Imagine you are a manager (who isn’t in sales) and the results you are responsible for producing have become increasingly difficult achieve. The band-aids you've used to keep things running are no longer adequate and, even though you don’t particularly enjoy meeting with salespeople, you now need to take meetings with those who might help you turn things around.
The first salesperson you meet is pleasant enough, and they work for a very large, reputable company. The company has called on you for years, and you believe their persistence has earned them the right to a meeting. The salesperson opens their laptop and produces a presentation about their company, their founder, their clients and testimonials, and their suite of products and services. So far, you have learned nothing that might improve your ability to produce the better results you need. Undeterred, you allow the salesperson to continue.
The salesperson asks a lot of questions about the problem you are experiencing and how it is impacting your business. Because you need help, you answer all their questions as best as you can. Then, the salesperson explains their company’s "solution" is just the thing to help. You aren't certain, but you politely agree to meet again so the salesperson can present their proposal and solution.
The second salesperson works for a smaller company with a good reputation. You know little about them, but other people seem to like them, even though you don't know why.
This salesperson asks if it would be all right if they shared a briefing about recent changes that are causing people in your role to struggle to get results that used to come more easily. You agree to the briefing and find the information compelling—but more importantly, you understand why you have been experiencing problems and challenges for some time. You lean in and ask several questions to better understand your situation based on the briefing, and the salesperson provides you with greater clarity about what is working now and what isn't.
Up to this point, the salesperson has said nothing about their company or what they sell. They seem to already understand your problem better than you do, asking you questions that cause you to recognize why you’re facing challenges, and addressing the implications. And they do this without having asked you about how the problem is harming your business.
During a couple meetings, the second salesperson explains the different ways to improve your results. Many of their recommendations relate to changes you need to make, no matter what you buy or who from. They also advise you as to the meetings you need to have and who needs to be there. Because it's been more than a decade since you have made this kind of change, the advice is helpful. The salesperson also explains the different ways other companies address these problems, helping you better understand the decision you need to make.
One-Up and Authority
The One-Down salesperson finds themselves in their position because they have a transactional approach, one caused, in part, by the salesperson's need to borrow credibility from their company. Unfortunately for them, after more than 100 years, that strategy doesn't seem to move the needle anymore. Even though the One-Down salesperson's products and services are well-suited for the client, the salesperson did nothing to give the buyer a reason to prefer them over others.
The One-Up salesperson establishes their authority in the first meeting by providing a briefing that proves the salesperson has subject matter expertise and a deep understanding of the nature and root cause of client's problems and their implications for the contact and their company. The salesperson’s questions cause the client to learn something about themselves, their problem, and how they should think about their situation.
The One-Up salesperson also provides advice and counsel about what is and isn't likely to work, explaining why different factors indicate that one way is better than some potential alternatives. They also share how different companies deliver results, and how to assess which approaches will be right for the client. Without being asked, the salesperson explains what types of meetings the client would need to have to successfully change, and what changes the client needs to make outside of changing the solution and their supplier.
Value Creator or Time Waster
The One-Down salesperson creates no value for the client who is trying to make sense of a decision they are rarely required to make. The One-Down approach didn't help the client understand anything other than the big company has a solution they are selling.
Why would a person buy from someone who doesn't seem to be an authority on their industry? Someone who doesn’t seem to have any experience with the client's problems, challenges, and what they should do to solve them? A salesperson needs to have the authority to lead the buyer's journey. Doing so is part of solving the client’s problem, as is the authority to advise the client on what factors to consider, and what approach will provide the best overall results.
The One-Up approach is built on establishing your authority, making it easier and safer for your client to decide they would face greater difficulty and risk without the value the One-Up salesperson created during the sales conversation.
Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative will help you improve your approach and position you as an authority in your industry. It will also liberate you to share what you know with your clients, so you create more value than your One-Down competitors.