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If you want to win more deals, especially contested deals, you will need to be One-Up. Being One-Up means you have knowledge and experience your contact lacks. When you are One-Up, you can take advantage of this information disparity, allowing you to create value for your contacts in the sales conversation. This is often the variable that determines whether you win or lose a deal.

But there is another reason you want to do the work that causes you to be One-Up. If you are competing for the client’s business, you want an extreme advantage in a contest with your competitors. When your approach has you filling in the gaps in the client’s knowledge and their experience, your odds are very high.

Most sales organizations teach and train their sales force to believe that the important variables are their company and their solution. If you want your contact to treat you as a commodity, this approach will all but ensure you are just another salesperson pitching their solution, suggesting it is right for their client. Most of your competitors are One-Down, lacking an approach that would allow them to win a contested deal.

One-Up and Client Decision Making

To introduce their solution, the One-Down sales reps race to ask prospective clients questions about their problems and their pain points. Meanwhile, the One-Up salesperson doesn’t have to ask the question about their problems because they have seen them through experience with their current clients. One-up salespeople also understand the root causes and implications of these problems, so they can provide their clients with a complete context for making a good decision.

The One-Down salesperson is trying to sell their solution, something that often causes them to make it more difficult for their client to buy from them. Trying to sell your solution may work for a transactional buyer, but it won’t provide the conversation or the value creation buyers need in complex sales.

The One-Up sales rep will focus on the client’s decision, using their information disparity to transfer their knowledge and experience to their contacts, who need this information to be able to make the right decision for their business and their desired results. The One-Up salesperson knows that this approach will make it easy for the client to prefer to buy from them.

You may have never been taught or trained to create a preference to buy from you because this form of B2B sales training isn’t found anywhere else but here. Rapport is no longer enough to cause the client to prefer you, nor will your solution create a preference to buy from you over your competitors.

The One-Up sales rep knows that by educating the client about the decision they will need to make they are scoring points with their contact and their stakeholders. When you are able to sit next to your contact and enable their ability to make the right decision, your being One-Up creates a preference.

One-Up and a Consultative Sales Approach

The One-Down salesperson’s approach is fungible, meaning it could be any other salesperson’s approach. They talk about their company, their client, and their solution. But what they don’t do is offer their counsel, advice, or recommendations. The One-Down salesperson often lacks the confidence to tell their contact what they must do to improve their results.

This is the domain of the One-Up salesperson. These reps will provide their contact with their counsel, which is valuable due to the One-Up salesperson’s credibility and their confidence. This counsel and advice helps the client to acquire the information and insights they need to be confident moving forward with their decision.

The Future of B2B Sales Is One-Up

In the future, the salespeople who are One-Up will dominate even more than they do now. As the external environment continues to challenge companies to make the changes they need to succeed. These buyers and decision makers will look for the One-Up Sale rep who projects their expertise, authority, and high status. By contrast One-Down salespeople pitch their solutions and have trouble understanding why they lose deals.

Every so often, I want to remind you that the world changes. Right now the Baby Boomers are retiring. You can expect less demand in the future, which may end with a lot less salespeople. Given the choice between hiring a One-Up salesperson or a One-Down salesperson, the choice will be easy.

If you want to improve your sales results, being One-Up will do more to ensure you are able to win your client’s relationship and their business.

Leaving this article, you should pick up Elite Sales Strategies to study what it means to be One-Up. You should also study information disparity and the sales strategies that will help you execute this approach.

The truth is that being One-Up is the oldest approach we know. Our history is marked by leaders who turned to experts who were able to help them make important decisions. This makes this approach what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls Lindy, the idea that anything that survives a certain number of years will survive the same number of years. Do good work, and if you need help, join my newsletter here to learn more about a modern sales approach.


Sales 2024 One-Up
Post by Anthony Iannarino on April 13, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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