Applying SPIN Selling Techniques to the Federal Sales Process

Applying SPIN Selling Techniques to the Federal Sales Process

November 26, 2013

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.

Cover of "SPIN Selling"
Cover of SPIN Selling

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.


Good Content is Hard to Find: Ain’t THAT the Truth!!!

Content Marketing is the new buzz word in the field of marketing. Though, it isn’t exactly a new concept. Some of us practicioners have been marketing “content” for decades, we’ve called it “thought leadership” marketing. But, no matter what you label it – it WORKS – and it all hinges on one critical element – CONTENT!

This is where the rubber meets the road. In professional services firms, we strive to demonstrate expertise by planning and implementing integrated marketing campaigns that give our clients and prospects a meaningful insight that they would find valuable – CONTENT! However, as any of you struggling with the main ingredient for content marketing know—good content is hard to find!

I read articles and listen to presentations on marketing by the dozen. There is an overabundance of information out there, available to each of us, so how do you sift through it all? I choose to listen, absorb, and try on for size – what appeals to me. Reading articles such as “The Content Marketing Pyramid: Are You Hungry for Content?” , helped me realize that in an era where modern marketers are always held up by the constant need for “content” with which to market, curated content is a valid option. So, what “mix” of content is optimal? Not all content is created equal.

In his article, @TweetsFromPawan uses the Age Old Food Pyramid to talk about CONTENT mix. I think it is a valid framework and it has influenced my thinking. As a marketer, I have always pushed to create new, targeted content for marketing. However, in my personal “content” quest – I use “curated” content at least 50% of the time. Can “curated content” be credible to position the firm as well as ourselves? So alas, my first blog post…..

I will strive to take a solid position – and my position is YES, yes, a thousand times YES! Even B2B (business-to-business) and B2G (business-to-government) firms should be including a curated content strategy as part of their overall marketing strategy. As always we should take our lead from B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing trends, which quite possibly start with personal marketing trends (what individual’s with brands are doing/ saying publicly online).

Below,  I’ll outline my Pro’s and Con’s below, just so you can get the cliff notes version of my countless hours of thinking and conversing with peers, colleagues, competitors, and clients about this….




Marketing gains content (the missing ingredient) Lose some ability to track metrics/ report
Tie your brand’s name with other relevant brands in the industry Send browsers to a web site other than your own
Your brand can become known as the go-to resource for all-things relevant to your target audience, a clearinghouse if you will
Build relationships online
Increased frequency of messaging

That said, curating content is not to be taken lightly. In my school days of card catalogs and bibliographies teachers and administrators considered curating content – plagiarism. Therefore, be deliberate about how you source your curated content and never take credit for their content as your own. In fact, I encourage you practitioners out there to form relationships with other content marketers and actually PLAN to share content intentionally! (And, er, don’t forget to share your blog post with them if you are referencing them …)

Also, do not underestimate the “read between the lines” messages that ensue due to curated content. You are in fact telling people that you (or your brand) supports the author (or brand) of the curated content. Even if you have all the right disclaimers on your blog or handle profile, this is still the unspoken agreement. It’s not awful; it’s just a fact of life. We aren’t talking paid celebrity endorsements here, just a simple declaration, that I (or my brand) like what this person (or this brand) is saying about X. So be planful about what brands and individuals you choose to curate content from – you’ll be glad you did!

Also, proceed with caution. Don’t go “All-In” your first time out of the gate. Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that curated content is the secret sauce for all of our content marketing troubles! Curated content will certainly prove to be high payoff, low risk for specific marketing channels (e.g. social media platforms like Twitter and Linked In), but not others (say your Corporate web site). There will be shades of grey for sure too – like, should you use curated content in email newsletters? Only time will tell what the tolerance will be for that type of behavior, and it will surely vary by market, sector, and brand.

And so I ask you—do you agree with curated content having a place in B2B and B2G marketing? If so, have you tried it before? And can you please share your successes and failures? (Inquiring minds want to know!)