Escape From the Strategy of Empty Hope

These 10 marketing insights from Rick Page‘s increase the odds in your favour.


Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Every one lives by selling one thing or the other. Either you are selling or being sold to. Those who are further on in life’s game of survival have among other skills, mastered the art of selling, early in their journeys.

Even though this book has been around for almost two decades, I only recently journeyed through its pages. Whether you are an expert or a latecomer, within its pages are invaluable insights to reinject life into how you market and sell, be it selling your old rustic self, marketing, and selling your skills or both.

The author aptly described hope as being what we humans resort to when we do not have control — over circumstances or their outcomes. Strategy comprises actions and tactics we must take if our visions are to become realities. The author cautioned us on the need to balance positive actions with positive attitudes to avoid the pitfalls of depending solely on one while neglecting the other.

Strategy is a plan to deploy resources in a way that brings your strength to bear on the opponent’s weakness, creating a momentum that leads to victory.

The book subtitle highlights 6 keys to winning the complex sale — stepping out of the comfort zone into the power zone. Here are the vital lessons;

  1. When the client evaluates and evaluates your proposals without ever getting closer to purchasing from you: know surely that either you are dealing with low power personnel within your prospect organization. Hence, these people cannot push the evaluation of your sale proposal to a conclusion. Also, it could be there is no urgent business problem painful enough to cause the purchase of your services to happen. What to do in such cases is to determine the needs of your clients first. Next, as quickly as possible seek a deal with people in decision-making positions within the organization.
  2. Out of the blue new customer requirements. This may happen when you thought you have gone far into negotiations or even secured an understanding with your client. Suddenly, your prospect came up with a requirement you cannot meet. This sudden new requirement might have come from your competitors. Here is how to escape from this impasse.
    “You must refocus them off the imagined political benefits that may come from a low price onto the longer-term benefits of the overall project. Emphasize the point that lower prices do not lower risks.
  3. Know the customer’s needs. Better still, help him know them. What are you selling — solutions, or products, or both? Even though there are different approaches to selling in these niches, a consultative approach to selling helps to bridge the three. How? Determine first the client’s needs. Better still, help them determine what those needs are.
  4. The key to building customer loyalty or becoming a preferred seller is exceeding customer’s expectations and building trust. As the customer continuously validate your trustworthiness, their dependence on you will continue to increase.
  5. You must connect the benefits of using your products or services to the needs of the client — linkage. Parading the features of your products and offerings will not cut the deal. According to the author, critical to linking your benefits to the client’s needs are the answers to what he calls the simple “so what” test. Doing otherwise is equivalent to “presenting features in search of problems”. The values you bring along with your proposal cause your customers and prospects to stay or flee from you. Find the need before presenting the solution. Listen more, talk less.
  6. As a business developer, part of your role is to stimulate latent business problems into buying actions. Having discovered this latent business problem, give the customer a picture of what their business stands to gain from its solution. Afterward, find a sponsor with enough power and for whom the pain is political and emotional to prompt him and his organization to act. According to the author,
    • If you are to create urgency to generate or close business, you must creatively take the invisible costs and make them visible and politically painful. You must put a price tag on procrastination.
    •The client will only change when the cost of not changing exceeds the cost of changing. There must be a source of urgency, and note that political costs often trump economic costs.
  7. Will you rather be “commodified” or be “a preferred vendor”? To avoid becoming another run-of-the-mill commodity vendor, aim at solving higher end business problems for your clients. To do this, don’t just respond to the customer’s requests. Have a good grasp of the strategic business problems they are trying to solve. This will help to build trust and also ensure you command a higher premium over your competitors.
  8. 5 key questions you must answer — all the time.
    • Will the pain or opportunity cause them to buy at all? (Urgency)
    • Can we solve their problem profitably? (Linkage)
    • Can we solve it better than the competition? (Differentiation)
    • Can we provide strategic benefits? (Value)
    • Are requirements defined? By whom?
  9. In other to avoid becoming a stalking horse and only coming to know that when it is too late, the author offered this as strategies for tackling such a scenario:
    • Be prepared with a counter-strategy
    • Know the issues involved and influence them to your advantage
    • Steer the process towards highlighting your strengths or your competitor’s weaknesses.
    • Identify the more powerful influencers and know the roles they play.
    ▪ Sometimes you can have people who like you, but who are so disliked in their own organizations, they can actually set you back.
  10. Information is your master key. Know the sources of influence — getting things done without the use of authority. Reciprocity — showing favors and gratitude is the currency of social capital. Only those who so chose remain poor — to the detriment of their selling objectives. You can proactively protect yourself from your competition by documenting the values your services and products have added to your client.

The author dwelt on other indispensable qualities such as charisma, (style and presence), integrity, and dependability

Key Quotes

Failures are divided into two classes — those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought.
~ John Charles Salak

Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively.
~ Sun Tzu

In order to make things happen in the complex sale, we have to get out of our comfort zone and into the power zone.


Copyright ©Rick Page, Hope Is Not A Strategy, McGraw HIll, 2002

Thank you for reading. If some of the personal lessons I derived from this book resonate with you, connect and share your insights with me.