Problem Questions – Spin Selling

Author avatar wrote on 15/08/2018

Problem Questions – Spin Selling

The first of these other questions are Problem Questions. If you are relatively new to selling then practicing problem questions is probably the single most important thing that you can do to improve your sales results.


Problem Questions ask about the difficulties and dissatisfactions the buyer is experiencing and focus the buyer on this pain while clarifying the problem. They give rise to Implied Needs which are the raw material for Implication Questions. An example of a Problem Question could be, “What prevents you from producing a product with lower return rates?”


Inexperienced sales people ask less problem questions than their more experienced colleagues. And not only do more experienced salespeople tend to ask more problem questions they also tend to ask them sooner in the sales meeting.


It should not be surprising that good sales people talk about problems. Well known sales trainer Tom Hopkins has said for years that:


“If you are a professional sales person you are a PPS = Professional Problem Solver.”


It’s logical isn’t it? If everything is OK why would someone want to buy anything? People who buy are either looking to stop something happening they don’t like or looking to have or achieve something they couldn’t get in the past. Moreover, in order to sell you have to uncover problems that you can solve with your product or service.


Problem Questions require planning. SPIN Selling suggests working backwards from the problems your products solves for a buyer to generate these questions. There is a full chapter in the SPIN Selling Handbook that explains how to work backwards to the problems your product (or service) solves.


So, what problems does your product solve?

Write down your answers now.


SPIN also advises that after you identify a problem it’s important to continue revealing and clarifying the problem until you and the buyer share a thorough understanding of the problem.


This is not surprising, I well remember the quote, (but not the author), that says: 


“People do not buy from salespeople because they understand their products but because they felt the salesperson understood their problems.”


I can’t remember the number of times in my sales career that I said, “I get it”. Meaning I had arrived at a true understanding of what the prospect’s problem was. At that point I usually fed back an example of how the problem would function in their business which was greeted with smiles because they knew I had got it. I also think they smiled because so few sales people in the past had “Got it”.


The SPIN research uncovered that top salespeople tended to introduce solutions, products or services very late in the discussion after they had understood the problem and uncovered Explicit Needs.


They held back and discussed the effects of the problem before talking about solutions. They also uncovered several problems before asking implication questions. It can be dangerous to focus on one problem as it invites the buyer to raise another area where you solution does not fare so well. (Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket).




Summary by Greg Woodly

You can get or read more about the book( SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham) here

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