213 of 224 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 1997
I am a corporate sales professional. That means that I don't do "hit and run," one-time sales. Tom Hopkins and Zig Ziglar offer great tactics for those kind of salespeople, but they don't work for me.
Neil Rackham has hit one out of the park with Spin Selling. Turning everything I "thought" I knew about closing on its head, he provides the power tools for making the most of a sales call. The most important concept here is that you, as a sales rep. are not there when the real decisions get made. Therefore, you must arm your prospects with the tools to represent your company well in your absence.
Rackham does not disappoint. You will get all the tools you need to prepare your prospect to close the sale for you from this book. I give all of my salespeople Strategic Selling by Miller, Heiman, et. al. and Spin Selling as the ultimate combination of strategic and tactical approaches to corporate selling.
Stop throwing commissions away. If you consider yourself a true corporate sales professional, you have no business ignoring this book.
189 of 202 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2000
My bachelor's degree is in Computer Science, and I'm preparing to start my MBA studies within a year. I hope to start my own business one day and I knew I needed to generate revenues. But there was only one problem...
...I had no idea how to sell professionally.
I had already read a few books by Tom Hopkins, but felt he was targeting used-car salesmen types. It seems as though Hopkins' techniques relied on "closing" gimmicks when it came down to it. (I must say I did learn some good principles from Hopkins, but his gimmicky style is not for me.)
I was instantly attracted to SPIN SELLING when I saw that (1) it was based on extensive research, and (2) it dealt primarily with the large sale. Since I want to start my own corporation after my MBA, and want to have Fortune-500 companies as my customers, I realized SPIN SELLING was for me.
SPIN SELLING is simply a great handbook on large-sale tactics. Rackham shows how the "closing techniques" used in smaller sales severely damage the success of large sales. He then introduces the SPIN model (Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff).
Although before reading the book I never considered myself a "salesman", I realized afterwards that I was already using Rackham's techniques in other areas of my life -- and having a great deal of success. For example, as a professional IT consultant, I was using (unbeknownst to me) these tactics to legitimately perpetuate my client billings.
Selling is essentially obtaining another person's commitment. Commitments that deal with the purchase of good or services is only one type of commitment. Thus, you can use these tactics/techniques any time you're wanting to obtain another person's commitment.
If your desire is to sell large-value goods or services to sophisticated and intelligent buyers then SPIN SELLING is the tactical handbook you need. This book isn't about gimmicks to trick or pressure the customer into buying. This is professional, high-class selling.
After I read SPIN SELLING I immediately bought Rackham's "MAJOR ACCOUNT SALES STRATEGY". Thus, I now have a tactical handbook and a strategy handbook that are based on the same principles and extensive research.
I've found the SPIN model to be highly effective in my life.
81 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2000
Neil Rackham writes a book that summarizes the ground-shaking discoveries of his Company, Huthwaite. The Whole purpose of their research which lasted for a good Number of years was to discover what certain behaviors on the salesman's part helped In creating a successful purchase in the Major-Account sale, in which the item for Sale was usually expensive and requires a long after-sales relationship between buyer And seller.
Mr. Rackham turns the conventional sales knowledge upside-down and he does so very convincingly. He divides the sale into 4 phases; The Preliminaries, Investigating, Demonstrating Capability and Obtaining Commitment. He lays great emphasis in The Investigation phase, and it is in this phase that the SPIN Model comes into action.
SPIN is an acronym for the different types of questions that a seller must use in order to properly establish the last two phases of the sales call. Situation questions are simple straightforward questions about the buyer's company and current situation they are general questions that basically aim to establish context for the next questions. Problem questions are those which aim to pinpoint the exact problems of the buyer so that it becomes easier to uncover his implied needs. Implication questions take us a step further into examining the consequences of the buyers problem more closely and trying to make him more acutely aware of their ramifications so that we can start asking Need-Payoff questions which basically deal with the value and utility that the buyer perceives in a solution. The Need-Payoff questions lead to the development of Explicit need in which the buyer Has been led to clearly understand the context of his exact need to fix a particular Problem. Only after the SPIN questions have been successfully used to define Those explicit needs can a seller start demonstrating capability. With knowledge Of the needs of the buyer the seller can therefore more easily demonstrate solutions Which satisfy those explicit needs, i.e. the benefits of the product or service.
Mr. Rackham describes the different phase in the different chapters of his book and provides very useful information to discredit many misconceptions that have long Been held holy by salesmen, such as the importance of closing, the true meaning of Benefit as opposed to advantage and feature, the relative value of openings and first Impressions and most of all the value of the investigating phase.
An Essential book if you have anything to do with Sales.
78 of 85 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.
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2001
This book was an optional text for a college level course on "Personal Professional Selling".
