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The One-Up Sales Approach: Gaining a Competitive Advantage in B2B Sales

Discover how the One-Up sales methodology gives you a competitive edge over competitors using outdated sales strategies.

Salesperson 1: Traditional Sales Approach Analysis

Imagine you are a decision-maker. Your company has a serious problem. You and your team have spent months trying to solve this wicked problem. Nothing has worked, and things are getting worse. As luck would have it, a salesperson calls you, and you take the call. You agree to carve out an hour for this salesperson. You round up your team and meet in a large conference room, hopeful that this salesperson will help you improve your results. You introduce the salesperson to your team, and the salesperson seems nice enough.

The salesperson starts by asking each stakeholder about their role and how long they've been with the company. After these many introductions, the salesperson begins by sharing a little about his company and its leadership. You had already found your way to the company’s website, doing research before the meeting. Your peers start to get restless, as the sales rep starts to name the large clients they serve and how their company has helped them, pivoting to the solution the rep will try to sell you.

Eventually, the salesperson asks a basic question about your company’s problem and the implications it has on your business. You start to feel concerned that the salesperson doesn’t know more about the problem and its impact on your results. He's trying to make a business case that will compel you to recognize the need to change—something you knew months ago. As the salesperson sings the praises of his solution, several members of your team excuse themselves. After the meeting breaks up, they decide this salesperson wasted their time. It will be difficult to get the task force together in the future.

Salesperson 2: One-Up Sales Strategy

You are no closer to solving the problem. You reach out to a peer on LinkedIn and ask if they know someone who might be able to help turn things around. Your contact agrees to introduce you to the salesperson she worked with when she had a similar problem. This salesperson has a professional appearance and demeanor. You were lucky to get most of your team back in the conference room.

The salesperson begins by sharing a short, powerful executive briefing with data about the trends that cause companies like yours to have trouble. You look at the data and start to understand the nature of your problem. The salesperson says, “We see the problem you have all the time. There are a number of reasons you have this problem, and if I can ask you a couple of questions, we can identify the root cause or causes.” The salesperson asks several questions, working to identify the underlying cause of the problem.

The salesperson continues, “There are three ways to handle this problem, but we’ll need to look at a number of factors to determine which of our solutions you will need.” The salesperson starts asking technical questions about your processes, and you feel this person knows more than you and your team. You like this salesperson because she has a better understanding of your problem. You also like her because she also knows more about the decision you will need to make.

After you listen to this salesperson explain the factors that will determine the best solution for your problem, you prefer to work with her, even though she never mentioned her company, her clients, or her solution.

Why One-Up Sales Reps Have a Significant Competitive Advantage

Salespeople who are One-Up have greater knowledge and experience when it comes to the client’s problems and the rare decisions they are charged to make. Instead of trying to position their company and their solution, they transfer their greater knowledge and experience to their prospective clients. Their sales approach is highly consultative.

Sales leaders who want to reach their goals and targets tend to have very few salespeople who happen to be One-Up. These reps are always at the top of the stacked ranking and always invited to the President’s Club. But sales managers can enable this approach like any other modern sales methodology. It can also be enabled through B2B sales training, increasing reps’ sales effectiveness and improving their win rates.

No one wants to buy from a salesperson who isn’t able to understand their needs better than they do. Nor do they want to buy from someone who is unable to provide them with the information and insights that enable them to make a decision with confidence and certainty. This is why One-Up sales reps dominate their competitors.

Key Elements of an Effective One-Up Sales Approach

You might wonder why the One-Up salesperson provided an executive briefing at the beginning of her first meeting. First, it creates value for the client in the first few minutes of the initial meeting. Second, it positions the salesperson as an expert and authority. Third, it addresses “Why change?” in the first meeting. Fourth, it ensures a second meeting.

As we are selling in the Era of Decision Making, this approach will continue to provide buyers and decision makers with the experience they need to make the best decision for their company and their results.

Before you move on from this article, jot down what you might need to remove from your current sales approach and how you will replace it with better strategies—strategies that will cause your contacts to prefer buying from you or your sales team.


Sales 2024 One-Up
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 6, 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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