To be really effective at selling professional services you need to leverage not just traditional capture, marketing, and sales staff, but also the efforts of your project staff that interact onsite with the client.
The approach I recommend uses “investigation skills”—or questioning—to help both “sellers and doers” determine not only the “as is” situation in the client account, but also helps to flush out specific needs and preferences of the client. This traditional commercial sales technique and questioning architecture is sometimes called “SPIN selling”. SPIN® is an age-old approach that earned a bad reputation simply because of the negative connotation of the word SPIN. When, in actuality, S-P-I-N is simply a mnemonic to help practitioners remember the four types of questions they should use to uncover and develop client needs:
- Situation questions are rooted in learning facts and background about the “as is” situation
- Problem questions probe to learn about problems, difficulties, or dissatisfaction that the client may have
- Implication questions strive to escalate urgency by identifying effects or
- Need-Payoff questions are used to determine the usefulness or value of a given solution
SPIN selling is ideal for professional services firms because the interview technique is especially powerful when used not only during an official sales call, but also throughout the entire sales and project delivery process.
Questions are a powerful communications tool. You may in fact already employ this technique naturally. If not in your professional life, certainly in your personal life. For instance, you would like your child to take a coat with them when they leave the house to meet friends at a neighborhood park a mile away. You recommend this and they object. You then may ask, “What will you do if you get all the way to the park and it begins to rain?” This is an example of an implication question. And, as your child begins to think through and even talk through their response, they will likely come to their own conclusion that they should in fact bring a jacket along. This example may seem trivial, but the same principles hold true in client conversations.
My recent APMP Journal article, “How to SPIN More Awards Out of Thin Air,”uses real world examples, from the Federal space, of employing SPIN questions to uncover and develop client needs at various stages of the government sales lifecycle.