Is SPIN® Selling still relevant?

Is SPIN® Selling still relevant?
Neil Rackham - Is SPIN Selling still relevant


Video transcription: The SPIN® model is about understanding. I suppose the breakthrough with SPIN® was it's no longer about persuading customers, people persuade themselves. It's about really understanding them and their needs so they could do a good job of creating value. That hasn't changed, but some other things have changed which make the SPIN® model probably more relevant today than it was thirty years ago.

One of those things is that the products have become commodities. So that salespeople are the differentiator. If salespeople are the differentiator then how do they differentiate? They differentiate by really understanding the customer much more deeply than the competition, by being able to create new creative solutions, by being able to bring value and the SPIN® model is a very helpful way to do that, but we are in the 21st century and the SPIN® model has got to change. Way back when we did the original SPIN® research, we found that situation questions, questions about fact, were slightly negatively correlated with success. You could ask too many of them.

Today they're actively positively negatively correlated. That is, you ask a lot of situation questions and the customer become really impatient. They'll say you should have done your homework, you should have known that because a lot of the things that you found out with the SPIN® model thirty years ago, you found that face to face with the customer because there was no other way to do it. Today you can research that. You don't have to ask as many situation questions. So situation questions change.

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Problem questions change too. One of the things which we found thirty years ago was if you ask customers about problems; you find out their needs, you find out information which helps you sell which helps them understand their own problems, you get into areas where they have energy and where they have interest. In those days it was enough to ask problems about how things are now. You could ask problem questions like; 'Are you happy with your present supplier?', 'Are you getting the right kind of performance out of the equipment you're using?'. 'Do you get the right service levels twenty-four seven from your present way of doing things?'. You're tying to uncover problems that way. What's happened is this, those problem questions aren't quite as easy to ask and as sure-fire as they used to be. If you say 'Do you have problems with your present equipment?'. No. Most people say no is working OK. Whether as thirty years ago when things were much less reliable. You can be pretty sure there'd be an answer there that you could use.

So that's one change but another change is this and it's a curious one. Research done in the last three or four years shows that customers rate the added value of salespeople as highest when salespeople ask about future problems. Not just about present problems.

I remember I interviewed one buyer in this research and he said to me "You know if I fall into a pit there's fifty salespeople who can sell me a ladder to help me climb out. There's only one in fifty who can stop me from falling into the pit in the first place" That's a way of saying I'm interested in people who can help me with the problems that have not yet occurred, not just the problems that have occurred. So that's how problem questions change in this new world of selling SPIN® in the 21st century.

Implication questions are even more important now than they were when we first did it. Implication questions proved to be most powerful in the original research when people were selling complex solutions. The solutions today compared with thirty years ago are even more complex. It's even more important to ask implication questions and finally need pay-off, questions questions about value. We live in a world driven by value. Almost the definition of selling today is creating customer value and how could you create it if you don't ask about it? So need pay-off questions are as powerful or more powerful today in the 21st century than they were back in the 20th century when we discovered the SPIN® model.

About the Author
Neil Rackham

Written by Neil Rackham

Neil Rackham is an author, consultant and academic who is widely recognised as one of the founders of modern sales theory. He is a leading authority on "consultative selling," an approach he pioneered and documented in a bestselling BOOK SPIN®Selling which introduced a new paradigm for big complex transactions in the worlds of sales and negotiation. Neil is the founder and former CEO of Huthwaite, where the SPIN® Selling methodology was developed and where it continues to justify its position as one of the most widely adopted tools by sales professionals everywhere.