Selling is a critical business skill every business leader must have, yet many struggles with or just dislike selling. In many cases, the business leader hates being sold to – therefore this can be a real block in achieving sales success.

Having an understanding of the sales process, and a structured approach when engaging in sales conversations will help you sell more effectively to your customers. Without a systematic process, the sales journey becomes haphazard, your customers get confused, and the process feels uncomfortable for both parties. This confusion often leads to failure to close the sale and achieve an agreement to proceed.

The Four Stages of Selling

All selling is based upon building rapport and a relationship first and foremost. Without this fundamental, a sale is highly unlikely to proceed. If it does, repeat business is unlikely, and cancellation of an order is highly probable.

There are four stages of a sales meeting. Those people that do not have sales success do not cover all four, or spend too much time in the wrong stage.

The stages are:

  1. Preliminaries stage – before selling begins, there are introductory or ice-breaker conversations that take place. This is a really important part of the process to build connections and trust. Finding common ground through positively discussing mutual connections, discussing family, sport or other interests can really help to create a connection and build trust. Another critical factor of the preliminaries stage is that it allows your prospect to clear other items that are on their mind and focus on what it is that you want to talk about.  A very simple open-ended question like, “so how are you going?” allows your prospect to clear what is top of mind.
  2. Investigating stage – the focus is on discovering your customer’s needs by asking relevant questions. This is the most important stage – and the stage which typically least time is spent.
  3. Demonstrating capability – in this stage of the selling cycle, you will need to show your customers that your product or service is capable of solving their problems.
  4. Obtaining commitment – the aim is to get a commitment from your customers, such as an order, an appointment for the next meeting, or an agreement to trial your product.

The investigating stage is usually where you’ll spend most of the time. This stage is where you get to understand your customer and uncover their needs. Questions play an important role in the investigating stage. Before engaging with your customer, you must do your research and preparation so you know what questions you need to ask. A small investment in time in preparation can help progress a sale significantly and much more rapidly.

Good questions will help control the flow of the sales conversation and help you discover the customer’s needs and problems. Only when you uncover the real issues, you will have a chance to sell your solutions to solve their problems.

Using the SPIN Selling Framework

The SPIN Selling Framework, developed by Neil Rackham, provides a structured framework to help you lead sales conversations with your customers all the way to closing the deal. The SPIN Model is based on asking quality questions in a strategic order, which ultimately guides the customer along the sales journey.

The SPIN model classifies questions into four categories.

  1. Situation questions
  2. Problem questions
  3. Implication questions
  4. Need/payoff questions

Situation questions

Situation questions help to establish the background details and the customer’s current situation. This will also help you frame the rest of the questions accordingly to fit the context. These questions provide real value to you in understanding how a prospective customer might buy, what types of experience they have had in buying your services and products before, how they purchase, and the size of the business.

However, these questions do not add value to the customer. Asking too many situation questions can make your prospect feel interrogated. If this information is available elsewhere, it also shows them you have not done adequate preparation.

Problem Questions

Problem questions help you identify your customer’s problems and pain points to uncover their needs. The right questions will help you identify needs that your prospect may not even have considered before. Only when you have identified your customer’s problems will you be able to provide a solution for them. Great questions around customer problems are more interesting and engaging for your customer.

Implication questions

Implication questions help the customers identify the impact of their problems. In many cases, the potential impact of a problem is dismissed, ignored or considered trivial. Great implication questions amplify the urgency of their problems by highlighting the possible consequences if the situation remains unresolved.

Needs/payoff questions

Needs/payoff questions encourage the customer to focus on the value and the benefits of the solution you are providing. The goal is to let your customer recognise for themselves and articulate to you the benefits of your product or service. Helping your customers draw their own conclusions have a much more powerful impact and allow the prospect to consider how they might sell the solution internally to other stakeholders.

Tips for an effective sales conversation with your customers

Those people that are truly successful at selling feel that they are helping people rather than selling them something.

  • Be genuinely interested in your customer
  • Listen substantially more than you talk
  • Make the conversation about your customer, not about yourself, your company or your products and services
  • Maintain good eye contact
  • Be open to opinions that are different from your own
  • Ask open-ended questions and apply the SPIN model. Asking relevant questions show that you are interested in what your prospective customers are saying and allows you to learn how you can help them more effectively
  • Summarise the conversation and determine the next step to progress the sale

An effective sales conversation is a two-way conversation. Having a structured sales process will help you improve the effectiveness of your sales efforts. Following the SPIN model allows you to keep the conversation focused on your customer’s needs instead of your own. Be attentive and actively listen to what your customer is saying. When you know what is causing difficulties for your customers, you are in a stronger position to help them solve their problems and build a business relationship.

To find out how you can apply the SPIN Selling Framework to your business, contact Emergination for more information on our Sales Workshops.