Is SPIN still the best book on sales ever written?

Tony Hughes


Wherever I go around the world, speaking and training, the term 'spin' is ubiquitous. Granted, Challenger came along but salespeople in as diverse fields as electronics, manufacturing and even speculative verticals like high technology, still swear by it! It works in both B2C and B2B.

So what are your thoughts on this? Is the SPIN methodology still all you really need to know, the Holy Grail of selling and applicable in complex enterprise selling? Could it be that the level of real research that went into Neil Rackham's study is what made it withstand the test of time? There have been lots of shallow surveys, anecdotal observations, and manipulated 'research' that masquerades as 'empirical data and insightful findings' since, but in my opinion nothing has ever matched the integrity and depth of Rackham's ground-breaking work.

Neil Rackham is The Professor of Professional Selling, and his prescient methods fit into the DNA of Challenger Selling. His SAFE vs BOLD framework is included on page 82 of The Challenger Sale book and he writes the foreword. Is Challenger merely an offshoot of Rackham's thought leadership over decades? If you continue to study sales executives, won't the same patterns continue to re-emerge?

Has the sales cycle truly changed that much? Many argue that with increasing complexity and commoditization, and the difficulty in making a considered purchase, it's actually a preference of many senior level executives to seek out trusted advisors to shepherd them through the maelstrom of options.

I would define the SPIN acronym for you but I'm sure you're all very familiar. The book is about the quality of the questions we ask to uncover the deeper pain's implications and need-payoff scenarios as we peel the onion to the real root causes of problems. According to the data 'the result of millions in painstaking research,' that ability - which can be coached and trained on, thankfully - separates the winners in any sales arena from those that came in 2nd place or below. Unfortunately only one company gets to close.

I was pretty impressed that I can actually tag this post as 'spin selling' because it's that big. So this is a bit of a short punchy post:

  1. Would you agree that SPIN Selling is the best book ever written on strategic selling? Why?
  2. How has it impacted your life and career?
  3. How are you using SPIN to manage, train and get world class results out of your team?
  4. If not SPIN, what are you using instead?
  5. If you were to go to a desert island, is there really any other book that you would need?
  6. Is anyone having success applying SPIN methods to social selling? Sales management?

Now it's your turn. Please answer any of the above questions that inspire you and in regards to sales writings - What's your top 5 of all time? I have a big announcement coming concerning Neil Rackham but that's a post for a few days from now. More about Neil, please by all his books. He was gracious enough to review The Joshua Principle, Leadership Secrets of Selling:

"There are millions of sales jobs around the world today, but a large number of those are disappearing every year. As technology advances and consumer demands increase, the idea of a salesperson as a 'talking brochure' is no longer valid. World class sales forces understand this and are making every effort to adapt and maintain their positions of leadership in the marketplace. There is no greater authority than Neil Rackham on where the selling profession is headed and what individuals and organizations must do to distinguish themselves from their fierce competitors.

Having conducted the largest-ever study of professional selling - observing more than 35,000 sales calls in over 20 countries, at a cost of $40 million in today's dollars - Neil presents objective, quantitative insights in a dynamic, interactive fashion that brings true learning to the audience. (The effectiveness of his teaching and training methods earned him the Instructional Systems Association's lifetime award for Innovation in Training and Instruction.)

Many of of the Fortune 100's largest companies in the United States, including IBM, Xerox, AT&T and Citicorp, have engaged Neil Rackham as an advisor on sales performance. More than half the Fortune 500 train their salespeople using sales models derived from his research. As a sought-after conference speaker, Neil has shared the platform with notable leaders such as Tom Peters, General Colin Powell, Philip Kotler and many others. Using his signature combination of humor, passion and group interaction, he stimulates and challenges his audiences to reach new heights in the world of professional selling."


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at


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