Every One-Down salesperson has a tell, something that reveals their low level of status and knowledge. A decision maker or a professional buyer will recognize this tell and command the One-Down salesperson to "sharpen their pencil," or they’ll politely ask for a lower price or some other concession. The One-Down salesperson explains they will have to speak to their sales manager to see what they can do, and by saying those words, they inform the buyer that a lower price or desired concession will soon be approved.
The inability or a lack of permission to negotiate on behalf of their company transforms the One-Down salesperson into the client’s agent instead of their own company’s agent as it pertains to the negotiation. Unaware of the mistake they are making, the One-Down salesperson's sales manager negotiates the price reduction or some other request with their salesperson. The sales manager, needing the deal as much or more than their salesperson, gives them permission to dole out some version of the concessions (also called gives).
In this case, both the salesperson and the sales manager are equally One-Down. Neither recognizes the difference between granting a concession—a give without getting anything of equal or greater value from the other party—and a negotiation, where both parties give and take.
Many of those who are One-Down are infected with the idea that the primary factor the client is considering is the price. Sadly, for the One-Down salesperson, this is true because their approach is devoid of value. In the sales conversation, they offer the contact no other factors to consider, as they recognized no differentiation worth additional investment.
The One-Up Negotiation
The One-Up salesperson is comfortable with their pricing, and they are not afraid that their company's strategy is to create greater value for their clients. They know this means the client will need to make a greater investment so the salesperson’s company can produce the better results the client needs. The One-Up Salesperson is more than willing to defend the model, knowing it is the key to the client's success—and client retention.
A One-Up salesperson begins the negotiation very early in the sales conversation, building the case for the investment they will confidently ask for later in the conversation. When the One-Up salesperson recognizes an opportunity, they fearlessly explain that the investment their company needs is going to be bigger than most of their competitors. The One-Up salesperson promises to explain how the greater investment ensures the client achieves the best possible result.
By engaging in this conversation, the salesperson is differentiating themselves, their company, and their product or service without ever mentioning them.
Because the nature of being One-Up means the salesperson knows things that their contacts do not, they transfer their knowledge and experience to improve their clients’ ability to make the right decision, one that ensures the improved outcomes their client needs. The One-Up salesperson recognizes that they need to facilitate the client's buyer's journey by ensuring they have conversations that will help them understand how to make a decision to change and who will make the best partner.
The One-Up Salesperson uses the sales conversation to differentiate their company by creating greater value in the sales conversation. One of the ways they do this is by talking less about the product and service, and focusing more on the delivery models different companies use to improve their client's results.
The triangulation strategy both differentiates the seller’s company and provides the buyer with a way to make an informed decision. Rather than saying something negative about a competitor, the One-Up salesperson begins by explaining the different models available to the client.
Starting with the lowest-price model, the One-Up salesperson sings the praises of what solutions their competitors offer. To ensure the client knows both the good and bad about the models, the One-Up salesperson confesses each model's sins.
Then, the client will have to accept the concessions they are making that they would otherwise be unaware of. By taking this approach, the One-Up neutralizes the competing models.
Once the One-Up salesperson has triangulated the different models, they assess their own, reversing the pattern. This time, they start by identifying the model's primary sin— a higher price than the alternatives. Then, they pivot to an explanation of how and why the greater investment eliminates the concessions required of other models.
Engaging in a Negotiation
In B2B sales, the salesperson doesn't often start a negotiation; the client does by making an ask. The One-Up approach breaks the pattern the client is used to by negotiating, asking for something in exchange for what the client wants or needs. The work the salesperson has done to defend their model makes it easier to limit any price concession because the client has a better understanding of the concessions required of them as they move to lower-priced models.
Sales leaders and managers who have just discovered that they are negotiating with their own sales force would do well to provide their team with the trades they can make—so they can negotiate the client’s concession without having to leave the conversation. By approaching negotiations in this manner, you have a better chance of limiting the negotiation to a single round.
The One-Down salesperson lacks the ability to create value in the sales conversation, which means they have a tough time convincing their client to invest more to get the better results they need. They fail to differentiate their solution from the very similar solutions their competitors have proposed, making it hard to justify a higher price.
By being One-Up, you possess the ability to justify the delta between your price your competitors’ by pointing to the value you create. By preventing your client from investing too little in the change they need, you can help them achieve the improvement they desire.