Hope Is Not a Strategy- Book Summary

I am not in sales, I have no experience selling, and this is a weak point in my personal quiver. That is why when my company decided to have a sales book as an option for the required reading I jumped on it. This book, I have to imagine is less about selling than it is about mastering a “complex sale”. One where there will be more lengthy negotiations, multiple competitors, and a much more complex product (IT systems, ERP systems, software packages, etc.). While I do not believe this was the most appropriate book for the specific sales issues we are trying to overcome, it has sound principles that can be used for selling in general.

Hope Is Not A Strategy, by Rick Page <<< Buy the book here.

Part 1

  • “Selling” has changed in the last 20+ years from more basic selling to what we are calling the complex sale. The impact of this change is outlined on pages 6-7. Some of the main ones that stuck out to me are:
    • Analysis paralysis –
    • New requirements late in the buying process
    • Blind spots (missing info)
    • Quote and hope proposals – you just send a quote proposal without selling to a specific person. Proposals don’t sell, people do.
    • No access to power
  • Reasons you can be dead and not know it. You are often the 2nd or 3rd choice, but they will drag you along and do not want you to leave the table just yet
    • Due diligence – they just want to make sure they have additional viable options and can document that they quoted competitively
    • Price leverage – Using your price against their #1 choice
    • Safety net – In case their #1 falls through
    • Lack of knowledge
    • Lack of courage to tell you your losing
  • You need to determine the client’s needs first
    • The most important thing about the complex sale (and sales in general) is that you need to solve a problem. For the complex sale you need to solve business problems, understand what the ‘pain’ is for the customer
  • 4 levels of selling on page 17
    • Industry/marketing – General marketing
    • Account/enterprise – Think SAP, SalesForce, Concur, etc. that are adopted by an enterprise. The sale for these is a bit more complex.
    • Opportunity
    • Individual
  • You need to know your competition to know your strengths and weaknesses. You can probably find a list of strengths on the internet and write them in strength/weakness columns for this analysis
  • 7 generations of buyer-seller relationship pg. 24
  • 10 laws of team selling – pg. 25
  • Questions are the answer
    • Listen first, talk second. keep the client talking about their problems
  • Competitive advantage falls into 3 categories
    • low priced vendor
    • value differentiated
    • focused on niche market
  • Know your value proposition and what it means to your customerLink the competitive advantages to show value to customer- visual on page 43. Maybe only 2 value propositions really matter to the customer – focus on those (sealed + rugged)
  • R.A.D.A.R- is the trademarked term used by the book
    • Reading Accounts and Deploying Appropriate Resources
      • Link solutions to pain (or gain)
        • your client needs to confess them
        • understand the political motives- who is sponsoring
        • focus the needs and use the clients terminology
        • Understand what matters to the people sponsoring it: culture, strategy, political, etc. all have factors- examples on pages 59-67
      • Qualify the prospect
        • is there already money in the budget? if not are we looking for them to add it next year? or get them to spend off budget (need high-up political sponsor)?
        • reasons to qualify out of a customer
          • cannot solve their pain well
          • no access to power
          • decision making process does not favor us
          • We don’t have the resources for adequate pursuit
          • we have better opportunities elsewhere
      • Build Competitive Preference
        • The highest level of preference is trust
        • Benefits mapping- how it will benefit them personally and professionally
        • Making your sponsors look good
        • Ask questions that will lead your client ot be more critical of competitors
        • Anticipate your competitor’s strategy and neutralize it before it takes off
        • Help develop the buying criteria, re-educate them to shape their vision
      • Determine the decision making process
        • understand how the decision will be made: vote? algebraic democracy? whos vote counts the most? if the CEO will override any decision, what is your strategy
        • Understand the people who vote and what means the most to them- votes from IT, MFG, Finance- understand how the votes count and who you need to win over
        • Find the pain, Find the politics
      • Sell to power
        • We build emotional bank accounts with eachother- social capital. And you must make deposits before you can make withdrawals
        • If influence is social currency, then integrity is gold
      • Communicate the strategic plan
        • Winning without strategy is called luck. Direct salespeople are paid to make their own luck.
        • Why strategies fail
          • Poor information
          • They don’t communicate the plan to the team
          • Not having a plan B- or C,D, E
            • There must be consious reanalysis and coaching process for absorbing new info and processing it into new strategies, tactics and actions
          • Do not spread yourself too thin
          • Art of war quote: Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively
        • Dynamic, flexible strategy
          • Information drives strategy
          • Team needs effective presentation skills and graphics tools to get the benefits from their heads to the prospects’ heads
          • Set goals and objectives- start with the end in mind
          • Test your strategy
        • Seek out bad news, “Why CEOs fail” describes one of the warning signs of executive denial as a background in sales or marketing.
        • Anticipate failure points and strengthen them- have plan B,C,D in the pocket
        • Art of War Quote:
          •  “if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”
    • Part 3
      • Preemptive strategies:
        • Demand creation vs. demand reaction
        • ask for and seek an exclusive or sole source evaluation – p 124
        • align yourself w/ a power partner- consulting firm
        • walk away early
      • Frontal strategies- go straight in and sell- only works when you have superiority, know when to switch to plan B
      • Sell the product or proposal, sell the company story
        • if the client can see your superiority quickly, jump to the demo make sure you understand the needs though
      • Flanking strategies- require speed, innovation, and surprise. always be asking “if they had to decide today, who would win?” if the answer is “not me” then its time for plan B.
        • bring your strength against your enemy’s weakness
          • Change the pain- to things sponsored by more powerful people
          • change the power
          • change the process
          • Linking solutions to products
          • Expanding the scope
        • If you don’t know your winning your probably losing
      • Develop trust- when trust is established, evaluation cycles can fall to zero
      • Position yourself as a solutions company vs. a product company
      • Know what to sell, when and understand that issues may change as you progress through the sale
      • Beware of counterattacks- when your competitor realizes they are losing, they will result in slashing prices, or going over the project lead’s head. Anticipate these tactics and neutralize them
      • Equip our sponsors with business case and solution differentiators or preference will be perceived as cronyism based on politics alone
      • Strategies at an individual  level on pages 146-148
      • You must get past the gatekeeper to talk to the C-Level executives. Reasons you can talk them into this: pg 150-151
        • recognition and glory
        • secure resources
        • mitigate risk
        • project scope- lateral
        • project scope -strategic
        • my boss- your boss
        • bargain for access
        • you asked
        • Get out of your comfort zone and into the power zone
      • Executives care about the following, they do not want to hear about the details of the interface, they want to know: pg 154
        • strategic- competitive advantage, customer satisfaction, M&A,  etc.
        • political-Stockholders, board of directors, environment, unions, etc.
        • financial- ROI, cash flow, productivity, etc.
        • cultural- Competitiveness, teamwork, cooperation, vision, alignment, etc.
        • Do not waste their time asking them their pains, this should be done at the lower levels. you should know their pains by now and give them solutions.

Part 4 

A great salesperson sells in a way that leads to trust and repeat business

  • selling between the sales
  • deliver on promises, make the sponsors look good, document on delivered value
  • pg 166-169
    • penetrate
    • demonstrate
    • evaluate
    • radiate
    • collaborate + elevate
    • dominate
    • inoculate and integrate
    • Create an interdependence
    • Relationships are based on 3 foundations
      • Competence, charisma, and character

Overall the book was insightful, I learned a lot about selling and the amount of strategy that needs to go into it. There are definitely some take-aways that I will be utilizing in the future.

Hope Is Not A Strategy, by Rick Page <<< Buy the book here.


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