Every salesperson can be sorted into one of two primary categories. The first category is a salesperson who needs something from their prospective clients. The second is a salesperson who knows something that is valuable to their clients.
The first category, needing something from your prospective client, is the position of being One-Down. The second category, knowing something valuable is the position of being One-Up.
Salespeople That Need Something
The One-Down salesperson has an enormous number of needs. These needs are, in part, why their sales approach isn't as effective as it could be. Everything the salesperson needs creates anti-value, as their needs prevent the client from benefiting from the conversation. The following are a few common needs of a One-Down salesperson:
- Rapport: The salesperson who relies on rapport-building does so because they need to create a connection to be comfortable talking to the client. The more time they spend time trying to develop rapport, the less time they have for a conversation with their prospective client, and the longer it takes to begin the sales conversation.
- Credibility: The salesperson who needs something worries they will be unable to acquire it without being credible. Because the salesperson needs something instead of knowing something, they rely on a presentation about their company and their results. What's unfortunate about this approach is that any credibility the company has will not transfer to the salesperson. The client will know within minutes whether the salesperson is credible, no matter how successful their company might be.
- Problems and Pain: A salesperson that needs their prospective client to state a problem and the impact it has on their business is One-Down. The salesperson needs to hear the problem so they can explain how their "solution" is right for the client. Any contact knows how this setup works.
- The Solution: Because the One-Down salesperson struggles to engage in a conversation the client would find valuable, they rely on their solution to create value for the client. The One-Down salesperson needs the client to believe their solution can and will solve the client's problem. In pursuing this outcome, the salesperson needs something, and they attempt to differentiate themselves in the exact same way as other One-Down salespeople.
Let's call this One-Down approach "Why Us?" There is nothing wrong with the salesperson's company, their solution, or their ability to help their clients improve results. In fact, it's more than likely that the company has the ability to take perfect care of the prospective client and their needs. However, the salesperson provides no evidence to support that idea. The sales organization’s mistake is not providing a sales conversation that helps the prospective client believe the company would be a good partner to improve their results.
Salespeople That Know Something
Salespeople that know something that is valuable to their clients are One-Up. They need nothing and create value within the confines of the sales conversation. A few elements help them accomplish this:
- Perspective: A One-Up salesperson has the knowledge and experience to offer their prospective clients a perspective built on a set of insights that helps to explain how external forces and changes in the environment cause or exacerbate their challenges. Because the new rapport-building is a business conversation, the salesperson that knows something begins their first meeting by creating value for their contacts.
The One-Up salesperson doesn't need to rely on their company or their results to prove they are credible, as they have already delivered the proof at the start of a first meeting.
- Challenges: The One-Up salesperson already knows what the client's challenges are and what impact they have. Why else would the salesperson ask for a meeting if they didn't believe they could help the client improve their results? They don't need to ask the client about their problems and pain because they know the challenges are confined to a small, finite number of possibilities. By tying the external forces to the client's challenges, the salesperson can elicit their contact's priorities without asking directly.
There is a difference between asking the client about their problems and teaching the client why they have the challenges that prevent them from producing the results they need.
- Teaching Buyers to Buy: The One-Up salesperson relies on their experience helping other companies improve their results to lead their prospective clients through the sales conversation (or buyer's journeys), ensuring their contacts learn what they need to know to improve their results in the best way possible. Part of teaching buyers to buy is helping them to recognize the factors they need to consider, and weighting them based on the results they need and what is possible for their company.
You should avoid any advice that suggests that you sell the way buyers want to buy—unless that advice is that the way buyers buy is by allowing the One-Up salesperson to facilitate and influence the overall process. While you might see data that suggests buyers want one thing, you will find other data in sharp contrast, data that shows that many opportunities end in a no-decision, and many more suffer from buyer's remorse, wishing they made a different choice.
Know Nothing or Know Something
The salesperson who is One-Down, knows nothing, and needs much will lose to a salesperson who is One-Up, knows a lot, and needs little. The contest isn't between two companies and their solutions. Instead, it is between salespeople who are being measured on their ability to create value for their contacts inside the sales conversation.