Originally posted August 1, 2019
Neil Rackham’s 1988 book SPIN Selling: Situation-Problem-Implication-Need/Payoff: The Best-Validated Sales Method Available Today Developed from Research Studies of 35,000 Sales Calls, Used by the Top Sales Forces Across the World (say that five times quickly!) contains basic principles still relevant to promoting a knowledge management program. Today, using the SPIN framework to help sell your KM program, especially to doubters and naysayers, is a knowledge management proven practice. Below are examples of questions you can use.
Situation Questions deal with the facts of the existing situation. Here are some examples of good situation questions:
- Is anyone currently involved in knowledge projects?
- What knowledge-related processes currently exist?
- What knowledge-related tools currently are in use?
- Have there been any previous KM initiatives, and if so, what became of them?
Problem Questions reference the pain of the current situation, and get the person being questioned to focus on this pain while clarifying the problems. This draws out implied needs. Here are some examples of good problem questions:
- Is it hard to find relevant information when you need it?
- Do you have to start from scratch each time you start a new project?
- Do you feel that the same mistakes are repeated over and over?
- Are you unable to get experts when you need them?
- Is it difficult to find reference accounts and provide examples of previous projects when customers ask for these?
- Does it take a long time to invent, design, manufacture, sell, and deliver products and services?
Implication Questions focus on the effects of problems without talking about solutions, and stress the seriousness of the problems in order to increase motivation to change. Implication questions help prospects to understand the full extent of not fixing their problem. The goal is to make the person you are questioning identify the effects, consequences, and long-term impact of letting the problem continue unchecked. Here are some examples of implication questions:
- How much time do you spend searching for information and resources?
- What’s the impact on profits when you start a new project from scratch?
- How much revenue has been missed due to a lost sale or an unhappy customer because of the inability to find a needed expert?
- What losses have been incurred due to projects that are late, over budget, or in trouble?
- How much incremental revenue could be generated if you could more easily and rapidly create new offerings?
Need/Payoff Questions get the person being questioned to tell you about their explicit needs and the related benefits your program offers, rather than forcing you to explain the benefits to the buyer. Getting the buyer to state the benefits has greater impact, while being a lot less pushy. These types of questions probe for explicit needs.
Use questions to get the person you are questioning to describe KM benefits, instead of doing it yourself. It’s much more persuasive that way. Need/payoff questions get people’s imaginations racing about how different their lives could be if their problem were solved. The more benefits you can draw out, the higher the perceived value of your program, and the better the chance of gaining acceptance. Here are some examples of need-payoff questions:
- Do you see value in being able to avoid redundant effort through reusing existing project materials?
- Why is it important to be able to quickly locate needed resources?
- How would it help you if you could quickly get answers to all questions?
- If your team could avoid making the same mistakes more than once, how valuable would that be?
- If you could always find the right expert when you need them, how much additional business could be won?
The above is an excerpt from my book published by Lucidea Press, Proven Practices for Promoting a Knowledge Management Program, Chapter 12: “Use the Keys to Success”. Please also read my posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner.