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SPIN Selling: Uncovering Needs and Making Sales

Updated on July 3, 2012


Possibly the most ethical and effective method of selling, SPIN utilizes a step by step approach in dealing with a prospect. Each step (Situation, Problem Recognition, Implications, Need Payoff) is designed to lead the buying prospect to a recognition of needs. If the sales call goes as planned and relevant needs are uncovered, the sellers product or service will align with the buyers needs and the sale will be made. The following is an overview of each step in the SPIN process. The technique is most often used in business to business transactions.

Situation Questions

Upon meeting a prospect, a salesperson should begin by asking a series of situation questions. These questions are not related to any problem or needs the buyer may have. These are simply questions the seller asks in order to gain a better understanding of the buyers current situation. Examples of these may include:

  • "How many clients do you currently serve?"
  • "What is the weather typically like here"?
  • "How have sales for your business been the last few quarters"?

Of course, all of these questions will be related the prospects business or situation. Still, keep in mind these questions serve the purpose of generating information for the seller to use. The information is used to help the seller understand what possible problems the buyer may be having. Thus, the seller transitions from learning about the customer to possible relative problems he or she may be having.

Problem Recognition

After getting a better understanding of the prospect and his current situation, a seller then moves to problem recognition questions. The purpose of these questions is to uncover possible problems the prospect may be having. Note that these questions do not immediately offer a solution. A seller should ask them, get the prospect to go into detail, take note, and move on to other possible problem questions. Example may include:

  • "Have you had any problems with vandalism?"
  • "What does your current provider not offer that you wish they did?"
  • "How often do your products come back defective"?

These questions help the buyer understand specific problems the prospect is having. After learning of these problems, the seller will then transition into the true implications of the problems occurring.

Implication Questions

Implication questions are designed to help not only the seller, but also the prospect understand the true costs of the problems that are occurring. The seller is uncovering the implications of the specific problems discussed in the previous step. To the possible buyer, implications should be recognized as a large enough burden that he or she should want a solution to them quickly. The costs do not necessarily have to be monetary. Example questions could include:

  • "How is all of this vandalism affecting your sales?"
  • "Are the fees associated with your current provider a significant financial burden"?
  • "Is the current policy you offer your employees raising your turnover rate"?

These questions do not simply deal with the problem. As you can see, they also entice a potential buyer to explain the true cost of the problem at hand. At this point, the prospect should desperately want a solution. Thus, the seller moves to a possible solution.

Need Payoff

This is where the seller matches the buyers needs with the product he or she offers. The sale should not be made if the product at hand does not satisfy the needs of the buyer. The seller should always adhere to that rule. The seller will need to seek a close to the sell at this point. Possible need payoff questions include:

  • "Do you think this feature of our security system would help stop intruders and vandalism"?
  • "We provide what your provider offers plus more. Are these extras what you are looking for"?
  • "This policy statistically has reduced turnover and increased satisfaction. Take a look. Do you agree this would help ease the financial burden you are currently seeing from turnover?"

Need payoff questions solve the problems the buyer is facing. They show why the buyer needs the product offered. They should want the product and clearly understand why it is superior.

It Works!

SPIN selling is effective simply because it does not try to force a sale upon a prospect. The seller researches the customer beforehand and will attempt the sale only if he believes needs can be met. The general idea is that by the end of the sales call, the buyer should desperately want a solution to the problems and needs that have been uncovered by the seller. The method makes the buying process more simplistic and comfortable for the prospect. Thus, it has proven effective time and time again in service and product offering companies.


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