Tag Archives: establishing value in sales

Working Backwards to Build Value During Sales Calls

backwards2A number of successful sales professionals will tell you that there are times when “working backwards” can be a great plan!

In fact, in a previous post we referenced the “SPIN” Selling System, which is based on the work of British research psychologist Neal Rackham, and in which Rackham also suggests the practice of “working backwards.”

The premise is that to comprehensively uncover a prospect’s needs we must ask well-crafted questions – preferably in open-ended style. When selecting and forming these questions, sales professionals should “work backwards” from the problems their solutions solve, and then find ways to uncover how their prospects are going about trying to solve those problems.

Like may things in life, simple but not necessarily easy!

But without truly understanding a customer’s or prospect’s needs, priorities and longer-term objectives, along with the “implications” of each, it is difficult if not impossible to optimize the value proposition.

“SP” Selling Can Be Expensive!

missinglinkWe’ve observed a troubling habit that many sales people have fallen-into, which is costing them and their organizations significantly in terms of lost opportunities or unrealized profit.

Perhaps you are familiar with the “SPIN” Selling System, which is based on the work of British research psychologist Neal Rackham.

If so, then you know SPIN is a mnemonic representing a precisely defined sequence of four question types that enables a salesperson to move a selling conversation logically from exploring the customers’ needs to designing and presenting comprehensive, compelling solutions.

The question types are:

  • Situation Questions – to learn about bigger-picture issues and processes
  • Problem Questions – to uncover needs or objectives
  • Implication Questions – to confirm or determine the effect or consequences of the problem (s)
  • Need Payoff Questions – to quantify the benefits of the proposed solutions to the problem (s)

While we shared additional details about “SPIN Selling” in one of our previous newsletters, the point of this article is to share our observation that far too many sales people implement what we’ve termed “SP Selling” instead of a more complete process such as SPIN Selling.

In other words, these reps are pretty good at assessing situations and, to a lesser degree, simple or explicit needs (Problems, as defined by the SPIN method). But then they commit the cardinal selling-sin of making premature presentations.

These presentations are premature because without a more in-depth assessment that incorporates something comparable to the “IN” components of the SPIN Selling System, it is very difficult to establish sufficient value.

Consequently, the resulting “premature” presentation or value-proposition tends to come across as feature-rich and benefits-poor, or sounds more like an old-fashioned sales pitch based more on “what we offer” rather than “what you’ll get.”

One good way sales professionals can avoid this pitfall is to engage in more diligent pre-call planning – in writing!

When done right, this simple step gives the seller a straightforward guideline to follow during sales calls so they avoid the temptation of presenting solutions too early.

If you’re wondering how to define “too early,” consider that if we don’t know the answers to the following two critically-important questions — without those answers beginning with the words “we” or “I” — then we should continue to probe more deeply to uncover needs, implications and the “need payoff” as defined above:

  1. Why should the buyer listen to me or accept my proposed solution?
  2. What measurable benefit or benefits will the buyer’s organization realize if they should do so?

For an example of one simple planning tool that can help you plan the best sales calls in less time, you can download a free “4.0 Planning Tool” from our web site.

As you’ll see, the challenge will be to properly identify the fourth “O.”