SPIN Selling: How to turn offers into real orders

At last! You have an appointment with a potential customer and hope to get the job by listing all your advantages. After a few days have passed, your offer is rejected. The price was well calculated and your references speak for themselves. What happened there? Often it is because the potential customer has not internalized the benefits of your offer for his company or underestimates them. In order to make the benefits of your offer clear to your desired client, it is not enough to simply list the most important points. But there is an efficient sales method called SPIN Selling.

One thing first: Before you continue reading I would like to make it clear that I have never used the SPIN Selling method to bring dubious products and services to the customer. For me this model is just a good way to communicate the benefits better. Even with the SPIN Selling method, dubious products and services do not find buyers.

What is SPIN Selling?

In order to increase the chances of concluding a contract, Neil Rackham developed the SPIN Selling sales method on the basis of extensive research on the success factors in sales talks. Since its origins in the 1970s, it has become one of the most widely used sales methods.

How does SPIN Selling work?

SPIN Selling is based on a sophisticated questioning technique. This technique distinguishes a total of four levels of questions:

S = Situation questions: What is the current ACTUAL STATE of your customer?

Ask questions that illuminate the situation of your potential customer. Since questions about the situation usually bore or irritate the customer, you should ask only a few of these questions. Prior research can shorten this phase considerably. The aim is to capture the customer’s situation as accurately as possible in just a few questions.

P = Problem questions: What is your customer’s problem?

These questions are intended to uncover problems from the situation. The need is hinted at, as the customer states his wishes from everyday experience. The aim is to find out exactly where your potential customer is dissatisfied with the current solution.

I = Implication questions: What happens if nothing happens?

Show your client the consequences. What happens if he does not solve the initial problem? At this stage, show him the dimension of the problems.

N = Need/Playoff questions: What benefits does your customer have if you solve the problem for him?

The benefit questions are intended to encourage your customer to formulate how useful the solution to his problem actually is. In this step the explicit need is worked out. Good salespeople ask many questions of benefit.

Bottom line:

The SPIN Selling method basically aims at letting your potential customer formulate the arguments himself, instead of confronting him with a list of sales arguments. A classic area of application are products or services that require high investments on the part of the customer and for which there is sufficient time to find an intensive solution.

Example dialogue

Graphic designer (hereinafter referred to as seller) < > Entrepreneur (hereinafter referred to as customer)

Seller: (Problem question)

Is your corporate identity uniform?

Customer: (implied need)

Actually, I do. Sometimes advertising media differ slightly in colour and the chosen font. Also the customer approach could be more consistent. This happens especially when we have new employees in the marketing department.


Has this already caused problems in communication?


On rare occasions, yes. Once we had to have advertising material for a trade fair reprinted. Since then, I personally check the advertising material before it goes to the printer.

Seller: (Question of implication)

Doesn’t that take up a lot of your time?


It’s costing me a lot of time. But it’s better than having advertising material for a trade fair printed from scratch. Of course we can’t afford a bad corporate image.

Seller: (Question of need/playoff)

If you could save the time for checking the advertising media, what would you do instead?


I would plan more advertising campaigns.

Seller: (Question of benefit)

And that would strengthen your sales force?


I’m sure it would. I have many ideas and as an entrepreneur it is important to take care of the big tasks instead of having to control every little thing. That means a lot of stress for me.

Seller: (Question of implication)

So you’re under a lot of stress. Doesn’t the planning of your campaign suffer when you find the time?


You can say that again.

Seller: (Question of need/playoff)

Then the time saved for the control of the advertising media would not only relieve you, but also improve the quality of your campaigns and thus the sales performance of your company?


Right. Anyway, we are currently slightly below the planned sales figures.

Seller: (summary)

This means that corrections to advertising materials due to deviations in colours, fonts and customer approaches cost you so much time that you are stressed and can no longer find the time to plan future advertising campaigns for your company. As a result, the quality of the campaigns suffers and the sales performance is below expectations.


Seen in this light, the constant monitoring of the advertising media has a more negative effect on the company than expected.

Seller: (shows need/playoff)

Okay. I can create a corporate design manual for you. It’s a guideline for all employees on how to design advertising materials that everyone has to follow. This is especially useful when you are training new employees in the marketing department.

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