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Neil Rackham is an author, consultant and academic. His writing focuses on "consultative selling," an approach he pioneered and documented in his book SPIN Selling (McGraw-Hill).
Rackham has been a consultant to executives and board members at more than 40 of the U.S. Fortune 500 companies, including IBM, Xerox, AT&T, Citicorp, GE, Microsoft, and Oracle, as well as to professional services organizations such as KPMG, Booz Allen, and McKinsey & Co..
He is currently a visiting professor at Portsmouth University, Cranfield School of Management, and Sheffield University, all in his native England, as well as at the University of Cincinnati, and is a frequent lecturer at conferences, business schools, and corporations around the world.
Neil Rackham was born in England and spent some of his early years in Borneo. He was later educated at Totton Grammar School, Hampshire, England and then studied psychology at Sheffield University where he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in 1966.
He continued as a post-graduate research fellow in psychology at Sheffield through 1969, developing new tools to study and measure the role of interpersonal skills in successful negotiating and selling.
Rackham’s work as a research fellow led to his first books, The Evaluation of Management Training (Gower Press, 1970), written with Peter B. Warr and Michael William Bird; Developing Interactive Skills (Wellens Publishing, 1971), co-authored with Peter Honey and Michael J. Colbert; and Behaviour Analysis in Training (McGraw-Hill UK, 1977), with Terry Morgan.
From 1970 to 1974, Rackham served as managing director of Performance Improvement Ltd., improving high-level job skills for clients such as IBM, BP, British Airways, Xerox and Honeywell.
In 1974, he founded the Huthwaite Research Group, which later became Huthwaite Inc., a global research and consulting firm based in Northern Virginia, and, Huthwaite Ltd., based in the United Kingdom.
Having developed methods for measuring interactive behavior in his research fellowship, Rackham produced a series of seminal articles that focused on practices and behavior associated with successful negotiations:
Deciding to apply these same methods to the world of sales and explore effective behaviors in successful business-to-business selling, Rackham sought the support of major multinational companies including Xerox and IBM, and raised an initial $1 million for a landmark study.
The project, the first to scientifically measure selling and buying behavior and by far the largest study of its kind, involved a team of 30 researchers who studied 35,000 sales calls in over 20 countries. The research spanned 12 years.
It led to the publication of Making Major Sales (Gower Press, 1988), a book that had a tremendous impact on the world of sales in Europe, and then to two New York Times business bestsellers — SPIN Selling (McGraw-Hill, 1988) and, one year later, Major Account Sales Strategy (McGraw-Hill) — earning international acclaim for its author.
At the time, the conventional wisdom in the sales world was that "selling was selling" - that the techniques that were successful in smaller consumer sales worked equally well in more complex business-to-business transactions. Rackham’s multi-year research project turned this thinking on its ear and showed that, on the contrary, conventional methods developed for small consumer sales, such as widely used techniques for closing the deal, failed miserably when applied in more complex transactions. He found that greater success could be achieved in larger-scale transactions by focusing on a pattern of questions (situation, problem, implication, and need-payoff) that became widely known as SPIN.
Rackham’s premise in SPIN®Selling was that the most successful sellers are seen by their customers as consultants or problem solvers who are working in the customers’ best interest.
In its list of the “Top 10 ‘How To Sell’ Books of All Time,” in 2013 Inc. magazine ranked SPIN®Selling No. 1, writing:
″Finally, this is the book that turned selling from an art into a science. While other sales books are heavy with anecdotes and assumptions, Neil Rackham examined hard evidence of actual sales performance and codified what works — and what doesn’t — in real world sales situations. A must-read for everyone who sells″
SPIN Selling remains one of McGraw-Hill’s all-time top-selling business books. It is currently Amazon’s best-selling book on sales.
Among Rackham’s other books on sales and marketing are The Management of Major Sales (McGraw-Hill, 1991) with Richard Ruff; Getting Partnering Right (McGraw-Hill, 1996), with Lawrence Friedman and Richard Ruff, and the New York Times business bestseller Rethinking the Sales Force (McGraw-Hill, 2000), co-authored with John DeVincentis.
In addition to books, Rackham has written more than 150 articles on marketing, selling and channel strategy including “Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing,” co-authored with Philip Kotler and Suj Krishnaswamy for Harvard Business Review (2006),“Breadth of a Salesman,” with John DeVincentis, for McKinsey Quarterly (1998), and “Why Bad Things Happen to Good New Products” for the Journal of Product Innovation Management (1998).
Consulting and teaching
Rackham led Huthwaite Inc. until 2003 and later became a strategic advisor to the firm he founded.
He has been a visiting professor of sales and marketing at Portsmouth University since 2006; a visiting professor of sales strategy at the Cranfield School of Management since 2008; an executive professor of professional selling at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati since 2011; and visiting professor of sales at Sheffield University since 2014.
He has also been a guest or visiting lecturer at numerous U.S. business schools including Harvard Business School, Wharton, Kellogg School of Management, Darden School of Business, Kelley School of Business, Ohio University, and Purdue University.
Honors and awards
- Lifetime Contribution Award, University Sales Education Foundation, 2010, for outstanding contributions to professional selling
- Lifetime Achievement “Stevie” award, 2010, “for his unique contributions to the sales profession”
- Honorary Doctorate of Laws, Portsmouth University, 2009 “for his distinguished contributions to methodology, research and writing that have transformed our understanding of sales.”
- Innovative Contribution Award, Instructional Systems Association-The Association of Learning Providers, 2002
- Patron, Sales Leadership Alliance; Patron, Sales Performance Association; Honorary Fellow, Sales Performance Association
Rackham lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Ava Abramowitz, a professorial lecturer in law at George Washington University Law School. In his spare time, he writes poetry and science fiction, and his first book length work of fiction, A Telling Of Stones, is to be published in 2016.
- Developing NEGOTIATING skills, Neil Rackham, Industrial and Commercial Training, Volume: 4 Issue: 6, 1972
- The Effective Negotiator — Part I: The Behaviour of Successful Negotiators, Neil Rackham, John Carlisle, Journal of European Industrial Training, Volume: 2 Issue: 6, 1978
- The Effective Negotiator — Part 2: Planning for Negotiations, Neil Rackham, John Carlisle, Journal of European Industrial Training, Volume: 2 Issue: 7, 1978