Rackham does a fine job of dispelling the myth of the 1920's straw hat tactics used by the lounge-lizard sales forces.
I am in direct, in-home consumer sales and this book has helped me refocus my questioning technique to a finer art. Now my qualified customers are more likely to go with me simply because I've uncovered their Problems and used Implication questions and finally gave them a few Need-Payoff questions.
Along with Rackham's book, I think you'll enjoy _The Confidence Course_ which is a book that helps you overcome your anxieties and this has helped me in selling. A sales person who cannot prospect is not much of a sales rep at all!
Finally I highly recommend this book and it's compaion volume _SPIN Selling Fieldbook_ by Rackham as it will help you develop the questions you need to be asking your customers and prospects.
Put down the Ziglar and Hopkins books and pick up the NEW generation of Sales books!
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2001
I am a personal coach and I offer a high-cost service - I am not a sales professional and I do not like to "sell." This method is just what I've been looking for. I have listened to the audiocassette a couple of times and I find the SPIN Selling approach easy to understand and effective.
The only thing that prevents me from giving this book 5 stars is the information sounds more like a research paper than a book - it's a bit dry, academic and takes longer to get to the point. But, the value of the useful information presented makes it worthwhile. A big thumbs up!
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2003
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
intially the Name "Spin Selling" came across to be as some cheesy and manipulative model being taught by the author.
after reading various books and attending seminars and workshops i was consistently referred to this book.
also i researched some of the high-performance Sales Professionals and most of them had training on SPIN Selling, so
i finally decided to read Rackham's book "SPIN Selling" and
i'm glad i did and yes this book i feel is the Foundation of all the Modern Sales Training out there.
His Training is backed with extensive proof and facts and every single advice is backed by extensive research conducted by huthwaite. very impressed.
"Situation - Problem - Implication and Need-Payoff", these are the four types of Questioning you will learn and the Value and relative importance of each and in what order to be used effectively.
the biggest lesson for me is the Difference of a "Implied Need" compared to "Explicit Need" and how it all boils down to uncovering "Explicit Needs" and to communicate with customers about "Benefits". this book also clears a very common mistake a lot of us do, to look at a product or solution's advantages and convey that as Benefit to customer. As per the author a "Benefit" is one that solves a Customer's "Explicit Need".
don't be discouraged by any review that writes off the book's style of writing to be research oriented, the book is around 190 Pages and it's worth the weight in gold.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2001
I'm a geek, but, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was forced to create some sales training. I had this book recommended to me, and it saved my sanity.
The title is very unfortunate. "SPIN" in this book doesn't refer to the stuff that White House flunkies and PR flacks do...it's an acronym for the components of Rackham's sales methodology.
If you're not a sales type, you may have been grossed out by the high B.S. level of most books about selling. This book, on the other hand, is very factual and direct, and it's free of hoopla, glittering generalizations, and vacuous, trivial "case studies." Most amazingly, it presents sales in a way that makes it seem not so morally repellent. If it's humanly possible for sales to be a customer-service function, it's by following the practices in "Spin Selling."
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2007
SPIN is a classic, one of the books that revolutionized professional selling. It amazes me to read some of the negative reviews of this book posted here. Some of this I attribute to lack of knowledge of the history of our "profession," which bears few hallmarks of being a profession yet. Can you get a four year college degree in SELLING, the one thing every business must do well to survive, let alone prosper? Except for programs at a small handful of universities around the country, the answer is NO. Do we have peer-reviewed journals in our profession? NO. Do we have accepted standards and professional certification? NO.
What Neil Rackham, a behavioral researcher, did for selling was huge. He applied the techniques of research and analysis to our profession. Until then, no one could say definitively that "always be closing" was bad advice. But in business to business selling, in high-tech selling to educated professionals, the "ABC's of selling" is only one of many pieces of bad information that passed for "wisdom" before Rackham showed them up for what they were. Such sales tactics are the reason salespeople have been saddled with negative stereotypes.
Some reviewers condemn Rackham by saying that companies cited, such as Kodak, IBM, and Xerox have suffered business reversals since this book came out. Sorry folks, but good salespeople using good selling techniques will not, alone, save your company. MANY companies that were at the top of their industries in the 1970s and 1980s are either out of business or have suffered serious reversals in the years since. That is a different issue altogether, and if you are looking for explanations try STRATEGY books like "Good to Great" by Jim Collins or "Strategy" by Michael Porter. Someone on this site said that IBM's loss of computer business to other PC makers was evidence of the failure of SPIN...totally ridiculous. IBM passed on the operating system that became DOS, which in turn became the engine fueling MicroSoft's ascent to the heights. In hardware manufacturing IBM ignored lots of evidence that a paradigm shift was underway and PCs were becoming commodity items.
