When it comes to attracting more clients, one area where many small business owners and entrepreneurs get hung up is around how to have an effective “sales conversation” with a potential client.

This is especially important if you get nervous or anxious when it comes selling, or if you don’t want to come across as being too sales-y or pushy.

The best solution is to stick with a proven methodology to ensure you’re saying the right things to your customers at the right time.

One sales conversation technique that’s used by sales people at many large companies is called the SPIN approach. It was developed by Neil Rackham and has been proven around the world to drive better sales.

SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication and Needs-Payoff.

SPIN is all about asking the right questions, in the right order, so that you genuinely understand what your customer really wants and needs—and so that you can position your service or product as the obvious solution.

By structuring your sales conversations in this order, you won’t have to worry about following a script. And yet the conversation will flow naturally so that you’ll be able to help your client see how you can truly help them.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Assess the Situation. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to sell a fireplace to a family living in an igloo. And yet, without realizing it, that’s exactly what many small business owners do when they don’t first take the time to truly understand their potential customer’s current situation.

That’s what this first step in the SPIN methodology is designed to do: help you gain clarity so you can better understand your client’s situation.

A life coach might ask: What does your typical day look like? What is your current career path? Do you have a family? Are you single/married/divorced?

A health coach might ask: How often do you exercise? What type of exercise do you do? What’s your cholesterol level? What’s your endurance level?

A marketing expert might ask: Which products or services do you currently offer?

How many clients do you currently have? What’s your current means of attracting more clients?

A professional organizer might ask: Do you live in a house or an apartment? How much over capacity is your current storage space? What type of things have you accumulated (clothes, toys, antiques, papers, etc.)?

Asking these types of questions will in turn give you the information you need to drive to the next stage in the process: Identifying your client’s core “problem.”

Step 2: Identify the Problem. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and found yourself say, “Wow. I never thought of it that way before?” Well, many times a prospective client will not be entirely aware of all the problems that exist as a result of their situation until you help bring it to light.

In this step…

A life coach might ask: What do you wish you had more time for? What are you most unhappy with? What are you tolerating? How would you describe your feelings most days?

A health coach might ask: How well is your current exercise routine working for you? How much over your target weight/measurements are you now? What dress size do you want to be?

A marketing expert might ask: Are you achieving your income goals? Is your business filled to capacity? Are you charging what you’re worth?

A professional organizer might ask: Where are the biggest trouble spots in your house? Are you paying for extra, off-site storage space? Are you not able to use your garage or basement because of the items you’ve accumulated?

Keep in mind that when asking problem questions, it may be important to ask clarifying situational questions along the way.

Once you have a strong understanding of the problems a client is facing due to his or current situation, you will be better able to ask Implication questions, which are designed to help you understand the effect your client’s problem is having on his or her business or life.

Step 3: Evaluate the Implication

As the “solution provider,” it’s your job to help your client understand the implication or impact that their problem is having on their business or their life. Often times you’ll find your potential client has never thought about it in this way.

A life coach might ask: How is working so many hours affecting your kids? What things are you missing out on because of your current lifestyle? How is this problem affecting your marriage? Your stress level?

A health coach might ask: What are you no longer able to do because of your physical pain/weight/lack of confidence? What are you most afraid could happen because of your current health?

A marketing expert might ask: How is not having enough clients affecting your standard of living? Are you having to work a second job? How does not reaching more people with your message make you feel?

A professional organizer might ask: How does the stress caused by the clutter affect your family? What activities have you missed out on because of last minute planning? In what ways has being disorganized cost you financially?

The Implication questions are critical to helping your client understand how to make better decisions in the future, using your products or services. However, you never want to make your client feel bad about the poor decisions they have made up until now; your focus is on helping them resolve those problems and move on from their current situation.

Step 4: Needs-Payoff

This component of SPIN is where you demonstrate to the client how your solution will benefit them in a very positive way.

A life coach might ask: How would having someone dedicated to holding you accountable enable you to make the changes you want to see in your life?

A health coach might ask: What would be the most meaningful change in your life if you adopted a healthier lifestyle

A marketing expert might ask: What would it be worth to you if you did not have to ever worry about having enough clients? How would it change your life if you were to make $150,000 this year?

A professional organizer might ask: What will you and your family do with the money and time you gain as a result of being more organized?

Needs-Payoff is the most important component in closing sale, so you’ll want to find a magic question that makes your client see the most meaningful end result they will achieve from working with you. It’s best if you have two or three magic questions in your “hip pocket” depending on how the conversation goes and the signals you pick up on during the conversation.

Overall, SPIN methodology is one of the best sales processes available today to change the way you do business with your clients. Companies like Motorola, Xerox, IBM, and others all use this process and have reported a huge difference in how well their sales teams perform.

Happy selling!

Author's Bio: 

Known as The Corporate Agent, Angelique Rewers, ABC, APR, teaches micro business owners and solopreneurs around the world how to grow their small business by working with Big Business. Get her FREE CD and articles at www.TheCorporateAgent.com.