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Take your Selling Skills for a SPIN

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


“The best sales people have a 4:1 listen-to-talk ratio”

Neil Rackham of the Xerox Corporation discovered this astonishing statistic and, if you want to influence people to get more of what you want, you’ll do well to apply this knowledge.

Rackham is best known for the concept of SPIN Selling and the book of the same name. Here’s a quick run down of how it works.

S for Situation

Start by asking searching questions of your potential buyer – what are their needs? Use the funnel approach we looked at in the earlier blog, Questions, Questions, Questions, to establish the wider context, and then zoom in.

P for Problem

Listen very carefully to your potential buyer’s response and encourage information flow. People buy to meet a need. What difficulties are they having? What are they not satisfied with? You want to identify what their problem is so you can …

I for Implied need

Demonstrate your understanding of their needs and problems – show them you know what their pain is, so that you can …

N for Need-payoff

Show your potential buyer how you can meet their need, solve their problem and take away their pain.
When you have done this, they will want to buy. If you can quote a price that they can afford, you are ready to close the final sale. In the book, Rackham recounts that orginally, he wanted to use the term ‘value question’, but realised that this would make the acronym read: SPIV!

The Three 80-20 Rules of Selling

They say the world is governed by the 80-20 rule. There does indeed seem to be an 80-20 for nearly everything and sales is no exception. In fact, here are three that you ignore at your peril.

The 80-20 Rule for your First Meeting

This rule refers to how to spend your time, at the first meeting with a potential customer. Use your time with:

  • 80% Information Gathering
  • 20% Information Giving

So at the start of your meeting, establish how much time your prospect has, to ensure you can get the information you need. And since no rule is perfect, make sure you leave 10 minutes or so to close the sale if you can (always try) and agree next steps.

Note that this rule is another way of expressing Rackham’s rule, quoted at the top of this blog.

The 80-20 Rule for Junior Buyers

Junior and middle managers are intensely practical people. They have to be: their job is to get things done. So ensure you address their interests. When you gather information, listen for their concerns in this proportion. And when you give information, address their needs in the same ratio:

  • 80% The “How” of it
  • 20% The “Why” of it

All selling is about finding an itch and offering a scratch. Operational people’s itch is a process one. Not so their senior colleagues.

The 80-20 Rule for Senior Buyers

Senior Managers’ role is to think strategically. Reverse your pattern with them to focus on what they need:

  • 80% The “Why” of it
  • 20% The “How” of it

So how do you gather information? There is an art to it. Think funnel:

Start at the top with a wide open funnel, and ask wide open questions, like

“Tell me about …”

Listen for where their itch seems to be, then start to probe, with narrower questions like:

“Tell me some more about …”

Next, confirm your understanding by asking detailed questions like:

“So, what exactly …”

Finally, play back your diagnosis of the nature of their itch, to ensure you know what sort of scratch they need:

“From what I’ve understood, you …”

Don’t be afraid to ask for a Yes

In sales meetings, one of the hardest moments is when you have a strong rapport with your potential customer, you have offered a great solution, and you are convinced they want to buy from you. So how could you spoil this perfect moment? What if they reject you? Perhaps it’s best not to say anything more and wait for them to buy.

But what if they don’t? You know how it can be with that first kiss – maybe your potential buyer is waiting for you to make the first move. If you do have the rapport you think you have, asking respectfully if they are ready to buy is not only appropriate, it’s often the only way to close a sale. Here are five ways you can do it:

  • “We’ve discussed all the ways our product works for you – are you ready to place an order?”
  • “Is there anything else you need from me, before you discuss what booking you want to make?”
  • “If you are ready to order, shall we talk about delivery arrangements?”
  • “Would you like me to get some paperwork ready now?”
  • “Do you prefer to go for the XAKD model or the DXKA model?”

 

Further Reading 

You may like The Salesperson’s Pocketbook. Two other great pocketbooks:

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Sell like your doctor

There is an awful lot that business people can learn from doctors, and I once sketched out a keynote talk: ‘What medical doctors can teach us about business’.  If the UK Government gets its way with National Health Service reforms, I might dust it off, re-title it: ‘What medical practice can teach us about business’ and take it on the road to GP groups around the country.

Let’s look at pain

Take Your MedicineDoctors rarely have any problems convincing a patient to take their medicine or have their operation.  Most people who do resist their doctor’s advice do so because they also have conflicting advice – often from another doctor.

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Of course, the stakes can be very high at a doctor’s surgery: you may be in pain, concerned for your long-term health or even facing terminal illness.  Your doctor can diagnose what is causing this and offer ways to remove or reduce the pain, enhance your long-term health prospects and even, perhaps, cure a life-threatening illness.

How does this relate to sales?

Nobody buys anything without a reason, and there are only four reasons why anybody does anything:

  1. Duty – they feel they ‘must’
  2. Curiosity – they need to ‘scratch an itch’
  3. Pleasure – they want something that will ‘feel good’
  4. Pain – they want to ‘stop the pain’

What doctors can do is offer the promise of stopping the pain.  As a salesperson, this is a phenomenally effective way to sell.  If you can identify what hurts for your customer, then you are on your way.

Selling like a doctor

Here’s how

  1. Discover their pain
  2. Make sure they are aware of it
  3. Demonstrate that you understand what’s causing it
  4. Suggest your product or service can heal it
  5. Let the potential customer ask you questions
  6. Provide evidence that your medicine works
  7. Discuss the perfect prescription for them

So here’s the deal

Next time you are trying to sell, take some time to diagnose your potential customer’s discomfort.  The more pain they have, the keener they will be for the right medicine.  If they also believe that you have that medicine, they’ll bite off your hand to get a fix.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might like

Selling is an essential skill for anyone in business, so it’s a great time to polish up you skills and remind yourself of the basics.

The Sales Excellence Pocketbook The Sales Person's Pocketbook

The Sales Excellence Pocketbook

The Salesperson’s Pocketbook

The Negotiator’s Pocketbook

The Key Account Manager’s Pocketbook

The Telesales pocketbook

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