by: Neil Rackham
Neil Rackham is a best selling author. You can read more about him at his website linked to his name.
Turning Theory into Practice
One of Rackham’s favorite words: Entelechy
def. the becoming actual of what was potential–turning something into practical usefulness as opposed to theoretical elegance.
It is the subject of this cahpter.
Improving your skills is hard work; there’s no instant formula for better selling.
The Four Golden Rules for Learning Skills
How can you learn any skill efficiently and with minimum pain?
Stick by four simple rules.
Rule 1: Practice Only One Behavior at a Time
Mr. Rackham met Tom Landry on a plane and asked him which one principle was most important in learning a new skill. Landy was quick to say, “Work on one thing at a time and get it right.”
Start by picking just one bahavior to practice. DOn’t move on to the next until you’re confident you’ve got the first behavior right.
Rule 2: Try the New Behavior at Least Three Times
The first time you try anything new, it’s bound to feel uncomfortable.
The new skill needs to be “broken in.”
Never judge whether a new behavior is effective until you’ve tried it at least three times.
Rule 3: Quantity Before Quality
Huthwaite’s studies have consistently shown that the fastest way to learn a new sales behavior is through using a quantity method.
When you’re practicing, concentrate on quantity: use a lot of the new behavior. Don’t worry about quality issues, such as whether you’re using it smoothly or whether there might be a better way to phrase it. Those things get in the way of effective skills learning. Use the new behavior often enough and the quality will look after itself.
Rule 4: Practice in Safe Situations
If you’ve just finished Rackham’s book (or this outline) and you’re about to visit your most important account, then forget everything he’s written.
Always try out new behaviors in safe situations until they feel comfortable. Don’t use important sales to practice new skills.
A Summary of the Call Stages
Four Stages of a Sales Call
- Demonstrating Capability
- Obtaining Commitment
Preliminaries (Chapter 7)
The opening techniques suggested by traditional sales training:
- relating to the buyer’s personal interests
- opening with a benefit statement
should be used with caution.
Investigating (Chapter 4)
The SPIN sequence instead of traditional open and closed questions develop customer needs best.
- Situation Questions
- Problem Questions
- Implication Questions
- Need-payoff Questions
Spin isn’t a rigid formula. To be effective, it must be used flexibly.
Demonstrating Capability (Chapter 5)
A Benefit in this right shows how your product or service meets an Explicit Need expressed by the customer.
Obtaining Commitment (Chapter 2)
The simplest closing technique is the most effective:
- Check that you’ve covered the buyer’s key concerns.
- Summarize the Benefits.
- Propose an appropriate level of commitment.
A Strategy for Learning the SPIN Behaviors
Huthwaite has found the following four pieces of implementation advice very helpful.
Focus on the Investigating Stage
If you know how to develop needs–to get your customers to want the capabilities you offer–then you’ll have no problem showing Benefits or Obtaining Commitment.
Develop Questions in the SPIN Sequence
- Decide whether you are asking enough questions. If you are telling rather than asking, start by just asking more questions.
- Next plan to ask at least 6 Problem Questions per call. Focus on quantity, not quality.
- Once you are satisfied with your abiliity to uncover customer problems. Carefully plan your Implication Questions. Reread the example transcript in Chapter 4 and substitute your own problem in.
- Finally, when you are comfortable with all the above, start into Need-payoff Questions. Try to not tell the customer the Benefits of your product or service. Try to get them to tell you the Benefits.
Analyze Your Product in Problem-Solving Terms
Instead of what Features and Benefits your product or service offers, think of the problem it solves.
Plan, Do, and Review
The most important lessons come from the way you review the calls you make. After each call, ask yourself such questions as these:
- Did I achieve my objectives?
- If I were making the call again, what would I do differently?
- What have I learned that will influence future calls on this account?
- What have I learned that I can use elsewhere?
Rackham says that of the salepeople he’s observed, the most successful do two thing:
- Make it a point to reveiw every call.
- Realize the importance of getting the details right.
Rackham pointedly states that he has learned that sales success is not in generalities as he first thought.
Increasingly our research has shown that success is constructed from those important little building blocks called behaviors. More than anything else, it’s the hundreds of minute behavioral details in a call that will decide whether it succeeds.
Rackham quotes William Blake:
He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars.
General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer;
For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars.
Rackham urges you to use the results of Huthwaite’s research to examine, develop, and improve the minute particulars of your selling skills.
Rackham has much more in the Appendices of this book. He includes much of the research referenced in the body of his work. He commends anyone who reads it. Rackham says that he finds the appendices the most exciting part of the book: the PROOF.
I won’t include them here due to time constraints. However, they are quite interesting. This book is well worth your time and money. Quite frankly, it is worth having in your personal library as a reference tool. I have outlined the book for those salespeople who don’t have time to read it fully at present, but wish to learn the principles set forth in it. I will advise, to fully appreciate this book…you might consider studying it as opposed to briefly reading it.
Remember- The work you’ve just read is Neil Rackham’s. I have simply outlined his book. Most of the words above are his own. At times I paraphrased.
Until next time…
a Student of Sales