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SPIN Selling

Maximise LSP Sales with SPIN Selling

The importance of having a sales process for success in localization. Introduces the SPIN Selling process developed by Neil Rackham. SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff, and the process focuses on understanding the needs and motivations of the buyer. Shows guidance on how to apply SPIN Selling to the localization industry and provides sample situation and problem questions for use in sales meetings.

Having a process for sales is important for success in localization. A process provides a consistent, repeatable method for selling that can be used by all sales team members across your organisation. This leads to increased effectiveness of the sales process and greater customer satisfaction. Via feedback, the process can be improved over time and used to create something of sustainable value in your organisation.  A fundamental part of any sales process is engaging in dialogue with the customer to gain insight into their business operations, identify challenges, determine requirements, and collaborate on developing a solution that aligns with their best interests.

As your organisation grows a sales process enhances collaboration between sales team members by providing a common language and shared understanding of how to sell, ensuring that all team members are working towards a common goal.

A process I’ve used and coached on for a number of years is based on Neil Rackam’s SPIN selling. 

What is SPIN Selling?

Developed by Neil Rackham, he discovered that top performing sales people ask specific questions in a specific order. The process has launched many sales careers and is often the model that we all learn. 

SPIN is an acronym for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff. The model was based on extensive research and data analysis of over 35,000 sales calls. It focuses on understanding the needs and motivations of the buyer, rather than relying solely on a product-centred approach. 

Questions are at the centre of SPIN Selling. Salespeople should rarely, if ever, pose random, low-value questions. Choose your language carefully, talk ain’t cheap. Each question should have a clear purpose and the order they are asked in is very important too. A sales team can uncover a large, consultative deal when they truly understand the buyer’s challenges. 


In the first step of the SPIN Selling process. Important to establish rapport with the buyer and gather information about their current situation. This information can be used to understand the buyer’s needs, pain points, business goals, processes and motivations.


In a problem question you delve deeper into the buyer’s situation and identify any specific problems they are facing. This step helps to understand the buyer’s pain points and the impact that these problems are having on their business. Use these questions to reveal areas of opportunity, which could be stated outright or hinted at.


Implication questions are designed to show the buyer why they need to change and create an urgency around the problem. These reframe the problem the customer has and should create a sense of urgency to solve them.


In the final step of the SPIN Selling process, the salesperson presents a solution that addresses the buyer’s specific needs and motivations. The salesperson highlights the benefits of the solution, and explains how it will help the buyer solve their problems and achieve their goals. This step helps the salesperson to close more sales and build a stronger, longer-lasting relationship with the buyer.

Applying SPIN Selling to Localization 

So the question is, can this process be used as a basis to sell services in the localization industry? 

The answer is, it depends on the sale. If the sale is a simple one which is 

low risk, low impact (a basic transaction) to the customer then no… there’s no point going through this process. But if the solution we’re looking to provide is critical to the customer and carries significant risk (which most high value localization falls into this category) then the answer is yes, with a little modification. Let me explain. 

Don’t push your service, focus on building a sincere relationship by gathering as much information as you can. Ask questions and show as much interest in your prospects’ business as possible. Using your emotional intelligence as much as possible make sure your questions don’t sound too condescending. 

Ask general questions to help start conversation. Using localization as an example here are some situation SPIN selling questions:

Situation Questions for Localization 

In this stage we want to build rapport and find out as much as we can about the customer’s situation. 

Some questions might include:

  • Can you describe the current localization process you have in place?
  • Could you share the reasoning behind your company’s methodology for providing content in multiple languages?
  • What is the allocated budget for localization?
  • How vital is communication to your organisation’s operations?
  • Which tools does your company utilise to optimise language translation?
  • Who primarily oversees language translation/localization and what resources are essential for their role?
  • How frequently do you translate content?

In reality engaging with buyers at this stage and questioning them in this way may start to annoy them. You need to be going into your sales meetings prepared and a lot of situation questions for localization can be researched on your own time and confirmed with the buyer rather than asked outright. Make sure you do your homework before any sales meeting. 

Problem Questions for Localization

Based on the answers (or research) in the situation stage, problem questions ask about the prospect’s goals and obstacles. This conversation should help the prospect discover current and future problems that your product could help solve. Asking questions grounded in the future helps to add value to the localization buyer as it will uncover areas and potential future issues and positions you as more of a trusted advisor. 

Some examples include:

  • What is the cost impact of implementing a new localization process?
  • Are you content with the current procedures for your internationalisation?
  • Do these procedures ever experience any malfunctions?
  • How much time is required to complete translation?
  • Has there ever been a shortage of content outside of English?
  • Have you encountered any challenges in obtaining foreign language material?
  • Has any disruption in translation resulted in a loss of resources in the past?
  • What is the most significant obstacle faced by the organisation regarding different locales?
  • What are the current limitations of the procedures for producing material in foreign languages?

Implication Questions

Implication questions are meant to be stimulating and thought provoking. Your highest-performing salespeople will excel here and ask many times more ‘implication’ questions as their average-performing colleagues. It’s a good way to spot early if any new hires will work with your organisation. 

Push leads towards making a purchase by asking these questions:

  • What is the cost to carry out localization in this way?
  • If you had more international resources, what could you accomplish?
  • How is your issue with communication affecting your team?
  • Does language translation ever keep you from reaching your business goals?
  • Without the challenges around internationalisation in your organisation, would it be easier for you to reach your goals?
  • If you never communicated outside of English, what would happen?
  • Where are the most bottlenecks with localization?

Need-payoff questions

This is where we can communicate to the prospect the usefulness of the localization services we’re providing. We want to make sure the buyers realise the value being offered before we close the sale. 

Need-payoff questions should accomplish several things. Firstly, they evoke positive emotions by being beneficial, constructive, and solution-focused. Secondly, objections are diminished as buyers are prompted to articulate the ways in which your product or service will add value. Lastly, need-payoff questions encourage forward momentum in the conversation, leading towards decisive action and commitment.

Some examples of questions here would be: 

  • If we could show you have to create £XXXXXX of value on your localization workflow do you think that would help?
  • How else could this help you?
  • How much would it save if we installed the latest workflow technology to allow error free translation of content? 
  • Would carrying a robust process to translate your content make it easier to reach new markets?

Two ears, one mouth

Sales people have a reputation for one-sided conversations where they go on about their products instead of listening to the customer. The SPIN selling model challenges that approach and offers a framework to move the prospect along increasing the likelihood they’ll be converted into a customer. 

SPIN isn’t a standalone methodology. It is, however, an excellent foundation for a collaborative, consultative strategy that puts buyers first. When communicating, it’s essential to remember that you’re engaging in a dialogue, not simply reciting a pre-written script. The SPIN framework provides guidance on the types of inquiries to pose, rather than dictating the specific questions to be asked. Its purpose is to help you gain a comprehensive understanding of the information necessary to progress the deal. Preparation, including creating a list of questions prior to each meeting, is advisable. It’s also crucial to allow the prospect the flexibility to steer the conversation in a different direction.

Richard Brooks

Richard Brooks is an experienced executive coach and conference speaker, with a strong background in international business. With over 20 years of experience in designing and delivering educational programs, he is known for his confident and engaging speaking style, and his ability to make complex management theories accessible to audiences. Richard has a proven track record of growing businesses and executing complex B2B deals globally. He has held senior executive positions in the UK, Europe, and the USA, and is a graduate of Cranfield School of Management. As a highly effective board advisor and business coach, he has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs develop winning strategies and unlock sustainable value within their organisations.

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