Book Review: Spin Selling

I recently finished a book that another consultant recommended called Spin Selling. Many of us consultants are really good at what we consult on but not so great at marketing and selling. So when someone recommends a book to help me improve, I’m all for it.

Now, this book applies beyond sales, but it is primarily for salespeople and sales organizations.


The book is built out of years of research by a group that trains sales organizations on what works compared to what is often taught. They provide data and statistics from their studies and debunk several myths in selling.

They also explain the impact of techniques on large vs small sales as they go through myths and data.

The book is about the SPIN model of selling, which they claim is what the research and data support as most effective compared to other techniques.

In a nutshell, SPIN is about asking questions in a systematic way that helps bring someone to consider buying far more seriously than before.


The first part of SPIN is situation questions. The premise is simple: salespeople must ask situation questions first. Situation questions are groundwork questions that everything builds from.

A situation question would be, “How long have you been trying to solve this issue?”

The book explains that asking the right amount of situation questions is challenging. Too few, and you need more to properly complete the rest of the question progression, but too many will annoy the buyer.


Problem questions try to develop the problem that the buyer has. Now, the essence here is to develop your understanding of the issue and how acute it is.

Similar to situation questions, too few is dangerous, and too many annoys the buyer.

From reading the material, I think this section would be the most natural fit for myself and others to ask questions, and a good way to stop asking too many questions is to test the waters with the next step.

Implicit Needs

Now, this next set of questions is a little tricky to explain, but the idea is that we ask questions that connect the problem to secondary and tertiary issues.

If my client told me their software quality is too low, I might ask an implicit need question like, “Do you think that the low quality has caused you to have a higher headcount to try and compensate?

Lots of consultants struggle with implicit need questions, but this is the most fun part for me. By developing implicit needs, the buyer is realizing the size and depth of their problems beyond the stated one and is likely to create a larger sense of importance and urgency.

Now, as usual, there is a risk here in that implicit need questions are a bit like poking a bear. Because they make problems feel like bigger problems, they put a buyer in a negative frame of mind. So, if you keep asking these, you’ll wind up with an upset buyer even if they agree.

Also, there is a risk that if you don’t have a good sense of the problem, asking the wrong implicit need questions will annoy the buyer immediately because you don’t understand the problem.

I think asking good implicit need questions comes with experience in the domain or industry.


The last part of the SPIN model is the need payoff question, which is almost like inverting the implicit need question.

If the implicit need question makes the problem bigger, the need payoff will make it smaller.

Here’s the same question from above, but reframed: “Do you think that if we solved your quality issue, you could save a lot of money and headcount?”

Hopefully, that reframing to a more solution-oriented stance is obvious.

Now, these are some of the most powerful questions in large sales to get to and generally impactful questions to get to. The trick is to get through the model quickly so you can have some time here in this part of the model.

What I’m Taking Away

I think the SPIN model is a simple and useful little model for when I engage new clients. I also think about its utility when I’m in an engagement as a way to navigate gaining consensus on a course of action.