Learn the single most important sales skill of them all

One of the most important traits in selling is the ability to build trust and respect, otherwise referred to as rapport, with a customer. The more a customer trusts, likes and respects you, the more business you will receive from that client. Period!

Look at any top producer in any field, and you will find that they are able to build rapport with clients quickly and in a way that often transcends and beats an even better-priced product or service.

But here is where most companies go wrong. While we know that building rapport is one of the most important steps in the sales process, most companies leave this vital step up to the individual salesperson. By not setting any standards in this area, client relationships will vary widely depending upon the mood, personality, attitude and talent of each salesperson.

We set standards on other sales processes. We set and measure budgets and targets. But very little is set to test the single most important sales skill of them all – RAPPORT. I also witness zero effort by companies to train and develop the rapport skills of their sales people. Train and improve the rapport skills of yourself and your sales team and I guarantee that your profits will skyrocket.

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free newsletter.

Do you need a speaker who will educate and inspire at your next industry conference or a trusted advisor who will increase profits, multiply sales and magnify marketplace positioning?                                                      

Contact John today – john@brandstorm.co.za

Differentiation – the key to marketing success

Differentiation is the most important strategic marketing principle of them all. All businesses, products and services require a differentiation of some kind. All business success requires that you be both different from and better than your competitors in some clear, distinct and tangible way.

Who is your competition? Why doesn’t your ideal customer buy from you? Why does your ideal customer buy from your competitor? What value does your ideal customer see in buying from your competitor that he or she does not see in buying from you? What could you do to overcome this perception?

The only hope you have in acquiring customers is to focus most of your time and attention on determining exactly who they are, where they are, and what you have to do to get them to buy from you rather than from someone else.

What is unique about your product or service? This is a key question that should constantly be on your mind. Be distinct or be extinct.

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free newsletter.

Do you need a speaker who will educate and inspire at your next industry conference or a trusted advisor who will increase profits, multiply sales and magnify marketplace positioning?                                                      

Contact John today – john@brandstorm.co.za

Winning the Sale with great Questions

Great quality questions provide great quality answers. In professional selling asking quality questions and really listening to the answers are two very important skills you need to master. Effective selling requires very little selling. Instead of focusing on selling, ask good questions which actually help the prospect make the buying decision for themselves.

Avoid asking poor questions like “What will it take to earn your business” or “If I could save you money, would you be interested”. These questions display a lack of sales ability. The problem with these kinds of questions is that they make you appear desperate and don’t let you gain the knowledge to present effective solutions.

Here are 20 great consultative questions that you can use to get yourself closer to the sale. Keep these in your sales kit and use them in all your calls and presentations. These will work in any sales environment.

1.     What is the biggest problem that you are facing with this?

2.     Which other problems are you experiencing?

3.     What are you currently doing to deal with the problem?

4.     If you could have things the way you wanted, what would it look like?

5.     Do you have any preference?

6.     What is important to you in finding a solution to this challenge?

7.     What are your top 3 requirements that this solution just has to have?

8.     Are you working within a budget for this?

9.     Have you got a ball-park figure in mind?

10.   Is there anything I have overlooked?

11.   Which alternatives have you considered?

12.   How soon would you like this?

13.   What would you like me to do next?

14.   Could you please give me some background on this?

15.   What 3 key outcomes do you want from this?

16.   Have I covered everything you need to know?

17.   Do you have any questions for me?

18.   How does this look/sound/feel to you?

19.   When are you looking to start?

20.   What are the next steps?

Ask questions that will make your prospects think and that will demonstrate your expertise and knowledge. You also gain insight into the prospects challenges and goals. This knowledge means you will be able to present powerful solutions. Selling is not as complicated as we sometimes make it. Happy selling!

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free newsletter.

Do you need a speaker who will educate and inspire at your next industry conference or a trusted advisor who will increase profits, multiply sales and magnify marketplace positioning?                                                      

Contact John today – john@brandstorm.co.za

50.5 ways to improve your marketing and selling that will instantly grow your business

Today, I want to share some of the best and most proven sales and marketing ideas and tips I have used and taught. Apply these and I guarantee that your business will grow during these final four months of 2013.

