Pub. Date:
McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
SPIN Selling / Edition 1

SPIN Selling / Edition 1

by Neil Rackham, Rackham
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The international bestseller that revolutionized high-end selling!

Written by Neil Rackham, former president and founder of Huthwaite corporation, SPIN Selling is essential reading for anyone involved in selling or managing a sales force. Unquestionably the best-documented account of sales success ever collected and the result of the Huthwaite corporation's massive 12-year, $1-million dollar research into effective sales performance, this groundbreaking resource details the revolutionary SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff) strategy.

In SPIN Selling, Rackham, who has advised leading companies such as IBM and Honeywell delivers the first book to specifically examine selling high-value product and services. By following the simple, practical, and easy-to-apply techniques of SPIN, readers will be able to dramatically increase their sales volume from major accounts. Rackham answers key questions such as “What makes success in major sales” and “Why do techniques like closing work in small sales but fail in larger ones?”

You will learn why traditional sales methods which were developed for small consumer sales, just won't work for large sales and why conventional selling methods are doomed to fail in major sales. Packed with real-world examples, illuminating graphics, and informative case studies - and backed by hard research data - SPIN Selling is the million-dollar key to understanding and producing record-breaking high-end sales performance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780070511132
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 05/01/1988
Edition description: List
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 68,749
Product dimensions: 6.19(w) x 9.29(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

NEIL RACKHAM is founder and former president of Huthwaite, Inc. Huthwaite researches, consults, and provides seminars for over 200 leading sales organizations around the world, including Xerox, IBM, and Citicorp. His academic background is in research psychology. It was at the University of Sheffield, England, that he began his research into sales effectiveness that resulted in SPIN. Mr. Rackham is the author of more than 50 articles and several books.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 6: Preventing Objections

During a visit to the training center of a leading multinational company, I was invited to watch some sales training in progress. Instead of choosing the Advanced Systems Selling class, as my hosts had perhaps expected, I asked instead if I could sit in on a typical basic-skills program for new salespeople. Entering quietly at the back of the room, I looked around. The students all had that unnatural attentive cleanliness that goes with being new to sales. Their instructor, recently promoted from the field, was launching with great vigor into his favorite topic -- objection handling. You couldn't have imagined a more typical scene. It could have been Day 2 of any basic sales-training program in any large corporation.

"The professional salesperson," the instructor began, "welcomes objections because they are a sign of customer interest. In fact, the more objections you get, the easier it will be for you to sell." The class, duly impressed, wrote this down. Meanwhile I groaned behind my mandatory visitor's smile. Here was yet another new generation of salespeople at the receiving end of one of the most misleading myths in selling. Still, as a visitor it would have been improper for me to comment, so I continued to smile through an hour of objection-handling techniques until the coffee break.

During the break, I talked with the instructor. "Did you believe what you were saying in there," I asked, "that stuff about the more objections, the easier to sell?"

"Yes," he replied. "If I didn't believe it, I wouldn't be teaching it."

I hesitated. Clearly theinstructor and I had opposite views about objection handling. It would have been easier to drop the subject, but he'd been kind enough to let me into his class, so I felt I owed him something in return. I asked, "You've been a successful sales performer for several years, haven't you?"

"Yes," he replied with some pride. "I've been with the company five years and I've made President's Club for the last three."

"Look back at your own sales experience," I urged him. "Five years ago, when you were new, did you receive more or fewer objections from your customers than you're getting now?"

He thought for a moment. "More, I guess." Then, as he remembered back, he added, "You know, in the two years when I was new, I seemed to get objections all the time."

"So in those first two years when you were facing all those objections, did you have good sales figures?"

"No," he said uncomfortably. "In fact, my sales weren't too good until my third year with the company."

Pressing the point, I asked him, "Then you did a lot better in that third year?"

"Yes, that was the year I first made President's Club."

"And how about objections? It sounds as if you had more objections in your unsuccessful years. How does that tie in with what you said in class about the more objections, the more successful the call will be?"

He considered the point for a while and said, "You're right. When I look back, I faced many more objections when I was unsuccessful. Perhaps I'm teaching the wrong message."

