SPICIER Selling: How to Sell More by Selling Less
The SPIN Selling method is a powerful way to build relationship with prospective customers and close more sales...by not selling. SPICIER Selling takes SPIN up a notch.
You've got a business. You need to grow it. What should you do first? Meaning no disrespect to my colleagues who specialize in sales, let me suggest you don't start selling. Until you have deep insight into what your prospective customers need and have used that insight to earn their trust, don't even think of trying to sell - that is, if you think of selling as trying to close. The best salespeople know that closing is simply the last step of a complex process during which your main task is to seek insight - to ask questions, shut up, and listen.
Neil Rackham, the guru behind SPIN Selling, points out that the best sales people don't bring up their solution until very late in the call. They keep asking questions that help both the seller and the prospect better understand not only the most important needs, but more importantly, the implications of those needs. They explore the hidden costs driven by those needs. Then they subtly position their product or service as the perfect solution to those needs, and a great value relative to the costs they uncovered.
I am a big fan of SPIN Selling. However, find the model a bit awkward; when I am in a sales process and think "SPIN," the N doesn't give enough guidance to remember what comes next. So, I have evolved the SPIN Selling model into SPICIER Selling.
The model, like Scharmer and Senge's Theory U, argues that the most effective path from one point (start of sales discussion) to another (closed sale) is often not a straight line. Rather, by spending time in a deep dive through three stages of Learning, Exploring, and Solving, one builds relationship with the client, with the result of a higher close rate.
These three stages are broken down into 7 specific steps:
- Situation: what is the client's context? How big is her business? What are the trends? What are its products and who are the primary customers? Key: don't spend a lot of time here. Learn what you need and move on.
- Problem: what keeps the client up at night? We're still learning here. We're open and interested. We want to see the world from the client's perspective.
- Implied Costs: now we begin to explore. What is the meaning of the key problem? How does it create ripples through the client's business in terms of additional problems, lost sales, hidden costs, etc. And how does it impact the client on a personal level? How does it stress him? Might it limit her career if unsolved? Ask how and why a lot. While discussing the obvious costs, look for other less obvious bigger costs.
- Clarify: a lot has been said by now that may not be fully coherent. It is time to make connections and lead the client to new explicit insights. "At first you said your problem is incompetent sales personnel. Too many orders get cancelled because they're improperly entered, costing the company thousands of dollars every month, right? But might the real problem be that your order entry system is too complex?"
- Implied Value: once you have identified the real problem, explore what a solution would be worth to the client. You may have some of this information through your exploration of implied costs, but look for value that goes beyond simply avoiding costs. Perhaps revenue-boosting opportunities would be created. Again, look at what personal, emotional benefits would accrue from a solution.
- Explicit Link to Product Benefits: note that so far, we have not brought up what we are selling. Why should we? Customers don't buy products; they buy solutions to their problem, so it is counterproductive to talk about your product absent clear understanding of the client's problems and how she might value a solution. Only now, having fully invested in understanding, do we begin to solve the client's problem. Most products have multiple benefits and feature, so be choiceful here: focus on the benefits most relevant to the client's needs. Select those benefits that position your solution as superior to options.
- Resolve: time to close or mutually determine what is required to move to the next step.
All of this is in Rackham's work, but I find SPICIER a bit more granular and useful than SPIN. What do you think?
Learn more about the author, Mark P Friedman.
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- customer relationship
- spin selling