1. Listen. God gave you one mouth and two ears. Let that dictate how much you use both.

2. Stay in contact. Make a decision to contact all your past clients at least once a month. If you don’t, guess what? Your competition will.

3. Differentiate yourself. Why should someone buy from you? What makes you different from everyone else?

4. Ignore the competition while selling to customers. If you are looking at them or worried about them, then your focus is in the wrong place. You should make dealing with you so much more powerful that the competition.

5. Get rid of negative people from your life. Now, that might be somewhat difficult if you are married to him/her. You need to surround yourself with a solid group of positive, big-thinking movers and shakers. Avoid the moaners and groaners.

6. Send out 25 sales letters every week regardless. Get in the habit of sending out at least that many letters to prospects every week. No matter what, make sure they go out. Remind your prospects of the powerful benefits that you provide.

7. Learn from your mistakes. Every project has some “failure factor” in it. Fail forward – learn from trying and keep on going.

8. Create special offers. No matter what you sell, you can create a special offer which will put you in a favourable light in the eyes of your prospects.

9. Write a special report. If you are in selling, you are in educating and solving. What do you solve for people? Write an authoritative 10-page report, offer it to your prospects for free and your telephone will ring off the wall.

10. Write down your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What is your number one competitive selling advantage? It should be brief, exciting and should compel people to want to know more.

11. Realise that your past clients are an untapped goldmine. You will starve if you have to rely on constantly finding new customers. Repackage what you sell and re-offer to existing and past clients.

12. Deliver fast. It’s not the big that beats the small; it’s the fast that beats the slow. People no longer put up with slow delivery. Remember that we live in the age of the never satisfied customer.

13. Think long-term. If you are in it for the one-off sale, you will starve in the sales business. Everything you do should be focused on creating and keeping customers for life. Evaluate the lifetime value of every customer and I’m certain that it will sharpen your focus.

14. Be confident. If you have confidence in yourself, your product, and your company, then prospects will have confidence in you. If they have confidence in you, they are much more likely to buy from you. Nothing is more appealing than confidence.

15. Ask more questions. People want to know that you understand what they are going through. Why not ask twice as many questions on your next sales call and see what happens?

16. Become an authority figure. Remember that selling is more about perception than about products. Get interviewed. Launch a newsletter. Write a book or a report. Produce a CD. Give a speech or workshop. Become known.

17. Get your customers to trust you, meaning that if you sell insurance; make sure that when they think of insurance they think of you alone. If you sell real estate, they must automatically think of only you.

18. Keep your customers happy at all costs. You must become the pre-eminent provider of the service or product that you sell.

19. Develop and keep a positive attitude. Get happy! Read a good book or listen to an inspirational CD. Always remember that nothing is more contagious than enthusiasm.

20. Sell to help. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Get your eyes off your sales commission and onto their problems and solutions.

21. List 10 things you like about yourself. Work on building your self-esteem. Sometimes it’s so easy to focus on our weaknesses. Focus on your strengths.

22. Set a goal for the next year. What’s one thing you would really like to accomplish in your selling this year? Write it on a small card and carry it with you wherever you go.

23. Get a sense of humour. So many people are so uptight. Let your hair down. It’s a powerful sales tool. Humour creates rapport. Rapport creates magic.

24. Use testimonials. One of the most powerful sales tools you can have are endorsements from satisfied clients. Just ask for them! A good testimonial is better than one hundred sales pitches.

25. Be punctual. When you make someone wait it communicates a lack of respect for their time.

26. Don’t do admin work during prime selling time. What are you doing shuffling paper when you should be in front of prospects?

27. Welcome complaints. You can turn around most complaints if you are committed to winning. Make it easy and acceptable for them to tell you how they feel about you. View complaints as an opportunity.

28. Create urgency. Every letter, every sales call, every marketing piece must have a deadline. Action creates action.

29. Close the sale! This simple advice is obvious! Or is it? Most sales people have a problem with closing efficiently.

30. Pay yourself first. Save 10% of everything you earn. Starting with your next salary cheque, put the first 10% away for yourself.