I had to admire him. Most people -- given the astonishing human capacity for dismissing unwanted evidence -- would have dodged the issue and held to their initial position. But the class was reconvening and I had to finish my tour of the facility, so I didn't have time to talk more with the instructor about objection handling. If we'd had more time, I would have told him:

  • Objection handling is a much less important skill than most training makes it out to be.
  • Objections, contrary to common belief, are more often created by the seller than the customer.
  • In the average sales team, there's usually one salesperson who receives 10 times as many objections per selling hour as another person in the same team.
  • Skilled people receive fewer objections because they have learned objection prevention, not objection handling.
To explain these findings, I'll have to go back to the discussion of Features, Advantages, and Benefits in Chapter 5. You'll remember the definitions of these three behaviors and their links to success in sales of different sizes. One of my colleagues, Linda Marsh, carried out some correlation studies to check whether there are statistically significant links between each of these behaviors and the most probable responses they produce from customers. For example, when sellers use a lot of Features in calls, do customers respond in a different way than in calls where fewer Features are used? She discovered that Features, Advantages, and Benefits each produce a different behavioral response from customers.

Features and Price Concerns

Customers are most likely to raise price concerns in calls where the seller gives lots of Features. Why is this? It seems that the effect of Features is to increase the customer's sensitivity to price. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if you happen to be selling low-cost products that are relatively rich in Features.

Consider the psychology of the advertisement shown in Figure 6.3. This features-rich product is being sold in a way that works well with cheaper goods. You can imagine a television commercial: "We give you multiplication, division, subtraction ... and what do you think that's worth? Well, don't answer yet because you also get mark-up and mark-down percentages -- which is something you don't usually find on watches 10 times the price. And we also give you..." Throughout history, using Features this way has helped sell lower-priced goods. Why? Because Features increase price sensitivity. By listing all the Features, the customer comes to expect a higher price. When the product turns out to be much cheaper than its competition, the increased price sensitivity causes the buyer to feel extra positive about the lower price tag.

I chose a watch example, rather than an industrial product, because there's something unique about watches. In no other market that I can think of is there such an enormous price difference between competitors.

Now consider the advertisement shown in Figure 6.4. This watch is almost 100 times as expensive as the one in Figure 6.3. Do you think you'd be more likely to buy this expensive watch if there was a list of Features down the side of the advertisement to help persuade you? Not on your life! With top-of-the-market products, the price concern created by Features will make people less likely to buy. A list of Features would probably make you ask yourself questions about whether the expensive watch was worth it.

Too Many Features: A Case Study

The relationship between Features and price concerns isn't just a theoretical point that applies only to advertisers. It has clear implications for sales strategy. A major U.S.-based multinational corporation once called us in to help it with a problem. The corporation had been facing tough Japanese competition in its primary marketplace, particularly at the lower end of its product range. The Japanese products were richly featured and, as you might expect, somewhat less expensive than its own machines. As market share began to erode, the corporation looked for alternatives to price cutting. One attractive possibility was to introduce a new product with more Features that could compete directly with the Japanese machines. Such a machine would still be a little more expensive, but because of its added Features, it would provide a much stronger marketplace offering.

But who would sell this new product? The corporation decided to recruit part of the sales force from the competition. After all, nobody knew as much about how to sell these richly featured machines as the people who'd been successful sellers for the Japanese competitor. It seemed, on the face of it, a plausible strategy -- recruiting experienced sellers while simultaneously weakening the competition by raiding its best people. The corporation's agents approached those salespeople who'd been very successful selling the cheaper Japanese machines and succeeded in recruiting some of the competitor's top people.

Unfortunately, these new people's sales results were deeply disappointing. The competition's superstars performed no better than the existing sales force. While trying to discover what was going wrong, I talked with several of the people recruited from the competition and found them puzzled and dejected at their sudden fall from success. "It's price," they explained. "The product's too expensive; we get price objections all the time." And they were right. When we traveled with them on calls, we found that the number of price objections they received from customers was 30 percent higher than for the rest of the sales force who were selling the same product. Why? We couldn't write it off as pure coincidence when two sections of a sales force selling an identical product received different levels of price objections from their customers.

