The ability to be One-Up requires you to have more knowledge and experience than your clients. It doesn't suggest that you are smarter, better looking, and an all-around superior human being, even though these things may or may not be true. Instead, being One-Up means you know things your clients don't know. Being One-Up, in large part, is what allows you to create value for your clients because it occurs when you transfer your knowledge and experience to them by providing counsel, advice, and recommendations that result in good decisions and the better results the client needs.
The longer one works in an industry, the greater the likelihood that they are One-Up. As a person's experiences stack up over time, they provide an education that is difficult to replicate. Over time and without any intention, someone who is aware of what works, what doesn't work, and what is true, develops a certain perspective that is valuable to their clients.
The Stacking Up of Experiences
Salespeople hear clients talk about their business and their challenges. This informal education provides the salesperson with some understanding of the client's business and the challenges they struggle to overcome. This is why the One-Up salesperson doesn't have to ask the client about their problem—they are already aware of common challenges facing the industry. The One-Up salesperson also knows there is a finite number of challenges they can address.
Why Clients Fail
The salesperson who sells in one industry for a long time is certain to know what doesn't work and what no longer works. As things evolve, what once worked may lose its effectiveness. When there are new and better ways to do things, the old ways become outdated and less effective than they once were. The One-Up salesperson has front-row seating to this show.
By meeting with clients who are failing, the salesperson learns to recognize the causes of client failure and how to avoid it—and the poor results it brings. Over time, patterns reveal themselves, making the One-Up salesperson an expert in the causes of failure and in what to do instead.
How Clients Succeed
It takes time to develop the knowledge and experience to become One-Up. The longer the salesperson works in an industry, the more experience they will have with what works and how best to help their clients improve their results. Because they sell every day, they have access to information about what is necessary for a client to succeed. The value of the experience of working with clients is that it eventually allows the salesperson to know what works and why.
There are decisions and factors that are important to the client’s success and unknown to their competitors. This knowledge is valuable to other companies in the industry trying to improve their results—but their decision makers aren’t aware of it. The reason is that, when it comes to the decisions and factors involved in improving results, companies have a sample size of one, while the salesperson has hundreds or thousands of experiences.
What Should the Client Do and Why
As their experience stacks up over time, the One-Up salesperson recognizes patterns, making it easy to know what a particular decision maker should do, and why it is critical to producing the better results they need. Because the One-Up salesperson has spent so much time helping people improve their outcomes, much of their understanding is subconscious, allowing them to know what the client needs to do without having to think about it.
The danger for the One-Up salesperson who already knows the client’s problem and how to fix it is that the client lacks the knowledge and experience to keep up with the salesperson. I believe that to go fast, you need to go slow. I have had the experience of selling to clients who have needed more time and more conversation to move forward. Salespeople—even One-Up salespeople—who go so fast the client’s cannot keep pace will likely find that deals move slowly, if they move forward at all.
The High Price of Jumping Verticals
The salesperson who jumps from industry to industry never spends enough time in one to become One-Up. Selling one thing for a short time isn't going to result in being One-Up. Nor is it likely that you can get the education you need to be One-Up by spending a short time in half a dozen of industries.
The salesperson that believes they will make more money by hopping sales jobs may discover that it isn't the industry that allows people to make more money, but rather, that they have stayed in the industry long enough to be One-Up. Experience and deep knowledge of an industry provide salespeople with credibility—and the ability to help lead their clients through change. Most salespeople would do well to stay in an industry long enough to become experts, which would increase the value they can create for their clients.
Advice for Sales Leaders and the Acquisition of One-Up
The data suggests that salespeople are leaving jobs after being in the role only a very short time. Whenever a person leaves a job, it's because they believe they can do better somewhere else or in a different role. If you want to increase the effectiveness of your sales force, one of the best strategies is to retain them, helping them succeed and ensuring they are growing.
When training and developing the sales force to recognize what clients find valuable, Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative can help you accelerate you team’s path to becoming One-Up, creating value, and using an approach that is truly consultative.