The feedback on Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative has been mostly positive, with many readers suggesting that the concept of being One-Up is helpful. The complaints about the book are that I have removed much of the legacy approach to sales. Even so, I have no power to stop a salesperson from selling from a One-Down position, nor can I force them to abandon their crutches.

On the wall behind the desk where I do my writing, there is a painting of the socialist, atheist, and polemicist Christopher Hitchens. Hitch looks over my shoulder as I write, reminding me that I must write the truth and never be boring. On the adjacent wall is a painting of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the quant-turned-philosopher who writes fearlessly while teaching and entertaining.

The truth is that sales strategies have always evolved to deal with the changes in the environment. It is an emergent phenomena, making it a bottom-up process that evolves as salespeople make changes to their approaches.

How Sales Approaches Evolve

The salesperson started our conversation with: "Please don't tell my manager, but I never use the slide deck we are supposed to use in the first meeting." After I heard his confession, I told him that he need not repent because his approach doesn't harm the client. I noted that his company's approach has been known to cause the client to go into a form of suspended animation, pausing all of their biological functions as a way to protect themselves from harm.

Imagine how the salesperson made the decision to stop using the "Why Us" slide deck. At first, he followed his company's directive and walked prospective clients through the slide deck. The first time he used the deck as required, he may not have recognized the fact that the client had zero interest in the presentation. But over time, looking across a table at a client who shows signs that the monologue isn't creating value for them, he realized the approach his company required was not helpful.

young woman creating a powerpoint slide

The fine folks that created the "Why Us" slide deck believe their company is exceptional and that their company's prospective clients need to know the company is a safe choice. The slide deck works perfectly when they share it with their own senior leaders internally, but they have never had the experience of delivering it to a prospective client, one who is interested in improving their own company's results.

The slide-deck sales strategies are top-down, meaning they started with a theory, not a set of experiences.

A salesperson receives immediate feedback on how they're doing simply by looking at their prospective client's face and how engaged they are in the conversation. After a number of negative experiences, the salesperson, trying to create and win opportunities adjusts their approach. The One-Up approach in Elite Sales Strategies grew out of my need to convince and persuade a major client to make a change they had refused to make. Many of our sales strategies and tactics emerge as a way to solve a problem, not because the salesperson is trying to create a new approach.

The Changing Environment and Sales Strategies

Today’s business environment is dominated by AC/DC, Accelerating, Constant, Disruptive Change. This creates massive uncertainty, which prevents clients from taking action, even when they are failing, and many businesspeople feel anxious and dislocated by the rate of change.

As the world turns, buyers who are no longer served by the sales strategies that worked for them in the past look beyond the salespeople whose approach creates no value. Studies suggest that buyers are researching answers on their own, even though the answers they need are not in the materials they dig up. No one knows the "best if used by date" for a particular sales strategy. But the feedback from client meetings provides all the evidence one needs to know the approach is spoiled.

frustrated man working at a laptop

Our increasingly interdependent world creates a complexity that requires a different approach. The One-Up approach is right for this environment because decision makers and decision shapers need help making sense of their challenges and how best to improve their results in the shadow of uncertainty. Our sales strategies have been evolving in this direction for a number of decades, stretching salespeople to become ever more consultative, educating clients, and transferring their knowledge and experience to their clients. It is difficult to change if you don't understand why you need to, how best to assess your options, and how best to make a significant decision, one that must be right the first time.

Why Sales Organizations Fall Behind

Sales leaders and sales managers are so head-down in pursuing their goals that they miss the inflection point. There is no news alert to inform them things have changed. By not being aware of the changes and what clients need now, they keep doing things the way they've always done. It can be difficult to recognize why sales results slowly slide over time, as there are a lot of variables to consider.

The evolution of sales strategies doesn’t happen all at once. It takes time for salespeople to change their approach. It's important to pay attention to the changes and to make your team aware of anything they are experiencing in the sales conversation. The earlier you recognize something isn't right, the sooner you can start understanding it, and the sooner you can start making adjustments.

This blog is about the modern sales approach. But someday, it will become outdated and be replaced by something new that creates greater value for clients.

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Post by Anthony Iannarino on July 6, 2022
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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