News flash: Sales isn’t just about closing deals.
Historically, software companies have relied on selling licenses to businesses, but the subscription model disrupted that. Now, success no longer depends on the number of deals closed but on customer renewals and expansion—which only happens if your solution is actually helping customers reach their goals.
That’s why Winning by Design, a sales strategy consulting and coaching firm, developed SPICED, a sales framework that helps B2B teams be more customer-centric.
What is SPICED?
SPICED is a 5-step sales framework and acronym that stands for Situation, Pain, Impact, Critical Event, and Decision.
SPICED is centered on understanding and achieving the customer’s desired impact and maintaining an ongoing relationship around that impact, making it different from other methodologies that are solely focused on closing the deal.
“SPICED is a framework that helps you better diagnose your prospects. Just like a doctor, your prescribed solution should help them achieve their desired outcomes—and that prescription requires you to solve the source of their pains, not just the symptoms.” — Winning by Design
How to use SPICED: Step-by-step
Here we’ve defined each step in SPICED methodology, included an example, and provided sample questions sales reps can ask prospects to move on to the next step.
(Or, download a free PDF checklist of the SPICED sales framework for your sales team!)
Who are we targeting and why?
The Situation is the background information about the prospect, including the tools, people, industry, landscape of the company, and any other facts to help determine whether the prospect is a good fit for your solution.
E.g. An IT leader responsible for building and maintaining the company’s tech stack for 500+ employees and two global offices.
Questions to ask:
- How many sales reps work in your Los Angeles office?
- What sales tools are you using right now?
Why would your company help them?
Pain addresses the specific challenges the company is facing that motivate them to consider your product as a possible solution. This could be training needs, help to support a distributed team, passing a security audit, or reducing errors in a certain process.
There are two types of pain: quantitative and qualitative.
E.g. The company is spending too much money and time on disjointed solutions that aren’t solving their business needs as efficiently as they could (quantitative pain). Executives are also concerned about the potential for a data breach since they’re sharing their sensitive information with so many vendors (qualitative pain).
Questions to ask:
- What are the biggest challenges your team is facing right now?
- How do you currently onboard and train your sales team?
If they purchased your product, what would the impact be?
Impact is the result of solving Pain. It's the outcome the prospect is trying to achieve by purchasing your solution. Impact can be rational or emotional.
Rational impacts typically fall into one of the following categories: increasing revenue, decreasing cost, or improving the customer experience. While rational impact benefits the company as a whole, emotional impact typically benefits the prospect on an individual level.
E.g. By adopting your solution, the prospective company could cancel subscriptions for three other tools, get all employees on a single platform, and reduce budget by $200k annually (rational impact). The prospect would also get internal recognition for this (emotional impact).
Questions to ask:
- How do slow-ramping sales reps affect your ability to hit revenue targets?
- What impact does a lack of visibility have on your recruiting efforts?
- How important is remote team collaboration to you?
4. Critical Event
What’s driving the prospect’s timeline for a purchase?
Uncovering Critical Events will reveal the deadline the prospect’s working with to achieve their desired Impact or otherwise suffer negative consequences. If you hear a prospect mention a date or event that’s important, you can determine if it’s a Critical Event by asking, “What happens if you miss that date?”
E.g. This company makes 30% of its revenue in Q4. They also have a security audit coming up in Q1 of the next fiscal year. These are both Critical Events and reveal that the company will want to make a decision by the end of the current fiscal year.
Questions to ask:
- Why is X date important to you?
- What happens if you don’t have a solution by that date?
How is a final purchase decision going to be made?
Decisions are usually made by a group of stakeholders rather than a single person. This is especially true for deals larger in size or scope. To close the deal, you’ll need to know exactly who to involve, who will sign off, and all the approvals and steps involved along the way. You’ll also need to understand the criteria the prospect will use to evaluate the right solution.
In other words, you need to find out three things in this step: the decision process, decision committee, and decision criteria.
E.g. The prospect needs a solution that can integrate with the company’s existing apps, replace others, and comes with implementation and training support (decision criteria). The process involves getting sign-off by the CTO on all contracts above $25k and the decision needs to go through the CEO and VP of Product. Legal will likely also require review of the contract before sign-off (decision process and committee).
Questions to ask:
- Have you brought in a product like this before?
- How does your buying process work? Are there any other conversations we should start now, like with Legal, Security, and/or IT?
Who can use SPICED?
Ideally, all revenue teams should be using the SPICED framework so everyone is speaking the same language.
Sales teams can use this framework at any point along the sales cycle: on discovery calls, for handoffs between teams, (e.g., prospecting to sales, sales to customer success), or for summarizing deals during internal forecasting meetings.
Marketing should know and be aligned with all the stages of the SPICED framework, but be particularly knowledgeable about Situation, Pain, and Impact as these will be the most critical to hit—especially when focusing on campaign messaging and acquisition.
The point is, you don’t have to commit to one methodology (even if your corporate trainer says otherwise). To get the most out of SPICED, you might use bits and pieces from various frameworks to create a sales process tailored to your unique team, your buyers, and your business model.
We’ve put together several guides that break them down for you.
Here’s a list of recent posts:
- Customer-centric sales
- Sandler Sales System
- Triangle Selling
- Target Account Selling
- MEDDIC Sales Process
- MEDDPICC Sales Process
- Question-based Selling
- Value Selling Framework
- GAP Selling Framework
- SNAP Selling
- Challenger Sales Process
- SPIN Selling Questions
- Champ Sales
- BANT vs. GPCT
- NEAT Selling
- Baseline Selling
- Conceptual Selling
It’s time to spice up your sales
By using the SPICED sales framework, you can find and organize prospects’ information systematically to make sure you understand their background, pains, desired impacts, and how and when they’ll commit to your solution. With this understanding, you’ll be able to continue to nurture long customer relationships and drive long-term business success.