A new spin on sales

Andrews, senior training consultant at Zurich Financial Services, on a
programme that helps sales people face complex selling situations

have always believed that as well as developing practical tools, sales training
needs to offer a strategic framework.

products we offer in Zurich’s general business unit range from insurance to
risk-management solutions which are sold across a variety of industry sectors
such as electronics, pharmaceuticals and food. We also offer building, contents
and motor insurance to private individuals, so our sales people need the skills
to work with brokers and intermediaries, as well as directly with customers.

have been a training consultant in the corporate training team at Zurich for
five years. I first worked with Huthwaite in 1995. Zurich had recently reviewed
its capability to deliver sales results and the training department was asked
to provide comprehensive skill development programmes that would help people to
deal successfully with complex sales situations.


impressed me about Huthwaite’s SPIN Selling Skills programme was its
robustness, the fact that it is based on a body of research built up over 25
years using behaviour analysis (BA), an approach pioneered by Huthwaite. It
consists of 35,000 observations of commercial transactions, analysing what
successful people do differently which make them successful. This information
was used to develop the training models for SPIN Selling Skills and Account
Strategy for Major Sales.

I was involved with the SPIN Selling Skills programmes as a delegate and then
as a trainer. SPIN itself is an acronym for the four types of questions which
effective sales people ask and which lead to a consultative approach.

underlying philosophy is for sellers to “think buyer” and help them to
understand their needs and potential solutions.

Questions ask about the customer’s operating context and business situation.
Who are the current carriers of the business? Who else is involved in this

Questions ask about the customer’s difficulties, dissatisfactions or problems
with the existing situation. What difficulties have you experienced with your
current arrangements? How satisfied are you with the levels of service you
receive from your current carrier?

Questions ask about the consequences, effects or implications of the customer’s
problems. Which areas of the business are most affected when the service levels
drop in this way? How would that affect your reputation?

Questions probe for explicit needs, either directly or by exploring the payoff
or importance to the customer of solving a problem. Would a faster underwriting
decision reduce backlogs? How would a more efficient claims service help? Would
x also produce savings with y?

the years I have worked with a Huthwaite consultant on both the delivery and
customisation of their materials to match the varied and complex selling
situations we face. The role plays enable us to benchmark existing skills and
clearly highlight areas for an individual’s development.

Selling Skills normally consists of a three-day programme followed up with
work-based reinforcement.

example of where the training has really shown its worth is with the specialist
public sector insurance division – Zurich Municipal (ZM), the market leader. A
couple of years ago, a large percentage of ZM’s business was under attack as a
result of various changes in their target market sectors. The sales team built
on the skills they had developed through SPIN Selling by attending Account
Strategy for Major Sales. The aim of the ASMS training was to equip the
business teams with the tools and framework to help them plan and execute sales
strategies for both existing and new customers.

results of the training have been impressive. My colleague, Clive Moulson, our
sales manager at ZM, says there is no doubt in his mind that the training
helped his team build the trust and confidence of many existing customers.


ZM is in a crowded and competitive marketplace, its enhanced ability to
communicate the value of its proposition has helped it make it’s case strongly,
and build trust among the client base. Specifically, Clive believes the
training helped the ZM Business Team to secure a proportion of the new housing
association business when it became available for tender in 1998.

believes his staff saw more clearly how to identify and influence the
customer’s decision-making process and that the training helped them convince
the housing associations of ZM’s high service standards and the value of these
to them.

recently, the merger of Eagle Star and Zurich salespeople has demonstrated that
SPIN Selling is a good tool not only for introducing strategic selling
techniques, but an effective way of creating a new shared culture and language
among the larger team.

colleague and I are both accredited by Huthwaite to deliver SPIN Selling Skills
and co-deliver ASMS at Zurich. Being accredited has enabled me to contribute to
the training not only through its delivery but also the customisation of the
programme content.

get a lot of personal satisfaction from developing the relationship and seeing
the results. Now, Zurich is considering Huthwaite’s Account Strategy for Major
Sales as a tool for its people across the globe.


way to learn sales skills

Selling Skills develops the skills and provides a framework for salespeople to
work individually and together to achieve successful outcomes. It has been
relevant for a number of our business units involved in a range of sales

key feature is the focus on customised role-plays which reflect the genuine
situations that participants are dealing with in their real business lives. It makes
the training relevant as well as practical.

number of our business units have benefited from the training and the results
can be seen not only in the value of sales, but also the strength and duration
of customer relationships.

would recommend the programme for any salespeople who are involved in selling
services or goods, or supporting the sales process.

one level SPIN is effective for people who are new to sales, but it also
provides experienced managers with ways of developing their skills. SPIN’s
consultative approach is especially effective for build-ing strong
relationships based on understanding customer needs and how to meet them.

has a good success rate where sales are direct to the customer – we have found
it is just as effective where the sale is via intermediary channels such as

Selling Skills programme
Delivered by Huthwaite International Group, Hoober House, Wentworth, Rotherham,
South Yorkshire S62 7SA, Tel: 01709 710081 

Email: info@huthwaite.co.uk   http://www.huthwaite.co.uk/

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