Sales Call Questions Power SPIN Selling: Here's How

sales call questions

Have you heard of the SPIN methodology? Relying heavily on sales call questions, Neil Rackham introduced this approach in his 1988 book, “SPIN Selling.” It promotes taking a consultative approach to sales by relying heavily on question-asking. 

Sales call questions provide the foundation of SPIN

According to the professionals at Highspot, “SPIN selling is a sales methodology where reps organize sales calls using questions from four categories: situation, problem, implication, and need-​payoff.” Doing so allows the sellers to focus on the buyer’s challenges and, through gained knowledge, provide a consultative selling experience. Layers of questions allow sellers to gain a thorough understanding of a prospect and their business, as well as the ability to pinpoint issues a buyer might not even suspect. In turn, this demonstrates value and builds a credible foundation for a relationship–and a sale. 

The four types of SPIN questions

SPIN is an acronym, with its letters referring to the four types of sales call questions the methodology involves:

Situation — help the seller understand specifics about a buyer’s situation, such as goals, processes and other factors. Examples:

  • Can you tell me about your current processes?
  • What tools do you currently use?
  • Why did you invest in these tools?

Problem — allow the seller to uncover any problems or challenges facing the buyer. They also reveal areas of opportunity and how offerings can be of value. Examples:

  • What challenges do you anticipate?
  • Why does this approach work/​not work for you?
  • In a perfect world, what would your approach look like?

Implication — uncover urgency and help reps show why the prospect needs to make a change. Examples:

  • How much does your current approach cost?
  • How much time does your current approach utilize?
  • What goal would you like to achieve that you currently can’t because of [problem]?

Need-​Payoff — show buyers why they need to solve their problem now and what the payoff will be if they choose this solution. These questions are effective at transitioning buyers to the next stage of the sales process. Examples:

  • What would change if you did [approach] differently?
  • How do you think solving [problem] would help you?
  • What would achieving [priority] unlock for your business?

As these questions build on one another, they should be asked in order to be most effective. 

Reps that follow the SPIN selling methodology generally follow the same basic approach to their calls: ​​opening, investigating, demonstrating capability, and finally obtaining commitment,” Highspot’s article notes. It’s also up to sellers to determine which specific questions they use. But as Highspot professionals point out, “this means there are endless ways you can ‘SPIN’ a sales call." 

SPIN best practices

For guidance, they recommend a few best practices:

Ask open-​ended questions. These sales call questions, which invite more than a simple yes or no answer, are very effective at delivering insights and encouraging prospects to respond thoughtfully. And don’t just run through these questions; pay attention to the answers. Active listening is just as important as asking. And be prepared to have conversations. Don’t expect to just run through your questions but rather invite the dialogue they inspire. 

Don’t dominate the conversation. In alignment with active listening, let your sales call questions guide the buyer into taking the lead in conversation. These calls should be about what they have to say, not you. 

Don’t cram in too many questions. SPIN’s success hinges on asking questions, but sellers should be cautious not to overwhelm prospects all at once. As Highspot points out, “But for most businesses, especially ones with complex buyers, it’s likely that your SPIN conversation will happen over a series of calls…So don’t rush — take your cues from your buyer and be prepared to move at their pace, even if you don’t get through all your questions.”

Practice. Like with any sales call, put in the time and effort to practice. Your comfort level with this method will improve which makes for a more natural, smooth and effective delivery. 

With these best practices in mind, consider adding the SPIN method to your own sales process. It works well with other methodologies and can be an effective strategy for consultative sales. For insight into why consultative selling works well with today’s buyers, take a look at SalesFuel’s past articles about the topic. And, don't forget to do your pre-​call research; this vital first step will be what fuels your sales call questions. 

Photo by Peggy Anke

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica reports on sales tips and credibility for SalesFuel. She is a graduate of Ohio University.