Problem: The Real Starting Point in a Sale


Today, another article in our series comes out analyzing each step of SPIN Selling.
If you haven’t seen the first part yet, check out how getting the Situation questions wrong can make you miss an easy sale!
To keep pace, we have to talk about the second stage of SPIN: PROBLEMS!

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  1. What you need to know before starting
  2. What is a Problem Question?
  3. Problem Questions do not generate sales

What you need to know before starting

I really like Neil Rackham and the whole SPIN Selling methodology, but we have to agree that there has been a lot of change in the last 20 years across the market.
And, of course, a methodology that emerged before the 1990s, when the internet was still in its infancy to reach the end consumer, ends up undergoing changes and adaptations.
One of the factors that greatly changed the way to sell was the availability of information over time. The internet offers us a lot, as it is possible to know more not only about the target company but also about the people with whom you will be doing business.
Pre-prospecting research started to take more time and generate more assertiveness in the speech, increasing conversion. After all, if you have more information before contacting a prospect, you can use it to your advantage to find the arguments that will lead to conversion!
For this same reason, the Situation Questions decreased exponentially in calls, emails and meetings. The information is already there, just look for it before speaking. 🙂

Question Problem: The Starting Point for a Negotiation

We are now on the same level and we already know that Situation questions are no longer so useful.
The ironic thing is that the very results of the surveys that culminated in SPIN Selling showed that inexperienced salespeople asked a lot of Situation questions and created a dull and tiring scenario for their leads.
At the same time, more experienced salespeople asked a lot more Problem Questions. They understood that the prospect was only really interested in the conversation when they began to realize that they would have some benefit there, that is, that they had a problem to be solved!
The perceived value, then, began. This is where you can really say you are entering a negotiation or at least one in which there is mutual interest.
And, naturally, in a big sale, as is the focus of SPIN Selling, it becomes even more necessary to generate value, after all, the risk of buying is great (since the investment is much greater than in a simple sale, in general).
In the next article in this series, on Implication Questions, we’ll dig deeper, but for now, it’s worth pointing out that bigger problems have bigger implications (don’t you, Peter?).
Peter!

What is a Problem Question?

This one is easy and you, of course, already perform this step of SPIN, but maybe you didn’t know its name.
A problem question serves to find a real pain that your prospect experiences and, therefore, it generates engagement. By defining a common problem, the salesperson begins to build empathy and demonstrate that they can generate real value.
Some good examples of problem questions are:

“Are you satisfied with [competitor solution]?”
“Is it difficult to track your team’s results through Excel spreadsheets?”
“Isn’t it complicated to do this task with the tools you have today?”

Easy job! 😉

Problem Questions do not generate sales

Excellent! You’ve found a problem and now you just have to present your solution, right?
It bears repeating: defining a problem is only the first step in a successful negotiation.
For simple sales, defining a problem is usually a great first step. All that remains is to close the sale, after all, the risk is low and a diagnosed problem is, sometimes, enough.
However, in complex sales, things get more complicated, as the name suggests.
Problem questions clarify the existence of an implicit need, that situation where the prospect knows the problem he has, but still does not organize the ideas to define exactly the consequences of continuing to suffer…
To close a complex sale, where logic overrides the emotional and investments are greater, it is natural that you need to transform these implicit needs into explicit ones.
After all, how much money does the company lose with a given problem? How much could she save with her solution? How soon will the investment be returned?
I bet you’ve heard any of these questions, haven’t you?

Keeping the negotiation successful

Mastering the art of finding problems is important for a successful salesperson (and the hefty commissions they bring!).
However, one sentence demonstrates well what is left after defining a problem.