Most helpful critical review
77 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2007
Overall Impression of this Book
At 192 pages--47 of these in the appendices--the book is short and a quick and easy read. It does make useful distinctions between small and large sales and the differences in approach that should be used for each. The SPIN method of questioning makes logical sense and is a technique that can be applied to other forms of selling, such as landing a job or selling an idea to a group of coworkers or friends. Overall this book presented a convincing way to be successful in large sales. The one drawback is that the book claims that the SPIN technique is validated by studies of over 35,000 sales calls. The book's presentation of the data is less than convincing and incomplete. Bar diagrams are too simplistic and do not present significant amounts of underlying data, explanation of collection methods, or statistical measurements. The skeptic will likely have less confidence in the book as a result, doubting the usefulness of the information.
Chapter One: Sales Behavior and Sales Success
Selling cycle can be divided into five segments: the opening, investigating needs, giving benefits, objection handling and closing. (The four stages of a sales call are preliminaries, investigating, demonstrating capability and obtaining commitment.)
The author makes a distinction between effective sales methods depending on size of sale, small versus large.
In his research, the opening is perhaps effective in small sales, but not for larger ones. Investigating needs is the most important component of selling, for large sales. For small sales it is much less important. Giving benefits works well once needs are uncovered, but benefits are defined in a very particular way. Objection handling is not important to large sales success, while they may be effective for small sales. Closing techniques can be effective for small accounts, but are counterproductive in large sales.
In summary, for large sales the most important aspects are the uncovering of needs and offering benefits. Everything else tends to take away from sale effectiveness.
In uncovering needs, the author describes four types of questions that will lead the salesmen to an effective sale: situation, problem, implication and need-payoff. These describe the SPIN model, or the sets of questions that lead to sales success. Situation questions are data gathering questions about facts and background. Too many will bore the listener. Problem questions address or explore potential problems, difficulties and dissatisfactions. These lead to implication questions which aim to get the customer to explore possible implications of problems on his operation overall. Need-payoff questions are ones that lead the customer to propose the correct solution himself to the problem at hand and to help him deduce the need for the product that is being sold.
Chapter Two: Obtaining Commitment: Closing the Sale
In this chapter the author says that the traditional emphasis on closing techniques is misplaced. The closing has little correlation to sales success in big sales. Two conclusions are noted: 1. by forcing the customer into a decision, closing techniques speed the sales transaction, and 2. closing techniques may increase the chances of making a sale with low-priced products but with expensive products the opposite is true as the chances of making a sale are reduced. If a client detects that a seller is using closing techniques he becomes much less likely to buy.
An important point is brought up in this chapter, that of furthering the sale. Large sales do not close with one phone call but are instead part of a developing process that will likely take several steps. A failed sales call is one that produces either a no-sale or a continuation, where no new development to further the sale has been brought forth. A measure of a successful sales call or visit is either an order or an advance, something that furthers the sales through a follow-up meeting or some similar commitment from the potential buyer. A good salesperson will always strive to advance the sale.
A successful obtaining commitment strategy is composed of four parts: giving attention to Investigating and Demonstrating capability, checking that key concerns are covered, summarizing the benefits, and proposing a commitment.
Chapter Three: Customer Needs in the Major Sale
The author again makes the distinction between small sales and large ones and explains that needs develop differently for each type of sale. Needs are defined as any statement made by the buyer that expresses a want or concern that can be satisfied by the seller.
There are two different kinds of needs: implied and explicit needs. Implied needs are statements of problems, difficulties and dissatisfactions. Explicit needs are specific customer wants and desires. It is the satisfaction of explicit needs that result in successful sales calls. The purpose of questions in the larger sale is to uncover implied needs and to develop them into explicit needs.
Chapter Four: The SPIN Strategy
This chapter examines how the four SPIN questions--situation, problem, implication, and need-payoff--can be used to help the need-development process.
Situation questions are simple questions to establish facts. Too many of them will bore the buyer. They are not positively related to success, but are often needed to find information. Do not ask unnecessary situation questions.
Problem questions probe for problems, difficulties or dissatisfactions and invite customer to state his implied needs. Sample questions might include: "Are you satisfied with your present equipment?"; "Isn't it difficult to process peak loads with your present system?"; "Does this old machine give you reliability problems?". Experienced salespeople ask a higher proportion of problem questions. Problem questions are effective in small sales but not necessarily in large ones. These questions are asked so as to uncover the customers implied needs. Only when implied needs are converted to need-payoff questions (explicit needs), are sales likely to succeed.
