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Uncover the power of being One-Up in sales and learn how to outperform in the competitive B2B landscape.

The concept we call One-Up describes a certain type of person who has greater knowledge and experience than someone else. Each of us are One-Up sometimes, and One-Down at other times. When you do something for a long enough time, you become One-Up. As it pertains to B2B sales, being One-Up will have the salesperson providing their client with counsel, advice, and recommendations that will ensure they succeed in improving their results.

One client asked me what they might need to do to be One-Up when they lack the time to acquire the necessary knowledge and experience. It’s a good question, and there are strategies you can use to become One-Up in sales. One way is to spend time with a One-Up salesperson to understand what they do and how. The best way to earn the opportunity to learn from a One-Up salesperson is by taking their notes for them, a strategy that will make sense as we explore further.

Elevate Your Sales Approach: Acquiring Expertise

If you are presently One-Down, there are people around you who have already done the work to be One-Up. By spending time watching and listening to them engage in conversations, you can capture their knowledge and experience. To acquire another person’s knowledge, you can’t simply listen to the conversation. Instead, you have to work to gain an understanding that can help you escape being One-Down.

Ask a One-Up salesperson to allow you to join them on a sales call. You can’t capture what you need by sitting quietly and listening to the sales conversation. Instead, you need to do the work to acquire insight, starting with writing down every question the One-Up salesperson asks their clients, and the clients' answers. You must also write every question the client and their team ask, along with the salesperson’s answers.

In the course of an hour-long sales call, you will have filled up several pages. You now have enough questions and answers to understand why the salesperson asked a particular question and what the client’s response meant. If you don’t understand why the conversation went in a certain direction, ask the salesperson until you recognize how the questions and answers create value for the contact and move the conversation forward.

Consultative Sales: Providing Value-Driven Advice

While you are working to become One-Up, focus on capturing the counsel, advice, and recommendations the One-Up salesperson offers their client. Much of what the One-Up salesperson does is help their prospective client understand what they need to make the best decision for their company and their future results.

What makes a salesperson consultative is their ability to use their knowledge and experience, transferring it to their client during the sales process. Those who are One-Down lack the ability to sit next to their client as a leader and advise them on how to improve their business.

Take careful notes on the consultation, including every suggestion the One-Up salesperson offers their prospective client or a client pursuing a new initiative. While you can’t interrupt to ask questions while they are engaged with the client, you can write everything down, and later ask the sales rep to explain why they offered that result and why it is important to the client.

Leveraging Reading and Research for Sales Excellence

There has never been a time where so much information was available to those eager to learn. A large part of being One-Up requires that you read. If you can read but you don’t, you will have a difficult time being One-Up. The nature of being One-Up is knowing things that are valuable to other people. Without reading, you will have little to share, and you will lack a perspective on the future. If you need help, consider joining the One-Up Book Club.

You can accelerate your development by researching your clients and their industry. For half an hour of your time, you can research the trends and forces causing problems in your client’s industry. Knowing what is causing the headwinds is a One-Up strategy, as it frees you from having to ask about their problems, differentiating you from your many competitors.

The Essential Obligation of Being One-Up in Sales

You are obligated to do this work. It’s important that you can help your clients succeed. It’s also important that you are credible and that you know what you are talking about. It is your obligation to provide the education the client needs to ensure they understand how to make the best decision about changes they will need to make to pursue their future results.

It’s malpractice to provide counsel, advice, and recommendations when you have no expertise. The salesperson who is One-Down should avoid providing counsel or advice, as they don’t have the knowledge and experience base they need to help the client.

The four best resources for becoming One-Up include Eat Their Lunch, Elite Sales Strategies, The One-Up Book Club, and Sales Accelerator. If you are already One-Up, reach down, and pull up a One-Down salesperson who is sincerely pursuing mastery, speeding them on their way.


Sales 2024 One-Up
Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 29, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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