“If you can’t solve a problem for your customer, then there’s no basis for a sale. But if you uncover problems you can solve, then you’re potentially providing the buyer with something useful.”
The quote above comes from Neil Rackham, the author of SPIN Selling. I believe this quote gets at the heart of SPIN selling—and value-based selling in general. Your prospects face challenges every day, and you are in a unique position to help them solve those challenges. But how can you help your customers see their challenges in a light that will motivate them to explore your solutions?
This post will provide you with fourteen example SPIN questions you can use to help your prospects better understand their challenges and your solution.
Example SPIN Questions: What Are SPIN Questions
You need some baseline information to get the most out of this article. Most importantly, you need to understand what a SPIN question is.
SPIN is an acronym that stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need. The technique associated with these questions is based on your ability to guide your sales conversations using questions that get at the heart of these four things for your prospect.
Rackham’s SPIN model has greatly influenced my work and my view of sales. SPIN Selling is all about positioning yourself as a trusted advisor to your prospects by truly trying to understand their challenges and provide them with as much value as possible.
If you want to write your own SPIN questions, you need to understand which element of SPIN you’re targeting with the question:
- Situation questions collect facts
- Problem questions probe for pain points
- Implication questions urge the prospect to understand the consequences of the pain point
- Need questions aim to uncover the benefits the prospect wants from their solution
Situation questions don’t tend to create a great deal of value for the prospect. Still, these questions are necessary in any sales conversation.
You use situation questions to learn some of the basic information you will need to help your prospective clients improve their results. You need to ask as many of these questions as you need to converse with your contacts without asking so many questions that the client feels its a waste of their time.
Situation questions you might use are questions like:
- What are you doing now?
- How often do you need to stop production to maintain your equipment?
- How many people work on that machine?
- What is their average pay rate, and how many hours are normally down?
You ask questions about your client’s problems so you can start a more interesting conversation with your contacts.
These questions can create value, as your contacts hoped that you would be able to help them overcome their problems and improve their results. The art of sales is found in good and effective questions. At the same time, you should already know what kind of problems your clients have and what they need to do about them.
Here are some sample problem questions:
- What causes the machine to need so much downtime?
- How long does it take to for maintenance to get the machine back online?
- Are you paying for people who are not able to work?
Implication questions are the compelling reasons your prospective client needs to change. You aren’t compelling change as much as you are helping the client to recognize the cost of not addressing their problems. When you are sitting across from your contacts, they are aware of what their problems cost.
Use implication questions like these:
- How does this impact your clients?
- What do your clients do when you can't deliver what they need?
- How much does this cost you when you lose production?
- Have you lost orders to competitors?
I have watched salespeople use SPIN without ever using a Need-Payoff question. Need questions lead the client. Many people feel uncomfortable asking these questions, but there is nothing wrong with leading the client.
I would ask them without leading the client. Like, "How would your results change if you didn't have problem X?" You want the client to come up with the benefits without you giving them the answers.
Some sample need questions include:
- How would your results change if you didn't have to shut down your machine and you kept all your people working their whole shift?
- How would your relationship with your clients change?
- Who else would benefit from this change, if it was possible?
Using These Example SPIN Questions
These examples should give you a solid base of understanding for crafting SPIN questions specific to your business, industry, and prospects.
No one’s work has influenced my work more than Neil Rackham. His work made perfect sense to me and helped me win very large deals. Following the format offered by Rackham’s SPIN selling technique is a great way to steer the sales conversation and advance the sale in a way that feels organic while still following a proven formula.
Adapting these example SPIN questions for your team is a great start, but to really crush your targets, you need to provide your team with all the resources they need to advance every sale. The most important resource they need is language—knowing what to say to move the conversation forward.
My Sales Accelerator program offers your team the talk tracks they need to confidently open conversations, create opportunities, and move sales forward. Check out the Accelerator today.