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One of the most important things about the One-Up approach you find in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative, is that it positions you as an expert and authority on the results you help your clients improve. Leaders and decision-makers don’t want to buy from a salesperson; they want to buy from a business advisor who has experience. They want to work with someone they trust to help them make important decisions. Buyers buy the certainty that a One-Up salesperson offers.

The One-Down salesperson believes they are positioning their company and their offerings. Most are peddlers, trying to sell their products and services, with little to no advice or recommendations for the client outside of “buy our solution from us.” Many One-Down salespeople fear their potential clients, worrying about losing the deal, instead of ensuring the client makes the changes necessary to provide the strategic outcomes they are pursuing.

Without candor and courage, the One-Down salesperson creates several problems that lead to failure, either their own or that of their clients. Some part of what we do as sales professionals is prevent the client from making mistakes and bad decisions. A One-Down salesperson does not know how to do this.

Fear of Telling the Truth

There are certain sales scenarios where the salesperson finds that their prospective client wants to continue doing something in the way they prefer. The salesperson, fearing they will lose the deal, says nothing, even though they recognize that the client’s way of doing things is part of the problem. To be fair, a lot of salespeople make this mistake simply because they do poor discovery and never get to the root cause of the client’s problems.

When a salesperson does not explain how a client’s existing processes contribute to their poor results, the client is likely to fail. After closing the deal (if the One-Down salesperson should be so lucky), they get a phone call about how they are failing their client. In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, there is a chapter about fearing the greater danger. My editor wanted to remove the chapter, but he was never a sales leader. This is why I believed it was important to include: You are better off telling the client the truth than failing them. Fear of telling the truth is the lesser evil.

The Inability to Say No

In sales, there are times when you must tell your client no. This requires a salesperson to be comfortable with conflict and effectively use the skill of diplomacy. Let’s look at one incredibly common area where a salesperson’s fear of a client causes problems: negotiation.

The client asks the salesperson for a concession, most likely a lower price. Once the client asks for a lower price, like it or not, you are now negotiating. There are only two ways to answer the client: yes or no. The One-Down salesperson who fears they will lose by saying no will disengage and run back to their sales manager to negotiate the discount on behalf of their client.

The One-Up salesperson recognizes that no is a fine answer when a prospective client requests a discount. This is especially true if you can add value and also protect the profit margins your company needs to flawlessly execute for the client.


Avoiding Clients When They Fail

My experience in staffing inoculated me from fearing client failure because people miss work every day. Sometimes the lack of labor caused my clients to shut down lines and miss their production goals, but I always stepped up to address the problem. A lot of salespeople who fear their clients will do one or both of the following:

  • Hide from the client: The salesperson doesn’t take the client’s call, waiting until the storm blows over. Their fear of dealing with the fallout prevents them from addressing the problem or failures.
  • Blame their operations team: The salesperson who doesn’t want to take the blame will attribute the failure to their operations team. This approach to dealing with a problem will cause your client to believe that you are not accountable for the results you sold them.

This is why you must fear the greater danger: allowing the client to continue operating in a way that will hurt their results. Sooner or later, it will hurt your credibility and relationship with the client, not to mention your ability to deliver what you promised. If you don’t choose the lesser evil, you will end up being held accountable for the results, regardless of how you choose to address them. (You can find more on the salesperson’s accountability in The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need.)

Needing to Be Liked

The most sensitive of salespeople need their clients to like them. There is a difference between being likable and needing to be liked. It is good to be likable, but salespeople who need to be liked are often less than candid with their clients. At the same time, it doesn’t help to be unlikable.

This need for approval can cause salespeople to avoid difficult conversations, like explaining to the client that their failure comes from their own actions, not the salesperson’s company. By not addressing these types of issues, the client will continue to fail.

The Truth at Any Price

My friend Howard lives by this ideal: “The truth at any price, even the price of your life.” We don’t have to go that far, but to be a trusted advisor, you need to practice “the truth at any price, including the price of your deal.” The truth is always better than a lie.

Your biggest fear should be that you fail your clients by avoiding a necessary conversation. You should also fear being known as someone who can’t be trusted in business because you are unwilling to deal with your clients’ problems, which, by the way, are your problems.

What You Need to Know About Business

Every day, your clients fail their clients or customers. Business isn’t easy, and execution is challenging for sales organizations. Your clients want to work with someone who can help them execute for their customers. The people they buy from are the people that help them by making changes that improve their results.

In one conversation with a large client, I told my contact, “We tend to get things right on our fourth or fifth try.” “He smiled at me and said, “How good are you guys? It takes us eleven or twelve times." That was my way of explaining the learning curve my team would face before we would produce the better results they needed.

Candor and Courage in Sales

It is important that you don’t fear your client and can speak with the candor and courage to tell them the truth. This is speaking truth to power. Occasionally, you may bump into someone who is unhappy that you are candid, but that is part of being a trusted advisor. It helps to be diplomatic, and most of your clients will appreciate your candor.

You should recognize when your fear prevents you from leading your client and helping them improve their results. You should also role-play important conversations before you use them in the field. If you need greater confidence, go here.

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Sales 2023
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 13, 2023

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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