Spin Selling Summary: 4 Main Questions To Ask Potential Customers

Identifying Uncomfortable Feelings

One of the things I’ve identified in my professional life that’s hard, uncomfortable, and downright zero fun is cold calling and selling. As I reflect on past jobs and projects I’ve worked on, this is the point where I’ve given up. I get super excited about brainstorming new ideas. I go lights out when it comes to building the idea into a tangible product. But….

When it comes time to actually sell the product, I’ve seen myself crave moving on to the next “shiny object.” As I learn more about myself, I’ve realized I deeply enjoy the process of making things. I like seeing ideas turn into products. For most of my life, people have told me that I would be good at sales based on my tenure as an athlete. It seems like everyone automatically categorizes D1 athletes as extroverts based on a competitive nature.Lately, I’ve been more in tune with my introverted side. Extroverted things like sales, networking events, conferences, and large social gatherings drain my energy tanks drastically.

I’ve found that activities like spending time in deep thought, reading, writing, developing high level business strategies, designing websites, and learning to code software give me tons of creative energy.This is where I find myself in “flow” or Deep Work, as Cal Newport calls it. Knowing this about myself, I’m planning to craft my future working habits to double down on my strengths. I plan to place myself around other individuals who get energy from extroverted activities like sales. That’s in an ideal world and work environment. But, let’s take a step back into reality.The reality is that we’re not always going to be in a 100% ideal environment. More often than not, we’ll be put in situations that bring uncomfortability and uneasiness. And we get to make decisions about how to approach these uncomfortable situations. 

In my life, I’ve seen two paths when put under these circumstances: 

  1. I can move on to the next project when the uncomfortable feeling arises. 
  2. I can make a conscious decision to confront this uncomfortable feeling by putting an actionable plan together to overcome it. 

As I mentioned above, I’ve been living my life over the last 5 years choosing option 1 and I’ve decided something has to change if I want to taste success. So, here I am in a tough time working as hard as I can to convince myself to continue choosing option 2 day by day.

Current Reality

My current situation is that I own and operate a 12,000 sq. ft. coworking space in the heart of the RiNo arts district in Denver. The harsh truth is that shit seemed to hit the fan all at once. For whatever reason, the majority of our office tenants have outgrown our space and are moving on to bigger offices. COVID-19 hasn’t helped our cause either. 

It’s expected in the coworking business for companies to grow and move on, just not all at the same time. This leaves me with the current reality of absolutely HAVING to fill some office spaces to keep the doors open. So, in this challenging time, I’ve made it my personal goal to push through the uncomfortableness and double down on learning and practicing the sales process.In the past I’ve been recommended the book, Spin Selling, time and time again but have put it off for reasons discussed earlier in this article. Being placed in the current situation, I figured now would be a good time to read it. 

(In all transparency, this is out of desperation. Not for personal enjoyment)

I’ve put together a summary of the most important process I took from the book in hopes that I can save some other introverts (or non-salespeople) some time when placed in a situation to learn the sales process. I hope you’ll spend 5-10mins of your time reading the summary below in hopes that you won’t end up boring yourself to death reading the whole book. 

Spin Selling In A Nutshell

If I can take one concept from the whole book, it’s the process for asking the correct questions during the sales cycle. The author recommends following the question structure I have outlined below when engaging with a new potential customer or client: 

  1. Situation Questions
  2. Problem Questions
  3. Implication Questions
  4. Need-Payoff Questions

Situation Questions

This is where you’ll begin your sales process. Similar to when you’re meeting someone for the first time, salespeople use Situation Questions to understand facts about the current reality of the customer’s existing situation. Research shows that these types of questions are easy for anyone to ask and are overused by inexperienced sales people. Some examples of Situation Questions are as follows: 

  • What’s your position with the company?
  • How long have you been in this role?
  • Do you make the purchasing decisions?
  • What sort of business do you run? 

While these questions are necessary to understand the situation, experienced salespeople ask minimal Situation Questions. Oftentimes, an experienced salesperson will do their homework early so they can spend time during the sales call asking the next 3 types of questions. 

Problem Questions

Problem Questions are used to identify a customer’s problems, difficulties, inefficiencies, or dissatisfactions. These types of questions are more strongly linked to sales success than Situation Questions. In smaller sales, the link is very strong: the more Problem Questions the seller asks, the greater the chances that the call will be successful. Some examples of Problem Questions are listed below: 

  • Are you satisfied with your present “xyz”? 
  • What are the disadvantages of the way you’re handling this now? 
  • Isn't it difficult to process peak loads with your present system? 
  • Does this old machine give you reliability problems? 

However, in larger sales, Problem Questions are not strongly linked to sales success. Research has shown that it’s easy for inexperienced salespeople to ask Situation and Problem questions. Experienced salespeople take a step further and ask these next two types of questions to close larger deals more often. 

Implication Questions

 Implication questions are used to emphasize the effects, consequences, or implications of the customer’s problems. Research shows that these types of questions are strongly linked to success in larger sales because they build up a customer's perception of value. Some examples of Implication Questions are as follows: 

  • What effect does that have on output? 
  • Could that lead to increased costs? 
  • Will it slow down your proposed expansion? 

These types of questions are particularly effective when selling to decision makers. Decision makers typically speak the language of “implications” rather than problems so they’re more likely to pay attention to you when asking these types of questions. Once you’ve identified implications with the customer, the next step is to get them to tell you in their own words how they’ll benefit from your product. 

Need-Payoff Questions

 It’s important to follow with this second step of the equation by asking Need-Payoff Questions to build the value of the solution being presented. These questions achieve two things:

  1. They focus the customer’s attention on the solution rather than on the problem. 
  2. They get the customer telling you the benefits. 

Some examples of Need-Payoff Questions are below: 

  • Is it important to you to solve this problem? 
  • Why would you find this solution so useful? 
  • Is there any other way this could help you? 


Now that I’ve saved you days worth of your time by providing an overview of the process outlined in Spin Selling, I would recommend going back through each question phase of the process to define specific questions related to your business and customer. You’ll find that some of the example questions are interchangeable and can be used across a wide variety of industries, while on the other hand, you’ll need to tweak some questions by removing a word or two and replacing it with your own.

Here’s to all you other introverts out there overcoming the uneasiness that’s about to come. 

Think of it this way; Each time you practice this process on a customer, you’re one step closer to overcoming your personal fear and uneasiness. With each repetition comes small strides of personal growth.  I hope this summary has been helpful. As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Send me a line on Twitter and let me know your thoughts.

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