Implication questions serve to probe the nature of the customer's problem and help reveal its true costs and rundown effects. In larger sales, implication questions take a problem that the buyer perceives is small and build it up into a larger problem enough to justify action. Some examples might be uncovering issues of: ease of use, transaction costs, turnover, overtime costs, cost of outside work, and loss of quality. Implication questions are especially effective in selling to decision makers because they are skilled at seeing underlying effects and consequence.
Need-payoff questions are used to turn implied needs into explicit ones. They typically ask about the value or usefulness of solving a problem. Questions such as "Is it important to you to solve this problem?; "Why would you find this solution so useful?"; "Is there any other way this could help you?" are good examples. Need-payoff questions achieve two things: they focus the customer's attention on the solution to the problem, and they get the customer to tell you the benefits.
Need-payoff questions reduce objections in big sales. This is because for big problems, there is usually less scope for a perfect solution and by pointing out how you can solve the problem you may actually bring attention to the imperfect match between your product and the problem. By allowing the customer to make his own deduction, you can get him to tell you which elements of the problem your solution can solve. This approach makes the solution more acceptable and less objectionable.
Need-payoff questions rehearse the customer for internal selling. Rarely in large sales does one contact make the customer purchase the product. Instead the product is sold internally as employees or decision makers convince other decision makers about the value of the purchase. It is much easier for employees to do this if they have figured out for themselves what benefits the product will bring.
Need-payoff questions are important because they focus attention on solutions, not problems and they make customers tell you the benefits. Need-payoff questions are very powerful in large sales because they increase the acceptability of the solution. Success in large sales depends on internal selling by customers on your behalf and need-payoff questions successfully rehearse the customer in presenting these solutions convincingly to others.
The author suggests preparation as a key tool to successful selling. A sales call should be prepared in advance through writing out possible problem questions and potential implications that may result.
Avoid need-payoff question early in the call as they will put of the customer in the larger sale. An example of this might be starting the call with: "Would you be interested in processing your accounts faster?"
Avoid asking need-payoff questions when you don't have the answers or possible solutions.
Practice, practice, practice.
Chapter Five: Giving Benefits in Major Sales
This falls under the Demonstrating Capability phase of a sale.
The author makes a distinction between features, advantages, and benefits. Features are simple facts, data or information about the product. Listing features has a positive effect for small sales success but as the sales size increases, success rates diminish for listing features. This is because as the price tag rises, the customer becomes more acutely aware of the value proposition and features to the extent that they do not provide direct value through immediate benefits are discounted in the mind f the customer. Advantages show how products can be used to help the customer. Benefits show how a product or service will meet the customer's explicit need. Advantages have a positive and slightly positive effect on small sales and large sales, respectively. Benefits have a very positive effect for all sales.
Chapter Six: Preventing Objections
The author writes that preventing objections is all about preventing the underlying symptoms. Instead of selling features and advantages, the salesman should be selling benefits, identifying explicit needs and telling the customer about the best ways that those needs will be met. This allows the customer to more easily see the value of solving his problem.
Chapter Seven: Preliminaries: Opening the Call
In larger sales first impressions are less important than in smaller sales. This is partly because openings are much less important. Traditional sales methodology has focused on openings by teaching that it was important to relate to buyer's personal interests and to make an opening benefit statement. The author's research has shown that neither is important. The framework to a successful call opening is telling the buyer who you are and why you are there and establishing your right to ask questions. The author advises getting down to business quickly, not talking about solutions too soon, and concentrating on asking the SPIN questions.
Chapter Eight: Turning Theory into Practice
In this chapter the author says that the SPIN techniques can be easily learned. Instead of concentrating on quality, focus on quantity. Start by choosing one behavior to work on. Make safe practice calls to smaller accounts. Concentrate on using a lot of the behavior rather than using it well. Trying it at least three times before judging the method's effectiveness.
Appendix A: Evaluating the SPIN model
This appendix talks about some of the case studies and data gathering the author used in discovering the effectiveness of methods described in the book.
Appendix B: Closing Attitude Scale
A list of 15 statements about how the reader might feel about closing. The 15 questions are scored and an attitude score is developed. A positive attitude to scoring means that the salesman is more suited to small sales success. A negative attitude indicates a salesman might be more successful in big sales as closing techniques are a liability under these circumstances.