In Neil Rackham’s book SPIN Selling,* he sets out the various stages of a successful sales call. The acronym SPIN picks out the structured sequence of types of question you should be asking, leading to the point where the client perceives the strength of your services and is telling you how valuable your services or solutions would be to his company. The sequence of questions goes something like this:
Needs Payoff Questions
Briefly, Situation questions are aimed at establishing the background and current situation in the client’s company. This provides the platform to enable you to start asking some Problem questions, designed at picking up on some potential issues or concerns that may exist under the present situation.
Once these have been uncovered, the real sales work begins when you begin asking Implication Questions. These are designed to draw out the implications of the problems that have just been uncovered, or in other words cash out the problems in terms of the impact they will have on a number of factors, such as on the customer’s ability to get his job done efficiently, on his ability to achieve his performance targets, on the effect this will have on his bottom line and the effect on the business in general.
Then, when the customer starts to focus on the implications of having these problems which, up to this point, were not that significant to him, he starts to feel the seriousness of the situation and develop a pressing need to do something about it. In other words, the questioning process been structured in such a way as to tap into the customer’s psychology and mirror his thought processes and emotions, to the point where he is motivated to do something about the hitherto ‘minor’ issues.
Finally, you ask some Needs Payoff questions, which are designed at getting the customer to tell you what he would gain and how he would benefit from using your services or your solutions.
SPIN Applied to Recruitment
So what is the relevance of this and how can it be used to sell a retained project to a client? One way you could use this sequence is like this:
Establish the general background to the vacancy and the company.
Establish what recruitment methods they have used in the past.
Explore some potential problems that may exist whilst the vacancy is unfilled
Explore some potential problems that may exist using contingency recruiters
Draw out the implications to him and the other hiring managers should they continue to work on a contingency basis, namely, corners being cut, candidates not being met and properly screened, duplicate CVs in their inbox, poorly presented short list, and so on, and so forth.
Begin drawing out the implication to his company should he not get the vacancy filled and how it will effect general productivity, efficiency, competitiveness, staff moral, and so on.
Needs Payoff Questions
Finally, start asking questions aimed at getting the client to tell you how he would gain by having a recruitment agency who could work to a fixed project plan, so he would know exactly when the vacancy would be filled, how he would benefit by having every candidate on the short list properly pre-screened and interviewed specifically for his vacancy before meeting him and the interview team, and so on, and so forth.
Develop Your Solution:
Now ask if he would be happy to use your services if you could meet these requirements. If so, move on and develop your solution – a fully managed recruitment project covering all of the critical steps of the process and concluding with a successful appointment. Reiterate how this solution meets the needs just discussed and offers the benefits he has just told you about in the final stage of the question sequence.
If the client agrees with this assessment, you can now proceed to explain how your payment structure works, with an initial deposit to commence the project and then the remainder of the fee to be paid on completion. Should the client have strong reservations about paying a deposit, having never worked on a retainer basis before, but is nonetheless keen on the level of service you can offer, you could take the exclusive contingency fall back position, asking for exclusivity on this occasion to demonstrate the effectiveness of your recruitment process, and gain an agreement to work on a retained basis on any future occasion.
And there you have it.