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SPIN Selling



Book reviews > SPIN Selling

Situation | Problem | Implication | Need-Payoff


Neil Rackham, in this classic book shows how classic sales techniques such as closing and objection-handling can actually reduce your chance of selling, especially in big business-to-business sales situations, where buyers are savvy to the classic tricks.

Overall, the method, like many other approaches, is a 'hurt and rescue' approach. You find their problem and 'hurt' them by exposing the terrible things that might happen (spot the use of tension). Then you rescue them with your product.

The four question types are described below. There's much more detail in the original book, with even more practical detail in the SPIN Selling Fieldbook.

Situation questions

In big sales, minimize the small talk and focus on finding background detail that can be used to make sense of the buyer's business situation. Context creates meaning. This is about understanding the wider context before you zoom into the details. 

Problem questions

Ask questions to uncover problems which your product can address. If you are selling tractors, ask about maintenance costs, breakdowns and so on. If you are selling life insurance, ask about how many dependents the person has.

A trap here is to dive straight into presenting the benefits of what you are selling. You may know the problem, but they do not! Going straight to the sales pitch will just get you objections.

Implication questions

Instead of telling them the problem they have (which is also likely to raise objections), the goal is now to get them to see (and feel!) the problem. By asking questions which draw out the implications of the problem, they get to feel the pain that will drive them towards your product. This is the 'hurt' of Hurt and Rescue.

For example, the person selling tractors might ask about implications of unplowed fields whilst the life insurance salesperson could carefully ask what would happen to the children if the target person died or became very ill.

Need-Payoff questions

Having hurt the target person with your implications, you now give them a straw to grasp at by asking how their pain could be resolved. With careful questions, you can get them to the state where they are asking for your product even before you show it to them. This is a very neat 'rescue' of Hurt and Rescue, where they either rescue themselves or ask you to rescue them.

For example, the tractor sales person can ask how much better the tractor was like when it was new, or whether any of the farmer's neighbors have solved problems of old and problematic tractors. The insurance sales person could ask questions that build pictures of the target person's children being safe and secure whatever curve-balls the world might throw at the family.


Overall, this is a superb salesperson's book, particularly if you are engaged in Relationship Selling and a must-have for persuaders in all professions. If it's not in your bookshelf, it's probably because it's in your hand!

See also


Buy Me

Neil Rackham, SPIN Selling, McGraw Hill, 1996

An absolute classic (originally published in 1987 as 'Making Major Sales' which shows through massive research how classic sales techniques fail miserably in big-business, and that you can get greater success by asking a sequence Situation, Problem, Implication and Need-Payoff questions. See also the review of this book.



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