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There are two types of salespeople: those who need a deal and those who don’t. Sales organizations also fit into one of these two categories. The person who needs something from someone else is One-Down, while the person who needs nothing is One-Up. The One-Up person has the better position of the two.

Salespeople unaware of this phenomenon are often One-Down without knowing it. It is easy for a contact to recognize a sales rep needs the deal more than the client needs their help. What’s worse, by not being One-Up the seller creates no value, losing to one who can create value.

A Set of One-Down Tells

There are several tells that reveal a salesperson is One-Down, meaning they need something from their conversation with a prospective client.

  1. Desperation: When a salesperson is desperate to develop rapport early in the sales conversation, it’s a sign they are One-Down. Needing to be liked differs from being likable, and it’s often a sign that a salesperson needs something from their client. The best time to try to build rapport is after you complete your sales meeting agenda because this presents you as someone who needs something from their buyers and decision-makers.
  2. Attempts to create credibility: You are credible or you are not. A salesperson who believes they need more credibility will talk about how long their company has been in business, the names of their largest clients, and any other facts that they hope will impress. When a salesperson is credible, you need not point to anything other than the value you create in the sales conversation.
  3. Talking too much: When a salesperson talks too much, it is a sign they need something and evidence that they are One-Down. Someone who is One-Up leaves their prospect a lot of room to talk. Recently, I observed two highly effective salespeople on calls. Both said less than you believe possible. They were One-Up.
  4. Weak questions: Salespeople must use questions to learn how to help potential buyers improve their business. One-Down salespeople often ask questions they should already know the answers to. If you must ask your client what problems they are experiencing and what are the implications, you are One-Down. This is also a sign that you are not what your client was hoping for. Your questions should help your buyer learn something while they are helping you learn about their situation.
  5. Conflict aversion: Every so often, a seller will encounter a contact who has wrong information. Because the salesperson needs a deal, they will fail the sales champion by not addressing the client’s mistake. The fear of insulting the contact prevents them from telling the truth. A salesperson who doesn’t need the deal will have no concern for correcting their client and ensuring they know the truth. This is why this truth teller is One-Up.
  6. Lack of value creation: The inability to create value for the client in the sales conversation is a sign of a One-Down salesperson. When a salesperson fails to offer the client valuable insights, they have the same chance of winning the Powerball twice in a row. When a salesperson knows less than their prospective client, they are woefully One-Down.
  7. The question “What is it going to take?”: Once these words leave a salesperson’s mouth, you can be certain they need the deal more than the decision maker needs their help. This is a sign of desperation. A One-Up salesperson will ask this question.
  8. Discounts and other concessions: Depending on what the salesperson sells, your client may ask for a discount or some other form of concession. Offering the discount to win the client’s business proves the salesperson needs the deal more than the client needs the help.

The Leaders Role in the Salesperson’s Needs

Sales leaders are following technology companies into a transactional sales approach. Because so many SAAS providers take money from private equity, they are chained to a spreadsheet with goals that are far beyond what is possible. These lofty goals are based not on the market’s needs, but rather on the needs of private equity, which plans for a fast and profitable exit.

An increasing number of companies model their approach after these companies and regress to transactional approaches because of their needs. Over time, the more these approaches are used, the more buyers will look for client-centric salespeople. Client-centric One-Up salespeople work closely with their contacts and in the client’s best interest to win deals.

Leaders who want to win more deals should worry more about how they develop their sales force, methodologies, and ability to be valuable to their clients. One irony of sales is that it is easier to win a deal when the salesperson doesn’t need one. I am uncertain that leaders will recognize that using transactional approaches is a regression that makes it more difficult for their teams to win.

When you need a deal more than your client needs your help, you are more likely to use weak and transactional behaviors in the sales conversation. When you are selling well and winning deals, you have the confidence, preparation, and insights that will help you win more deals, even when you don’t need them.

Sales organizations must recognize that they have competitors that will refuse to be desperate for deals. The more you need a deal, the more difficult it becomes to win the deals you need. You can protect your team from needing deals by developing them to be One-Up and capable of helping their clients. See Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative and Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition.


Sales 2023
Post by Anthony Iannarino on August 21, 2023

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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