The answer lay in their use of Features. While selling for the cheaper competitor, these salespeople had developed a selling style very high in Features. This was very successful because, as we've seen, Features increase customers' price concerns. But because their product was cheaper, the price concern worked to their advantage. Now that they were selling for a more expensive competitor, the high level of Features they were giving worked against them. Their Features increased price concern and, because their product was more expensive, this turned customers toward the cheaper competitor. I presented our findings to the V.P. of Sales for the division. As he wryly remarked, "Right now, they seem to be doing a better job of selling for our competition than when our competition employed them." How could we help? Not, I suggested, by teaching them how to handle price objections. That was just a symptom. It would be more effective to treat the cause and help these new people adopt a selling style more appropriate to a top-of-the-market product. So we retrained them in SPIN questioning techniques so that they could use a high-Benefits style. As a result, their sales increased, price objections dropped, and the price issues were soon forgotten. ...

Table of Contents

Sales Behavior and Sales Success.
Obtaining Commitment: Closing the Sale.
Customer Needs in the Major Sale.
The SPIN Strategy.
Giving Benefits in Major Sales.
Preventing Objections.
Preliminaries: Opening the Call.
Turning Theory into Practice.

Customer Reviews

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SPIN Selling 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Sandy_Schussel More than 1 year ago
As a sales and marketing trainer and coach for professionals, I discovered Neil Rackham's book while looking for a simple way of explaining the techniques that distinguish larger, more complicated sales from small quick sales.

This book provided exactly what I was looking for. SPIN is an easy way to remember to ask more questions--and more meaningful questions--and the discussion of how to raise the level of need from "implicit" to "explicit" and then sell to the "explicit" need was a brilliant way of explaining what the best professionals I've worked with have learned to do.

In my own book,The High Diving Board: How to Overcome Your Fears and Live Your Dreams, I used a simple 10-step template like this to help people overcome the fears that keep them from doing what they need to do to be successful.

Rackham supports his template with hard research, but anyone who watches top professionals sell their services can instantly recognize the accuracy of what he presents.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Whether or not the SPIN approach is the best for selling potato peelers, it certainly is the best for big ticket items. I have been in sales since 1975 and am now semi-retired. In the course of those years, I have read literally every book in my local library on sales, plus every book that pertained to real estate sales that I could find 'more than 400 by actual count'. Although this was neither of the above, I found my way to it as well. This book focuses on making the sale even though it may take days, weeks or months. It is not a book that tells you which data base to get or that a certain time is best to call prospects 'the best time to call is when the prospect is awake'. Unlike so many of the early books on sales, it is not a book of gimmicks ''Roll the pen at the customer, s/he'll pick it up, then getting him/her to sign is easy'... what BS'. Rather this is the psychoanalysts book of sales in the sense that the sales person asks the questions needed to allow the client to uncover his or her own hidden needs and biases. Then, still often using a questioning technique, the sales person helps to customer to see, both logically and emotionally, that the product offered effectively meets those needs. By leading the customer/client to draw the conclusion rather than the sales person drawing it for the customer, the customer becomes vested in the outcome, to the benefit of both. It won't work for you if you are selling a grossly inferior product. But if that's the case, why not find a better company to work for? The work book (separate from this book) is also a worthwhile investment in addition to, not instead of, this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am new to sales, but I have read a number of other books including How to Master the Art of Sales and Sales for Dummies, however those books teach an approach that made me feel like a car salesman. This book breaks it down into 4 types of questions, and what his research showed works the best. He also talks about the best way to get commitment, how to dodge objections, (most sales training teaches you that objections are good but his research shows that most objections are caused by what the seller has said to the prospect and that it is not good and results in fewer sales) It's hands down the best sales book I've ever read and I've already used it in two real life situations with positive outcomes. If you digest the information in this book and apply it you will see a major return on your minor 30 dollar investment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Finally a sales book worth reading. I highly recommend this book to anyone in sales with a lot of experience or none at all. The SPIN selling technique is the most simple, practical and useful sales tool that I have ever learned.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 solutions 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 salespeopl
Guest More than 1 year ago
Neil Rackham has put together an invaluable tool for sales professionals. Any sales manager or trainer who has not read this book is very likely teaching outdated, and probably damaging techniques to their team. I especially appreciated the research proving, and at times disproving effectiveness of the various actions sales people take. I will be practicing these skills and developing some new training for the sales people I work with right away!
markdeo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great book on Sales. Really enjoyed the insight on "Implied Need" & "Explicit Need. A methodical approach. I thought this book was a breath of fresh air compared to other books on selling. I highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent resource for any sales staff. I have been using for years and have always gotten immediate results!
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