Spin Selling applied to the B2B market
The sales area, despite the large amount of professionals in the market, still has many opportunities to grow in Brazil. The GAP between salespeople that close deals and those who fail during the trading process is very wide. This happens mainly in complex product markets and that have a longer sales cycle. The book Spin Selling, by Neil Rackham, addresses precisely that: how to make sales of complex products. Everything from a methodology created by the author and which will be highlighted in this article.
WHAT IS SPIN SELLING?
Neil Rackham has created the most comprehensive study ever made on the behavior of sellers and buyers. Over 30 researchers have studied 35 thousand sales calls in more than 20 countries. One of his findings was that the questions asked by sellers were a key factor to achieve or not the sale. From the findings of this research, Neil Rackham has created the SPIN SELLING methodology, an acronym that represents the key factors that must be explored in sales so that they become successful:
S – Situation
P – Problem
I – Implication or consequence
N – Need-payoff:
The IT Business-to-Business (B2B) market works very well with this methodology. If you are from this area, you will need to follow all suggestions from this article, however, you should read Neil Rackham’s book.
WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOES NOT WORK
The routine of a commercial team calling tens of times daily, either to sell, to schedule a meeting or to continue a sale process is very overwhelming. The traditional techniques (presenting benefits) that work in small sales do not work for larger business, as they involve more layers of decision-making and significantly higher amounts of money to acquire licenses or to hire services.
The author perceived that the sales processes in markets with smaller contracts were simply replicated to larger markets. And it does not work that way. In order to “hunt sharks” it is necessary to have the correct bait, as they are not attracted the same way as smaller fishes, according to the example used by the author! According to Rackham, before showing your product, it is necessary to investigate your client.
Furthermore, all sales have four basic steps:
- The Preliminaries are events that define the tone and warm up the deal. Some examples of sentences used in this step are: “How are you?” or “How is the weather there?” This sentence must be always short. Extending this sentence too long may bore the potential client, making them feel they are wasting time. Extending this step too long is one of the major mistakes of sellers.
- The Investigation is the step that looks for facts, information and needs. Examples of sentences/questions: “How much is your projected growth for next year?” or “How does your management system help you to project this growth?” This is the step where the SPIN methodology is more successful, because if it is properly applied, it may open doors for the next steps.
- The Demonstration of Capabilities is good for you to “prove” that you can solve the client’s problem. Important tip: this step cannot start before the prospect client makes clear that he/she has a problem and that your products or services can help him/her to solve it. Example: “I need a software that helps me to monitor my technology infrastructure”. This kind of sentence shows that the previous step was successful.
- Obtaining Commitment serves to ensure your prospect client is committed to follow the next steps of a sales process. It may be a presentation for the rest of the team that is responsible for the purchase, planning a proof of concept (POC) or even signing a contract. Before starting this step, it is necessary to address all concerns and needs of the prospect and to summarize benefits. Then it is necessary to go to the next level of commitment.
We detailed all the steps so that the sales process can be carried out with maximum effectiveness in the items below:
MAPPING THE SITUATION
In order to learn about your prospect client, you need to ask the questions that explore the situation and the problem to understand to context your prospect is into. This helps you to build a relationship the right way. You have to study the market and your client’s product/service to ask the correct questions. It is important to ask a lot of questions, but it cannot go to the point to get the prospect client tired. Each step must contain a balanced structure so that the client perceives the evolution of the process.
Examples of good questions to map the situation:
- What software do you use to manage your network?
- Do you have problems with client service? Tell me more about it.
- Do the problems you told impact the sales of your company?
After understanding the scenario, during the situation questions step, you must understand the real problems. One of the questions for this step may be: “Are you satisfied with your technology supplier?” or “Are you satisfied with the productivity of your team?” It is important, in this context, to pay attention to the implicit needs (you have to investigate them) with questions such as:
- Are you satisfied with your current commercial process?
- Are there disadvantages in not having a software to automate this process?
- Do you lose clients or sales because of this?
SCALING TO THE IMPLICATIONS
Scaling to implications is good to deepen the real consequences of the problems discussed. It is in this step that the main reason to perform the sell is built. Even if the client cannot see the impact and the consequences of its problems, it is the role of the seller to highlight them. For example: the property costs behind using free software that, most of the times are not considered during the decision-making. If they are asked the right way, the implication questions will speed up the decision-making process.
Examples of good implication questions:
- Does the reported problem in your operation impact your revenues?
- Do you lose sales or clients because of this kind of complaint?
- What happens if this problem persists until the end of the year?
- Does the limitation of the free software used by your company cause productivity problems?
MEETING THE NEEDS
In the last step of the SPIN methodology it is necessary that the prospect client perceives the value and the urgency of solving the identified problem. It is critical that, at this moment, the client identifies the benefits of the solution or service and relate them to the problem. Be pragmatic and try to induce the client to come to the conclusion that the solution of the problem is a product that you have. It is extremely important to remind that you need a product that really solves the client’s problem. It is useless trying to open a door with the wrong key. That is, if you identify you do not have the solution for your client, just listen to him/her and try to strengthen the relationship to close deals in the future.
See some examples of questions in this step:
- Do you see you can have a gain related to the problems mentioned with the solution I have shown?
- Do you think your team will gain productivity to carry out other activities by using our product?
FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
SPIN SELLING is a complex methodology that must be trained to the point of exhaustion. Furthermore, not every salesperson has the profile to apply it. You must have a team with good cultural level that is able to direct the conversation according to the needs of each client. Therefore, each sale under this methodology is unique and cannot be replicated to other clients, remaining, in this case, only the process that must be followed passing from one step to the next as the objectives are achieved. The quality and consistency of the results come only with time and practice in this methodology.
In short: the traditional sales method was developed for simple processes and small sales. Approaching clients with potential for big and complex sales requires a more robust methodology. That is where SPIN Selling comes up as an alternative, because it fits very well in the IT B2B market. Neil Rackham has created a method that helps commercial teams to deliver a solution for the clients’ problems. Thus, it sells the solution for a problem and not the advantages and features.
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