consultative selling, 'needs-creation' selling, and 'SPIN Selling®

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Consultative selling involves deeper questioning of the prospect, about organizational and operational issues that can extend beyond the product itself. This leads to greater understanding of the prospect's wider needs, (particularly those affected by the product), and the questioning process itself also results in a greater trust, rapport, and empathy between sales-person and buyer. The process has been practised instinctively in good sales people and organizations for many years, particularly since the 1970's, especially for concept selling or service solutions selling, driven by competitive pressures, as buyers began to learn as much about the sales process and techniques as the sales people themselves. In the 1970's and 1980's various proprietary frameworks and models were established, and many of these remain in use today. The 'needs-creation' selling approach is example of consultative selling. It's more involving (of the client) than the essentially one-way prescriptive Seven Steps method, but it is still largely centred on what the supplier wants, rather than helping the buyer. In 'needs-creation' selling, the sales-person seeks to identify and then 'enlarge' a particular need, problem, challenge or issue that a potential customer faces. Obviously the sales-person would must have a reasonable confidence that the supplier organisation is able to offer a suitably matched remedy or solution (product and/or service proposition) once the 'need', with all of its attached considerable and negative strategic and financial implications, are firmly established in the buyer's mind. The consultative aspect exists hopefully in the sales-person's ability, experience and expertise, to 'consult' with the buyer in developing a solution, which of course entails the supplier organisation provision of product and/or service. The process is rather like the process employed by professional consultants in all sorts of 'professional' and 'technical' disciplines (for example, engineering, health and safety, law, finance, IT, etc): 1. Research the prospective customer organisation to confirm suitable prospect profile (subject to the supplier's prospect qualification criteria), and competitor threats, opportunities, contract review dates, past dealings, etc.

2. Establish rapport and seller's professional credentials with the client (typically by referencing case-histories and case-studies for successful solutions provided in similar markets and applications that are similar to those of the prospective client). 3 Ask 'strategic' open questions to identify, explore and develop areas of potential problems, difficulties, aims, challenges and unresolved issues within the prospect organisation. Normally identify and agree on a single primary issue (which represents both a major concern for the buyer, and a relevant area of product and/or service opportunity for the seller.) This could be a 'distress' or emergency pressure, priority, or threat, for example an issue which the prospect is involved in 'fire-fighting' to resolve currently, such as legislative compliance; or a strategic development opportunity for market or business development, to which significant potential profit, costsavings and/or competitive advantage are attached. 4. Interpret, clarify, extend and quantify in financial and strategic terms the knock-on effects of the primary area of opportunity or threat. That is to say, what are all the negative effects and costs of failing to resolve the threat or pressure?, or what are all the positive effects and revenues/profits that will be derived from achieving the identified strategic opportunity? The sales person is effectively doing three things here: a) Increasing the size and cost/value of the issue heightens the issue's priority and importance, and thus increases the buyer's feeling that action must be taken - it gets the issue higher up the buyer's agenda and closer to the front of his/her project schedule. b) Increasing the size and complexity of the issue increases the need and opportunity for consultative advice - the buyer increases his/her perception that outside expertise (from the seller) is required. b) Increasing the costs or values associated with the issue naturally increases the buyer's tolerance and expectations for the cost of the supplier's proposed product/service solution - the higher the cost or value of the challenge, then the higher the cost of the solution. 5. Sell the principle of the seller's solution (necessarily in outline for large prospects - small, simple situations often require specific solutions proposals at this stage), matching the benefits of the solution to the various aspects of the prospect need or strategic opportunity. For larger prospects it is commonly necessary to agree to proceed with a survey or assessment prior to producing a fully detailed proposal. A large complex proposal would typically need to be presented by the

sales-person, or a team from the seller's organisation, to a board or decision-making team within the prospect organisation. The final point referring to a buying organisation's decision-making team provides a clue as to the weaknesses of these traditional supplier-orientated selling methods. Decision-making within organisations, particularly large ones, is a highly complex process. Often the organisation, and certainly the buyer, does not understand it, let alone be able or willing to explain it to an outsider. Buyers rarely explain everything to a sales-person during a consultative meeting, however good the sales-person is. This is not a criticism of buyers - simply an acknowledgement of the extremely complex nature of organisational decision-making. As such, consultative selling and 'needs-creation' selling, howsoever packaged, don't always provide a reliable selling framework for the modern age. Buyers and customer organisations often need more help, especially in the early stages of the sales process. They need help with their own processes of evaluation and assessment, decision-making, communications, and implementation, which traditional 'consultative selling' alone is unable to address in a true and meaningful sense. For this reason, if you seek to become a truly expert and effective sales person modern selling and business, I would urge you to look beyond the traditional methodologies, to the modern philosophy and concepts contained in collaborative and facilitative selling, especially the ideas developed and defined by Sharon Drew Morgen.

neil rackham's 'SPIN Selling®' model
Neil Rackam's SPIN Selling® model is a fine example of a consultative selling process and 'needs-creation selling'. It was developed by Neil Rackham in the 1970's-80's, from his extensive 12-year study into successful selling behaviour in 20 leading sales organizations, in 23 countries, involving analysis of data from 35,000 sales calls. Rackham's book 'Spin Selling' is one of the biggest selling on the subject of sales, and the SPIN® methodology remains a mainstay of his Huthwaite training organization. Rackham's SPIN® model is in simple terms: S - Situation P - Problem

I - Implication N - Need (or Need-payoff) In other words: 1. Discuss, understand or explain the situation with the prospect. 2. Next identify the problem that exists or could arise. 3. Explain, discuss or understand the implication of the problem for the prospect's business (ie., what organizational improvement can potentially be achieved). 4. This effectively creates a need or opportunity to rectify the problem (by selling the sales person's product/service) - the 'payoff'. SPIN® endures as one of the most versatile, memorable and useful sales models. Note that SPIN® and SPIN SELLING® methods and materials are subject to copyright and intellectual property control of the Huthwaite organisations of the US and UK. SPIN® and SPIN SELLING® methods and materials are not to be used in the provision of training and development products and services without a licence. See SPIN® copyright details.

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