The negative reviewers are looking for a silver bullet in many cases: SPIN will not transform you into a president's club winner by reading it. It is how you apply and practice it that will enable your success. Becoming expert in the use of this simple framework requires work and thought. What Rackham showed us is that the WORDS we use are important, along with HOW WE USE THEM. We must understand THEIR goals and focus on being part of THEIR success if we are to be successful in a sustainable, long-term partnership. Also that we must not be manipulative or treat other people (aka "customers" or "prospects") in ways we would not want to be treated ourselves. The acronym "SPIN" was coined before Washington politicians gave the word the negatie connotation it now has.
SPIN is not the only good refenence book for salespeople, but it is a landmark book, the result of research that has not, to my knowlege, been replicated since. It should be a held in great esteem by any sales professional. Rackham's concept of an "Advance" as an objective way to measure the progress of a sales call is, alone, worth the price of this book.
By the way, I have been in sales for 30 years, as a salesperson, sales manager, and director of training for a Fortune 500 company. I still have a lot to learn. But one thing I do know: there is tremendous value in this book for any salesperson with an open mind and the desire to continue growing, learning and improving as a sales professional.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2002
Unlike most developers of sales training, Neil Rackham methodically backs up his claims with in-depth research. To build the flexible, adaptable SPIN model, Rackham has observed and analyzed a large number of high dollar value sales made around the world. Rackham convincingly demonstrates that successful salespeople marketing high dollar value products and services do not rely on the sales tactics geared towards low dollar value sales that are traditionally taught to salespeople. Successful salespeople typically go through four stages that Rackham has identified as: preliminaries, investigating, demonstrating capability, and obtaining commitment.
1. In analyzing "Preliminaries", Rackham first warns salespeople that although first impressions count, they are less important that too many of them imagine. Furthermore, Rackham recommends that salespeople get down to business quickly and avoid talking about solutions too soon. Raising areas of personal interest with buyers can sound suspicious. Talking about the benefit of a solution before understanding buyer's needs and building value to satisfy these needs, can also be an invitation for trouble. Unfortunately, Rackham does not remind his audience enough that this approach to preliminaries, though perfectly appropriate in the American culture, can be perceived as offensive in others. Salespeople doing business abroad beware.
2. In looking at the critical "Investigating", Rackham advises that salespeople not only use situation questions and problem questions but also implication questions and need-payoff questions. Salespeople usually ask the first two types of questions to uncover implied needs unless their customers or prospects tell them upfront that they have an explicit need for a specific solution to their problem(s). In high dollar value sales, salespeople must leverage the uncovered problems to make them bigger by exploring their implications. Buyers can indeed perceive an imbalance between the price of the solution and the severity of their problem(s). Because that type of questioning can sound negative or depressing to buyers, salespeople must follow with need-payoff questions to make their customers or prospects feel good about the proposed solution to their problem(s). To his credit, Rackham reminds his audience that the SPIN model is not a rigid formula. The type of questions to be used and their relative importance depend on the circumstances of the specific high dollar value sale at hand.
3. In examining "Demonstrating Capability", Rackham makes the distinction among features, advantages, and benefits. Rackham convincingly shows that offering benefits is key to meet explicit needs expressed by customers or prospects. Selling only features can be a risky value proposition because that tactic potentially makes customers or prospects more price sensitive than they should be. Resisting that temptation can be particularly daunting in the high tech industry that sometimes suffers from "feature creep." Selling only advantages can also backfire against salespeople because that tactic is eventually an invitation to objections raised by customers or prospects. To his credit, Rackham emphasizes objection prevention and not objection resolution by bringing customers or prospects to the insight that the product or service being offered meets the needs expressed by them.
4. In investigating "Obtaining Commitment", Rackham demonstrates with panache that there is an inversely proportional relationship between the number of closing techniques and the success of high dollar value sales. Traditional closing techniques such as assumptive closes, alternative closes, standing-room-only closes, last-chance closes, and order-blank closes can easily generate objections from customers or prospects who are not yet ready to act on their implied and expressed needs. Progress in high dollar value sales is measured in actions on which customers or prospects agree so that salespeople can eventually move on along the continuum stretching from lead to order. As long as customers or prospects do not commit to advancing in that process, salespeople are indeed condemned to stagnation at best, definitive loss of the order at worst down the road.
In Appendix A of his book (which is really worth of his audience's attention), Rackham is humble enough to recognize that a jump in sales following one of his sales trainings based on the four-step approach described above can be totally or partially attributed to other factors such as changes in people, changes in products, changes in pricing or changes in competition.
Finally, as a side note, a good strategic complement to the tactical "SPIN Selling" is "The New Strategic Selling" by Stephen E. Heiman, Diane Sanchez, and Tad Tuleja. Like the former, the latter focuses on high dollar value sales.