Continuing my quest to read books and get more educated on all things sales, I wrapped up SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. I went through this book twice. First, to pick up the low-hanging fruit, and then a second go to better absorb.
SPIN is one of the preeminent B2B sales books. In fact, the book broke ground on the factors for successful complex sales vs. transactional. In fact, Rackham identified why many sales training methods at the time were ineffective –methods were well-suited for transactional sales, but fell short for complex sales. The book lay the ground work for other sales studies like The Challenger Sale.
My take-aways:
  • Transactional vs. complex sales… The book did a great job at identifying why many closing techniques worked for simple sales, but failed for complex sales. Two of the more important points here were how the product/ service held such a primary role in the buying process of transactional sales. However, complex sales were about risk mitigation and addressing specific buying criteria.
  • Successful B2B sales persons excelled in the discovery process of sales – identifying pain points, understanding the implications, and illustrating the pay-off of the product/ service they were selling. This can be broken down in to SPIN – situation, problem identification, implication of problems, and needs pay-off.
  • Most sales professionals can perform situational and problem identification questions. However, successful sales more closely related to implication question and need pay-off questions. Implication questions can be thought of “sad” questions (lead to some quantitative cost or pain). Need pay-off, however, is all about “happy” questions (lead to some positive outcome, i.e. “what type of lift would this provide your sales team?”).
  • Though the preliminaries of a call are important in establishing some baseline of rapport, the goal of the call is to get an advancementof the sale – “a commitment”. Rackham identifies every successful sale can be broken down into four parts – preliminaries, investigation, demonstrating capability, and obtaining commitment.
  • There’s a big difference between features, advantages, and benefits. Though, many times, advantages are misconstrued as benefits, they are different in how they address explicit pain points to a prospect. This is the primary difference as Rackham states – benefits address the customer. Advantages can be fact-based – a prospect will be able to do XX. A benefit is what a prospect would experience – YY outcome. It’s important to note that selling by features is a major selling mechanism for low-cost, simple products/ services.
  • The best sales professionals address potential objections early so they never become objections. In this way, the best sales professionals experience less sales objections. If there’s an objection, it’s possible there has not been a strong enough understanding of the needs of the customer, or demonstration of how the solution can solve the explicit pain.

Rackham’s SPIN Selling is another fantastic read for… really anyone. We’re all in sales in some way shape or form. It’s beneficial to understand sales from a psychological perspective, if not to also understand how others sell to us.

It took me a little longer than I thought, but I just finished Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson’s The Challenger Sale.
Another great book recommendation from a sales rep who was actually selling to me. This book builds on the SPIN Selling as the next big innovation in sales.
Needless to say, I learned a lot from the book, and enjoyed it immensely. In fact, after just reading the first few chapters, I started to hack my selling style immediately to be more Challenger-oriented.
What was interesting was that out of the different selling personas, the Relationship Builder typically had the lowest sales success. This was daunting for me as I typically harp on the importance of relationships, and though, I do take on several attributes of a Challenger (like teaching and tailoring, especially), I still may be very Relationship-oriented.
Here are my take-aways from the book:
  • In today’s noise-filled world, Challenger sales reps focus and drive value for prospects from the get-go. They are focused. They are tenacious.
  • The essence of the Challenger sale is about teaching prospects insights they do not know about their industries, tailoringthe solution for the prospects’ businesses, and taking control of the sales process.
  • Relationship builders focus on convenience for customers while Challengers focus on delivering value. Challengers are comfortable pushing prospects out of their comfort zones – challenging prospects to think differently.
  • Prospects are looking for ways to get the competitive advantage – new ways to cut costs, increase sales, expand markets. It’s about insight, and this is how Challengers approach sales. They provide insight into the industry and highlight a problem the prospect didn’t know he had, and they hammer home the urgency to solve it.
  • Marketing is the “insight generating machine” arming sales reps with quality material to teach and engage prospects. This is one of the reasons why infographics, white papers, and case studies are valuable collateral for reps.
  • The Challenger builds a team of advocates to ensure the buyer has backing – mitigate the risk of the buyer.
  • The Challenger teaches why the problem is urgent; else, the customer won’t see the importance of solving it (now).
  • Sales leadership is about sales innovation – how leaders can move stagnant deals forward. Sales innovation is the single biggest sales-related attribute of a world-class sales manager.
  • Sales success is about being able to tackle the things you don’t know, not about what you do know. It’s about being creative and innovative to solve problems.
  • “Be memorable, not agreeable.”

Great read especially as a relatively “young” sales professional not having formal experience before diving in when Body Boss was started. Next up for sales book reading – Predictable Revenue.