Alignment-Based Sales: Don’t Be A “One Way”

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Sales shouldn’t be a win-lose relationship. It you’re focusing on the knockout punch of closing the deal, like the “ABCs of Sales” approach, you’re creating a dynamic with those clients that’s really not sustainable. It’s an incredibly short-sighted way to do business, but it’s also surprisingly common.

I even have a term for people like this. I call them “one ways.” Why? It comes from one of the first dates I had with the woman who would later become my wife.

When we first started dating, I was a different guy. It was a lot younger back then, and I was both clueless and a little selfish. On one of our earliest dates, we were hanging out at my apartment watching a movie. We were a good ways into the film, and I realized I was getting a little hungry.

Here’s where the trouble started: I got up and made myself a sandwich. I didn’t say anything to her. I didn’t pause the movie. I didn’t offer to make her anything, or even have the common courtesy to say where I was doing. I just got up and went into my kitchen to feed myself..

When I came back and sat down, sandwich in hand, she shot me a cold look. It took me a minute to realize she was even irritated. But it didn’t take long for her to make her opinion known.

“You’re a total one way,” she said, disappointed.

I’d never heard that expression before, but I instantly understood the meaning. I was so focused on myself that, even on a date, I didn’t even take her into consideration. She might as well not have been there.

It was a small moment, but it was also a deeply revealing one. It wasn’t about being a boneheaded twentysomething guy who was too clueless to ask his girlfriend if she wanted a sandwich. It was about a huge blind spot in my worldview, where the only thing that mattered to me at that moment was myself. Not even the woman who would eventually become his wife, his best friend, and the mother of his children.

I’m still embarrassed to share that story. I would never do that today. But I’m glad it happened, because it opened my eyes to how I was acting. How many failed dates, missed friendships, and failed business deals had happened simply because I was blindly focused on what I wanted? Looking back, quite a few.

I’m also glad it happen because it gave me a useful analogy to how a closing-centric salesperson views the world, and a great shorthand phrase to identify it by. When I meet people who are as self-focused as I used to be, I can call them one-ways.

Salespeople who think this way may get their foot in the door, and even close that first sale. But when it comes time to renew that contract, they often find their customers just aren’t interested. That’s because a high-pressure, one-sided deal is pretty selfish. Why should they do business with someone who wants them to “lose” so that they can “win”?

Your customers aren’t playing that game. They just need a service or a product at a fair price. They’re looking to build a relationship with someone who they can trust to deliver what they need. If they get the sense that all you care about it youself and your commission, it’s only a matter of time before they start talking to the competition.

Don’t be a one way. Sales isn’t a contest. When it’s right, it’s a partnership based on an alignment of interests. I’ll talk more about that in a later post.