SPIN Selling in B2B Sales: All you need to know

spin selling

Before a B2B deal is finalized, there is an ever-increasing sales cycle that has to be traversed by both the client and the rep. About 58% of buyers said their decision process was longer in 2017 than in 2016, while only 10% said purchase time had decreased. These cycles usually have very intellectual and meaningful discussions that are centralized on solutions for buyer’s pain points.  

But who’s dominating these meetings? They are supposed to be led by the reps, however, it does not mean that they should do all the talking. Asking questions is just as important, and many reps and managers fail to see that. The SPIN Selling concept teaches you to build a relationship with the prospect solely based on interaction through questions and answers.

What is SPIN selling?


As a part of the B2B community, you must have heard about SPIN selling. It is a research-oriented methodology that gained prominence after Neil Rackham wrote ‘SPIN Selling’ back in 1988. It is one of the oldest yet one of the most popular strategies for reps who believe in asking questions.

S: Situation

By situation, we mean the present status of the prospect, what kind of tools they are using for tackling their problems, their success rates, the expectations, dissatisfaction, their budget for upgrades, etc. It is a tool for you as a rep to gather more information about who you’re dealing with.

However, this practice tests the patience of the client, and the more senior they might be, the lesser they want to answer your situational questions. Since a lot of company profile information is now available on their digital assets, it is a wise option to start your research there. This should be your missing piece of the puzzle.

P: Problem

Once you’ve got an idea about the situation, you can start probing for the problem. Usually, the client does not know that there is an issue in the way they’re handling their processes, so you have to bring it to their attention subtly.

Through your questions, you want the prospect to state their needs indirectly. Hunt the ways in which the problem could exist. Is it directly related to their tools? Does it have to do with their situation and the features of your product? Map a route with your product/service as a problem solver and analyze it for the problems. Base your queries on that and you’ll receive interesting answers.

I: Implication

Identification of the problem will land you here in the implication phase of SPIN selling. You know the situation of the client and their problem; it’s time for a solution. For implication, you convey your message through your questions, where the prospect starts thinking about the intensity of the problem and how it is affecting his/her business.

In the case of successful decision-makers, implication questions set them thinking about the loss incurred due to their problem. It creates a sense of urgency that tells them to solve it as soon as possible in order to grow their business and hence acts as the motivation to buy.

N: Need Payoff

Need payoff questions are like your deal closers, where everything you have worked upon materializes or comes together. For the need-payoff, you ask your prospects such questions that lead them to arrive at conclusions.

Most often, your need payoff questions describe the kind of help or the sphere of the problem which your product will be solving. Adding value to the product is a necessity – only 65.2% of buyers said that they found value in discussing their situations with salespeople.

But it is where the rep has to be most careful and picky about his words. You want to lead the client to self-realization instead of pitching persuasively to him, but at the same time, you do not want to be condescending to them. Match the problem to the solution carefully and let your prospect acknowledge it on their own.

SPIN Questions to ask


Situation Questions

Situation questions help you learn your prospect’s standing – their pain points, decision processes, and their results. Ask questions that will tell you about how they go about the processes related to your product, like

  • How/ why do you do [X] this way?
  • What tools do you use for [X] now?

But make sure you ask less of these and depend more on your own research.

Problem Questions

Dive into why their current solution is not working for them, or why they should consider a solution, and identify the gaps where your product could benefit the prospect. Sometimes, they might not be aware of the problem, so steer your questions to show them where their solution is lacking, like

·        Are you satisfied with the results for [X]?

·        Is it easy to figure out what goes wrong in case of a failure?

Implication Questions

Implication questions are the third part of the cycle – understand the gravity of the prospect’s problem and create a new awareness about it. Make them realize that not solving it will lead to a great loss for them. Use questions like

·        How is the issue impacting you?

·        What is the productivity cost when [X] is done that way?

Need-Payoff Questions

Need-Payoff questions are the trickiest part of the cycle because they can backfire. These questions are essentially meant to resonate so that your product can offer for their problems and highlight the value of your product. But you need to ensure that they are not obvious or appear snobbish. For example –

·        Would it be helpful if…?

·        Do you think your team will find it easier to…

…and personalize with your offerings.

4 Stages of SPIN Selling

SPIN Selling typically occurs in 4 stages –

1. Opening


This is your very first contact with your prospect, where you intrigue them and leave them wanting for more. Don’t jump into the benefits of your product or even think of a pitch; aggressive sales copy will repel them and you will lose their insights.

Start with building a trustworthy relation, for which you can use a provoking question or some crucial industry data.

2. Investigating


After you get to know the client, you find out their pain points and how your product can be beneficial to them. You learn more about their decision-making processes, preferences and priorities, budget, and expectations. After collecting all the info, you ask them targeted questions and establish credibility. Sherlock mode on!

3. Demonstrating


You know what they need and you have it, but they don’t see it. Use a combination of features, advantages, and benefits of your product depending on your industry. Typically, demonstrating the benefits of your product is the most helpful as it involves a financial component.

4. Objections


Your deal will have objections, if it doesn’t, your prospect is not fully convinced. It’s healthy to have an adequate number of objections, but avoiding it is even better. You could do this by building the value of your product before introducing it as a solution. If you don’t sell soon, you can easily cut down on the objections.

What are the advantages of SPIN Selling?


The evolved B2B buyer looks for customization because they are well-informed buyers who make about 57% of their decision before they ever pick up a phone to speak to you or any other supplier. Further, stats also reveal that 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.

SPIN Selling is a method that enhances sales through meaningful conversations varying from person-to-person and a comprehensive understanding of the prospect’s problems – a skill that most sales reps lack.

There is no rigid script, and reps have to perform on their own – find out pain points, imply their intensity, and indirectly present a solution. With SPIN Selling, the relationship of trust between the rep and the prospect is easier to build.

Internally, SPIN selling encourages reps to research more and trains them in the art of strategically presenting a product as a solution. They can now occasionally avoid pitching and also gain experience in the game of words.

Closing Thoughts!

While using the SPIN strategy, although it is necessary to ask questions, it is equally important to ask them in the right order. If you mess up the order, the conversation will turn out to be a failure and you can end up losing the prospect.

SPIN is not a guaranteed success strategy; it is only to help you sell better and faster by asking questions and gathering information instead of making salesy statements. It is a very efficient way to approach your prospect but if you still find it difficult, you can also seek help from expert B2B sales and marketing consulting firms.

You can use the SPIN method as an independent strategy or combine it with your own tricks, but it deserves a place in your handbook.

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