The SPIN Sequence of Questions
Situation Questions: data gathering questions about facts and background (successful people don’t overuse these set of questions)
Examples of Situation Questions:
o What’s your position?
o How long have you been here?
o Do you make the purchasing decisions?
o What do you see as your objectives in this area?
o What sort of business do you run?
o Is it growing or shrinking?
o What’s your annual sales volume?
o How many people do you employ?
o What equipment are you using at present?
o How long have you had it?
o Is it purchased or leased?
o How many people use it?
Common theme: they collect facts, information, and background data about the customer’s existing situation.
Research Findings on Situation Questions
- They are not positively related to success. In calls that succeed sellers ask few Situation Questions than in call that fail.
- Inexperienced salespeople ask more Situation Questions than do those who have longer experience.
- They are an essential part of questioning but must be used carefully. Successful salespeople ask fewer and each one they ask has a focus, or purpose.
- Buyers become bored or impatient when asked too many Situation Questions.
- Situation Questions benefit the seller not the buyer.
- Successful people don’t ask unnecessary Situation Questions. They do their homework before the call and through good pre-call planning, eliminate many of the fact-finding questions that can bore the buyer.
Problem Questions: explore problems, difficulties and dissatisfactions in areas where the sellers product can help (Inexperience people normally don’t ask enough of these type questions)
Examples of problem questions:
- Are you satisfied with your present equipment?
- What are the disadvantages of the way you’re handling this now?
- Isn’t it difficult to process peak loads with your present system?
- Does this old machine give you reliability problems?
Each of these questions probes for problems, difficulties, or dissatisfactions. Each invites the customer to state Implied Needs.
Conclusions on Problem Questions:
- They are more strongly linked to sales success than Situation Questions.
- In smaller sales the link is very strong: the more Problem Questions the seller asks, the greater the chances that the call will be successful.
- In larger sales Problem Questions are not strongly linked to sales success. There is no evidence that by increasing your Problem Questions you can increase your sales effectiveness.
- The ratio of Situation to Problem Questions asked by salespeople is a function of their experience. Experienced people ask a higher proportion of Problem Questions.
- In larger sales Problem Questions provide the raw material on which the rest of the sale will be built.
- The purpose of Problem Questions is to uncover Implied Needs. So if Implied Needs don’t predict success in larger sales, neither should Problem Questions.
If you can’t solve a problem for your customer, then there’s no basis for a sale. But if you uncover problems you can solve, then you’re potentially providing the buyer with something useful.
Implication Questions: these questions take a customer problem and explore its effects or consequences. (successful people help the customer understand a problem’s seriousness or urgency) These questions are very important in larger sales and many don’t ask these enough.
In larger sales it is not sufficient to uncover problems and offer solutions.
Implication Questions take a problem the buyer perceives to be small and build it up into a problem large enough to justify action.
Examples of Implication Questions:
o You say they are hard to use. What effect does this have on your output?
o If you’ve only got three people who can use them doesn’t that create work bottlenecks?
o It sounds like the difficulty of using these machines may be leading to a turnover problem with the operators you’ve trained. Is this right?
o Doesn’t overtime add even more to your cost?
Benefits of Implication Questions:
o Implication Questions build up the size of the Implied Needs in any decision.
o Implication Questions are a good predictor of success in larger sales.
Where Implication Questions work best
o Implication Questions are especially powerful in selling to decision makers versus the use of Problem Questions on the influencers.
o Decision makers respond most favorably to salespeople who uncover implications.
o Decision makers deal in implications.
Implications are the language of decision makers, and if you can talk their language, you’ll influence them better.
Weakness of Implication Questions
o Implication Questions make customers more uncomfortable with their problems.
o Sellers who ask lots of Implication Questions may make their buyers feel negative and depressed.
Need-Payoff Question: these questions get the customer to tell you the benefits that your solution could offer. These are positive centered questions that build up positive elements of a solution. (very strong correlation to sales success in larger sales, top performers ask more than 10 times as many Need-payoff Questions as do average performers.
The research shows that successful people use two types of questions to develop Implied Needs into Explicit Needs.
- First they use Implication Questions to build up the problem so that it’s perceived to be more serious.
- Secondly, they turn to a second type of question to build up value or usefulness of the solution, Need-Payoff Questions
Research Findings for Need-Payoff Questions:
- Need-Payoff Questions build up the positive elements of a solution that prevents any unfavorable perception from customers.
- Need-Payoff Questions focus customer’s attention on the solution rather than on the problem.
- Need-Payoff Questions get the customer telling you the benefits.
- Need-Payoff Questions are strongly linked to success in larger sales.
- Need-Payoff Questions increase the acceptability of you solution.
- Need-Payoff Questions are very effective with influencers who will present your case to the decision maker.
- Need-Payoff Questions create a positive effect.
- Need-Payoff Questions reduce objections.
“If you can get the customer to tell you the ways in which your solution will help, then you don’t invite objections. Nobody likes being told what’s good for his or her department or business—especially by an outsider. Customers react more positively if they are treated as the experts”
- Need-Payoff Questions help you get the customer to explain to you which elements of the problem your solution can solve.
“When buyers feel that their ideas are part of the solution, they gain increased confidence in your product and feel an enthusiasm for it—the very qualities needed to sell the product for you when you’re not present during the discussions.”
- Need-Payoff Questions rehearse the customer for internal selling.
“The most important thing to remember about really big sales is that you only play a small part in the selling. The real selling goes on in the account when you’re not there—when the people you sold go back and try and to convince the others. I’m certain that the reason I succeeded was because I spent a lot of time trying to make sure that the people I talked to knew how to sell for me. I was like a director of a play. My work was during rehearsals: I wasn’t on stage during the performance. Too many people in selling want to be great actors. My advice is that if you want to make really big sales, you’ve got to realize that even if you’re a great performer, you won’t be on stage for more than a fraction of the selling time. Unless you rehearse the rest of the cast, the show will be a flop.” Very Successful Large Sell Salesman comments
Differences between Implication Questions and Need-Payoff Questions:
- Implications Questions are problem-centered—they make the problem more serious and have a negative tone.
- Need-payoff Questions are solution-centered—asking about the usefulness or value of solving a problem and have a more positive tone.