The concept of being One-Up causes some to have a negative reaction, as it breaks the old paradigm of the legacy approach to sales, one that is now too transactional and devoid of any real value for the client. The book, Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative, appeals to those who are already One-Up, giving a name to what great salespeople have always done.
A proponent of a One-Down approach to selling suggested that there is no need to "persuade people," and that "no one can change another's person's mind, people change their own mind" It's easy for a writer to recognize how and why certain words are used, in this case, it is a criticism. It is also a performative contradiction, as the writer is attempting to persuade the person who posted on Linkedin to change their mind and see it their way, a few paragraphs after suggesting it can't be done.
What Your Client Doesn't Know
Is it better for your client to live with the problems they are experiencing until they fail, disappointing and harming their clients and customers before the salesperson does something to help them?
Do you believe your client might be better served by addressing the obstacles that prevent them from producing the results they need before they are harmed, even if it meant a salesperson had to update the assumptions that no longer serve them and help them replace their misconceptions with a clearer view of their current reality?
Let us remove the word "persuade" from this conversation, as it appears only three times in Elite Sales Strategies, with one of them being me trying to persuade a client to spend more money. Instead, let's use the words "teach," "update," or" "inform," or "offer counsel," so that we don't offend those who are squeamish, as they are wounded by words like "persuade."
The question here is: "How does your client know what they don't know?" Most of us are ignorant about just about everything that is known. It's part of the human condition generally, and as we acquire more information at a blistering pace, no one is capable of keeping pace. But it does seem possible for one to know a lot about something.
The Argument for Being One-Up
The main argument in Elite Sales Strategies is one that suggests the salesperson must be One-Up, possessing knowledge and experience that, when transferred to their prospective client, creates value by teaching, informing, or counseling them in such a way that they are confident in making a decision that will improve their results.
A client can't know what they don't know any more than you or I can. The person struggling to create the results they need doesn't benefit by engaging with a person who lacks the expertise they are already lacking, the proverbial "blind leading the blind." Instead, the person who creates the greatest value for their contacts and decision makers inside a sales conversation is the one who has the knowledge and experience to close the knowledge and experience gap for their client.
You Must Know What Your Client Doesn't
Why provide your counsel, advice, and recommendations if not to support your client with the information they are presently missing before they make an important decision?
What if by providing good counsel, advice, and recommendations, your client changes their mind about how they were thinking about a decision, improving their view of what is possible and resulting in better results had they made a different choice.
Without knowing what your client doesn't know, you offer no value as it pertains to their future. The fact the client is One-Down doesn't suggest they are not incredibly sharp. What it means is that they lack the knowledge and experience you already possess. It also means that the conversation about the salesperson's company and their solution holds little value, as those topics are where the client has information parity, as both you and your client find that information on your website.
Just between the two of us, I have been secretly trying to persuade you to recognize the real value you create as a consultative salesperson is inside you. But only if you can transfer what you know to your client who will benefit from acquiring it before they take action.
The One-Down salesperson believes their company and their solution is the value, without recognizing that the approach that would have you pitch your company as being best situated to be the client's new supplier and their solution being the best possible choice is the opposite of differentiating, as you are differentiating in exactly the same way as your competitors.
The Future of B2B Sales
The future of B2B sales is going to require greater value creation in the sales conversation. When a client doesn't have to make a decision frequently, and when making a poor decision will harm their business and their future, they are going to do what leaders have always done: seek the counsel of someone who is an expert in their field, a person who is One-Up.
Sales organizations are going to struggle to reach their sales goals if they don't change their view on what creates value for their clients and how they enable their salespeople to sell. Those who continue to approach sales from the One-Down position have greater challenges in their future.
The future belongs to those who are One-Up and who recognize how they create value for their clients.