Many salespeople underestimate the importance of how they present themselves when they walk into their prospective client's office for a first meeting. The One-Down salesperson will, without meaning to, project that the client will not be able to count on them to help improve their results. The content of the conversation is enough for a decision-maker to recognize this isn't the salesperson they need.
The One-Up salesperson knows they have the knowledge and experience their client is missing, and they themselves so their prospective clients recognize their value. The content of the conversation is radically different than the one with a One-Down salesperson, causing the contact to prefer this salesperson over their competitors.
Positioning in B2B Sales and the Problem of Greater Need
Every salesperson needs to create opportunities. The salesperson who isn't effective is going to have a greater challenge creating the opportunities they need. The more trouble they have generating potential deals, the more they need the next conversation to result in a new opportunity. This brings us to the problem of greater need when it comes to positioning.
The salesperson that needs the next deal as much as they need their next breath often behaves in ways that cause their client to recognize them as One-Down. The more the self-interested salesperson pursues an opportunity, the faster their contacts recognize this person isn't going to be someone they buy from.
The One-Up salesperson believes the client’s need is greater than their own. Because they are more effective than their One-Down peers and competitors, they know this to be true. The One-Up salesperson positions themselves as someone who knows what the client needs to know to improve their results. They believe it is easier for them to live without the deal than it is for the client to live without the information they need to improve their results—so they don’t project need and self-interest.
This approach doesn't suggest the salesperson should be arrogant, in fact, arrogance projects a psychological need that would ruin their positioning. The salesperson who wants to be liked projects another psychological need that creates poor positioning.
The One-Up salesperson takes a more clinical approach, focusing their attention and intention on helping the client. After all, addressing the client's needs is the only way to create an opportunity.
B2B Sales Positioning and the Power of Expertise and Authority
There is a truth that many in sales have not yet recognized: how you sell is much more important than what you sell. For many years, salespeople have been told they should be more consultative and less transactional. Those who embrace a more consultative approach have recommended things like asking good questions and avoiding high-pressure tactics. What they haven't done is explain how to be consultative.
A consultant has the position of being an expert and an authority in their field. A consultant isn't going to tell you about their company, their clients (with whom they have non-disclosure agreements), or their services. While it is true that a consultant will ask questions and avoid using pressure, what makes them consultative is that they possess the knowledge and experience that allows them to provide counsel, advice, and recommendations. The consultant knows they are in the meeting because their clients need help improving their results.
In a recent conversation on LinkedIn, I suggested that salespeople pretend to be consultants. One individual had a problem with the word pretend, but removing the low-value conversations that position you as being One-Down is easily accomplished by pretending you have nothing to sell but your advice and counsel.
Why No Client Needs a One-Down Salesperson
For about a decade, there have been people who have suggested that salespeople are going to be displaced, as the internet allows any B2B buyer to do their own research, reaching out to a salesperson to execute the transaction, only after they have made a decision. During this period, despite the noise, the need for salespeople has actually grown.
The idea that salespeople are no longer necessary is false. The truth is that One-Down salespeople are going to find themselves competing with websites, as both provide the same information and create approximately the same value for the client. This explains why no one needs a One-Down salesperson and why they have so much trouble converting a first meeting to a second meeting.
Your clients and mine need a salesperson with the knowledge and experience they are missing. The position of One-Up is something like, "I know something you don't know," allowing the salesperson to transfer their knowledge, experience, and perspective. In doing so, they enable the client to make a decision they are rarely required to make.
How You Start and How You Finish
Poor positioning can cause the client to believe you are not capable of creating value as it pertains to their decision and their future results. This is going to cause them to meet with other salespeople until they find one they believe will be able to cover the gaps in their expertise.
The decision to buy from one salesperson instead of another comes down to who creates the greatest value in the conversation—and who they trust with their future. Many decision makers will know within the first few minutes of a sales meeting whether or not the person is One-Up, even if they don't use the term to describe this dynamic.
It's important that you position yourself as One-Up at the beginning, something you can only do by creating value for your client as quickly as possible, teaching them something they don't know.