When you ask a prospective client for a meeting, you are asking them to provide you with their single, non-renewable commodity: their time. The single reason your contacts say no to a request for a meeting is that they believe it is a waste of their time. But it's also true that when a contact says yes to a meeting, they do so with the expectation that your conversation is going to benefit them, or why else would they agree to the meeting.
Recently, I have heard that many salespeople are struggling to convert a first meeting into a second meeting. After the first meeting, they might record the company as an opportunity in their CRM, even without securing a second meeting. Their sales manager may allow them to keep the opportunity, but the fact the client didn't agree to a next step is evidence that the contact is now a specter, and your first meeting may be your only meeting.
The reason salespeople are unable to convert a first meeting to a second meeting is that they create too little value in the first meeting to have earned a second one. The reason they don't convert the meeting to another meeting is that they are One-Down.
You Are One-Up or One-Down
Unfortunately, the idea of being One-Up or One-Down is binary. You are one or the other. There is no Half-Up or Half-Down. The salesperson who is One-Up knows something their client doesn't know but will find valuable to their decision-making and in getting the better results they need. A One-Down salesperson doesn't possess the knowledge and experience to provide their contact with a conversation they find valuable.
There are a good deal of reasons a salesperson might present as One-Down, including a lack of relevant knowledge, not recognizing the factors the contact will need to consider in their decision, no real depth of understanding, not learning from experience, a lack of confidence, desperation for a deal, fearing clients, being compliant or conflict averse, and avoiding accountability. But the most prevalent reason so many salespeople present as One-Down is that the legacy approach is still commonly taught and trained—even though clients no longer find it valuable.
Two salespeople can sell the same product, work for the same manager, compete against the same competitors, and have the same pricing, but one finds their way to the top of the stacked ranking while the other is close to the bottom. Sales success is individual. The salesperson who is One-Up makes selling look easy, while the salesperson who is One-Down makes it look impossible.
What Your Client Expects of You
In a transactional sale, your clients may not expect much of you, as they make the decision often enough and there is little risk of any serious harm to their results for getting the decision wrong. In transactional sales, your client wants to buy something that is relatively interchangeable and low stakes, and it is rare that they need or want more than one brief conversation. Many legacy approaches cause clients to treat salespeople and their products as commodities that can be sold transactionally, but this doesn’t work for more complex sales.
A complex sale is quite different than a transactional sale, starting with the client's expectations of the salesperson. Because the client isn't often called to make this level of decision, they need help understanding how best to make it. The strategic importance of getting the decision right is due to the fact that getting the decision wrong means negative consequences, ones that often come at a high cost to the company and the decision makers.
The person who is One-Up is capable of helping the client understand and navigate a complex sale, while the One-Down salesperson will find themselves failing, even if they can easily make a transactional sale. The One-Down salesperson believes they are competing on the strength of their company and their "solutions," while the One-Up salesperson understands that they are competing to create the greatest value in the sales conversation.
Not For Any Other Reason
Being One-Up provides you the ability to win more deals. But it's important to know why being One-Up helps you win and have more success than others. There is a hint in the prior paragraph.
The determining factor is who creates the greatest value inside the sales conversation. The best reason to pursue being One-Up is that your clients and prospective clients need you to be. Not only does being One-Up make you credible and relevant, but it also means you can provide decision-makers with the counsel, advice, and recommendations that ensure they make the best decision to improve their results.
The One-Up salesperson is aware of their responsibility to help the client with the full range of conversations they need to make, from the decision to change, to the challenges of the change process, to the different approaches that might improve their results, to weighing the different factors that will impact their results. Creating certainty and improving the client's ability to make sense of their world can only be accomplished with a salesperson that is One-Up. Becoming One-Up isn’t easy. Pursuing tips, tricks, and shortcuts will cheat you of the chance to develop your One-Upness.
Eventually, should you desire to be a consultative salesperson or a trusted advisor, there isn't a better way than becoming an expert in helping your clients to improve their results. It takes time to become One-Up, but you can speed the process up by recognizing that you are One-Down and using every conversation to learn something that will help you better serve your prospects and your clients.
Do good work and create value for others.