value, usefulness, or utility that the customer perceives in a solution. Like Implication Questions, Need-payoff Questions are strongly linked to success in our type of sale. (Only ask these questions AFTER the customer has confess to a need or else it TOTALLY fails because the customer can deny the existence of the need which you claim to solve.) You could use the questions below or even simply say the part in italics.
Example Need Payoff Questions
How would it help if your offices were connected to a centralized database?
Why is it important to get all your employees accounting for their work?
Would it be useful if your homeowners made most of their requests without bothering anyone?
Is there any other way that this could help you?
Do you see the value in knowing which vendors do the most work?

After investigation and getting the customer to admit to some explicit need -- not something vague -- then explain how our service solves the need. Demonstrating our Capacity in that way, after the need is expressed. for the most success. Finally attempt to address all of the prospective client's concerns, and ask them if they have any more concerns. Summarize the benefits of your service. Propose the next appropriate level of commitment.

They also found that there is little difference in the success of calls based on the number of times a sales person asked open as opposed to closed questions. That doesn't matter. What matters more is: To what end is the question being asked.

About This Page
I keep this page so that I can remember the books I read before an important meeting. It's really for my own maximum effectiveness. You can use this page too, of course, however, I recommend that you read the full book and not just rely on this summary review. Huthwaite, Inc. offers open seminars in SPIN Selling® techniques for the public -- and interested parties may contact Huthwaite at 22630 Davis Drive, Suite 100, Sterling, VA 20164 (703-467-3800) and obtain more information at

Please let me know if anything on this page is misleading, needs updating or additions.

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