Here’s a SPIN on the second-best sales question to ask

“Everyone on my team has been through SPIN sales training, so it’s important that whatever you teach them, it doesn’t go counter to what they’ve learned from SPIN.”

I had no problem years ago following my client’s guidance.  After all, SPIN is a strong program and its millions of dollars of sales attest to its popularity and success.  So let’s begin today’s lesson by reviewing  the acronym SPIN, which explores the prospect’s current SITUATION, the PROBLEMS associated with it, then the IMPLICATIONS those problems have on the prospect’s performance, and finally the NEEDS that arise that you can address.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedThis is a very fine model, but it misses the first key question that any good consultant should ask, which is the question I gave you last week:  describe OPTIMAL.

You can see that if you start with situational questions, you’ll find it harder to get to performance gaps. For example, if I begin to probe about the way you are doing things now (SITUATION), you can easily sidestep most of my questions simply by asserting that you are not affected by the issues that arise, that current performance is just as you expect it to be, and that there is nothing wrong with the way you do things now. It’s harder for me to make progress in getting you to self-discover your problems if I begin with situational questions, and I run the risk that you will find these probes uncomfortable and that you will soon be uncomfortable with me, as if you’re being criticized or picked on.

But watch what happens if I begin my discovery conversation by asking you to describe optimal performance, your strategic priorities, your plans for the current year, or simply what it is you are trying to do, as I showed you last week:

 “I thought perhaps you could share with me the organizational performance you are striving for. What would it look like if you could wave a wand over it?”

“Let’s begin by addressing the most important strategic priorities for the company right now.”

“Share with me what you are trying to do with your receivables.”

Now you can see that with these “OPTIMAL” questions in place, all the SITUATIONAL, or ACTUAL questions that follow will automatically expose GAPS between desired and real, and gaps are what the consultative salesperson is looking for.

“So you’re saying that this process isn’t achieving the desired result.”

 “Then it appears there’s a huge time lag between your billing and your receipt of cash.”

So just to recap where we are:

  1. Ask about optimal performance.
  2. Ask about actual performance, in order to locate a gap.

Next week I’ll give you the third question in this 5-step series.  Anyone want to preempt me and guess what it is?  Meanwhile, remember to…

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: