By Phil Gripton

Picture the scene: the agency’s done its pitch, the team patted themselves on the back and said it’s a sure-fire win.

Until it isn’t.

The deal’s gone to a competitor. They are now left scratching their heads, pointing their fingers, and moaning about the unfairness of it all. The champagne was popped prematurely.

But where did it all go wrong? We believe ‘Hopium’ could be to blame:

Hopium: (Noun. An obsessive sales / business development behaviour characterised by habitual episodes of unsubstantiated optimism, persistent delusion, and expressions of self-deception within the context of winning new business.)

We had a great meeting, they like our creds - all 75 slides!

What is Hopium?

We coined the term to raise awareness of blind optimism and positivity which can occur when agencies are trying to secure new business. Hopium is a repetitive behaviour of a business development person under the misapprehension that they can secure business simply by presenting what they do and relying on the client to work out the business value they can gain from it.

Hopium is a significant block to achieving growth. It can wreak havoc with agency  forecasting, resourcing, revenue and profit, all of which can lead to issues of morale, adding unnecessary risk to an agency’s plans for success. Hopium is something we have encountered and resolved in our own sales careers and in agencies where we have moved to “make certain” of the outcomes we want, rather than “hoping” for the results we needed .

We believe that leaving deal conversions to “hope” is high risk . To succeed, you need eyes on the steps  to growth, not a head in the clouds.

Stay tuned for more guidance to rid your agency of Hopium here.

What are the symptoms of Hopium?

  • A one size fits all approach: 

    “If it worked before, it’ll work again.”
  • Believing it’s ‘in the bag’ when you don’t really know:

    “I think they loved it and I reckon they can see the value in our solution, I’d be shocked if they went with someone else after that!”
  • Hoping your accolades will carry you instead of asking questions to discover your prospect’s issues – and sharing great evidence of solving similar challenges:   

    “With all the awards we’ve won, I think that will sway them”
  • Focusing on only one lower level contact, rather than identifying and working with the multilevel stakeholder group:

    I’m sure they’ll share the value with relevant colleagues and say how great we were.”
  • Lack of ability to self-evaluate and then feeling mistreated when it goes wrong

    “I can’t believe they led us along like that.”
We don't know who else is pitching, but it will close by the end of the month

How to fix it?

  1. Face harsh truths. No one buys unless the quantified business problems hindering their business and their personal success are resolved.
  1. Tailor your outreach, offer, proposal and pitch to the specific prospect or client. They deserve to be treated like individuals with unique challenges because that’s what they are.
  1. Ask questions and listen to what your prospects problems are to create bespoke solutions. It’s not about you, it’s all about them.
  1. Ensure you’re speaking to a key decision maker. These are the individuals that can actually make decisions and hold budget responsibility, more junior contacts can help, but will only take you so far.
  1. Identify and develop a relationship with someone with power and influence in your prospect organisation (your champion) who will have a vested interest in you winning the deal
  1. Don’t just hope for it, work for it and make certain. Assess the steps that need to be taken to succeed. Don’t leave it to blind faith.
  1. Reach out for help if this isn’t your natural skillset. Get a tried and tested advisor to help you rid Hopium from your agency for good.

 How Waypoint can help

Through decades of business experience, our expert advisers have helped leaders eradicate Hopium from their agencies.

If you recognise any of the symptoms of Hopium in your agency, reach out for a free 45-minute diagnostic assessment.

Phil Gripton

Post by Phil Gripton

Partner at Waypoint Partners

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