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SPICIER Selling: A Better SPIN

Readers know I am a fan of Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling. However, I’ve mentioned that his model is a bit awkward; when I am in a sales process and think “SPIN,” the N doesn’t give enough guidance to remember what comes next. So, as previously promised, here is my evolution of Neil’s theme, SPICIER Selling.

The model, like Scharmer and Senge’s Theory U, argues that the most effective path from one point (start of sales discussion) to another (closed sale) is often not a straight line. Rather, by spending time in a deep dive through three stages of Learning, Exploring, and Solving, one builds relationship with the client, with the result of a higher close rate.

Here are the 7 steps of SPICIER Selling:

  1. Situation: what is the client’s context? How big is her business? What are the trends? What are its products and who are the primary customers? Key: don’t spend a lot of time here. Learn what you need and move on.
  2. Problem: what keeps the client up at night? We’re still learning here. We’re open and interested. We want to see the world from the client’s perspective.
  3. Implied Costs: now we begin to explore. What is the meaning of the key problem? How does it create ripples through the client’s business in terms of additional problems, lost sales, hidden costs, etc. And how does it impact the client on a personal level? How does it stress him? Might it limit her career if unsolved? Ask how and why a lot. One implication might lead to other bigger ones.
  4. Clarify: a lot has been said by now that may not be fully coherent. It is time to make connections and lead the client to new explicit insights. “You’ve said that too many orders get cancelled because they’re improperly entered, costing the company thousands of dollars every month, right? So do you need a simpler system?”
  5. Implied Value: once you have identified the real problem, explore what the solution in worth. You may have some of this information through your exploration of implied costs, but the value should go way beyond simply avoiding costs. Again, look at what personal, emotional benefits would accrue from a solution.
  6. Explicit Link to Product Benefits: now we begin to solve. Note that until now, we have not gone near what we are selling. Why should we? Customers don’t buy products; they buy solutions to their problem, so it is counterproductive to talk about your product absent clear understanding of the client’s problems and how she might value a solution. ┬áMost products have multiple benefits and feature, so be choiceful here: focus on the benefits most relevant to the client’s needs. Select those benefits that position your solution as superior to options.
  7. Resolve: time to close or mutually determine what is required to move to the next step.

All of this is in Rackham’s work, but I find SPICIER a bit more granular and useful than SPIN. What do you think?

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