31. Don’t ever quit! You will never win in selling if you give up.

32. Take responsibility for your results. You are the only person who can improve your situation.

33. Use a headline in your sales letters. Also keep in mind that every sales letter must have a P.S. You have less than 5 seconds to capture their interest. Headlines and a strong P.S. are powerful attention grabbers.

34. Create order in your client base. You should have a list of all your past contacts, past clients, hot prospects – preferably on computer.

35. Position yourself as an expert and authority. Even if you are new to your industry you can be perceived as an expert. The way to do it is with information. Write something, research something or print something and you are an instant “expert.”

36. Build, manage and maximise your database. Your list of contacts is one of the most valuable assets you have. Always add more names to it. Get them coming to you by regularly creating offers that make them step forward. The person with the biggest database or rolodex usually wins.

37. Blow your customers away by exceeding their expectations. The word-of-mouth benefits of doing this are tremendous.

38. Focus on the customer, not on you or your company. People don’t care about you, your credentials, or your company. They only care about one thing – Themselves. More specifically, how will spending their hard-earned money with you solve their problems?

39. Keep in touch. Send a weekly or monthly report or newsletter. Send a positive quotation of the day.

40. Increase the size of each sale. Ask for bigger orders wherever possible.

41. Invest in yourself. Get the best books and CD’s (join Automobile University). Go to seminars.

42. Be a person of integrity. People want to deal with people they like and trust.

43. Consult, rather than sell. When you go on a sales visit or are with a prospect on the shop floor, act as though you are a consultant rather than a sales person. Have the attitude that you will “Help” the prospect instead of “Selling” to the prospect. People hate to be “sold” to, but they love to “buy”.

44. You should be doing 30% of the talking and your prospect should be doing 70% of the talking. What is your current ratio? The more you question and listen, the more you sell. Remember the golden rule – ask questions.

45. To achieve peak sales performance there are six key knowledge areas in professional selling – business knowledge, industry knowledge, company knowledge, product knowledge, selling knowledge and lastly, attitude. It is said that knowledge is power; but knowledge is really only potential power until used effectively.

46. How good are your rapport conversation skills? The best sales professionals understand how to engage in conversation. All questions and comments should focus on the value and benefit to the prospective client. Good selling professionals provoke questions that engage the customer’s pride, passion and purpose. In fact, the better the quality of your questions, the more engaged the customer. This creates more listening opportunities for the selling professional.

47. Look professional. Appropriate professional dress is a positive reflection on you, your company, and your product.

48. Constantly improve your portfolio presentation. I am staggered at how many sales people don’t have effective presentation packs (in brochure form and PowerPoint) of their portfolios. Your portfolio presentation is the cornerstone of your business. This presentation is the tool that should separate you from the pack of imposters. This presentation should immediately convey your professionalism, your competitive advantages and why you and your company should be selected.

49. Improve your presentation skills. Anyone aspiring to work in professional selling must have refined presentation skills. However, few people are naturally eloquent speakers. Public speaking is challenging for most, but with help and effort, you can polish your skills and impress even the most difficult clients. Effective presentation skills are a standout quality in professional selling.

50. How do you double your sales? In professional selling you are only really growing your business when you are busy with 3 key result areas – Prospecting, Presenting and Closing. Evaluate and measure exactly how much time per day you are actually engaged in these three core activities – and then double this time – I guarantee that you will double your sales.

50.5 Pick 10 things from this article and start doing them right now. Feel free to share them with your colleagues.

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free newsletter.

Do you need a speaker who will educate and inspire at your next industry conference or a trusted advisor who will increase profits, multiply sales and magnify marketplace positioning?                                                      

Contact John today – john@brandstorm.co.za

One of the greatest South African speeches I’ve ever heard – The speaker: Pieter Cronjé

I recently hosted a Smart Thinking for Crazy Times morning business seminar. I enlisted the services of a friend of mine to share the platform. Pieter Cronjé presented possibly the finest, insightful and irreverent talk that I have ever witnessed. What made it so brilliant? It was the true story of his colorful, diverse and interesting career. True stories with a strong message make the most brilliant presentations of all.

I strongly endorse Pieter Cronjé as a brilliant strategist, a superb communications expert and a top keynote speaker. He will educate, entertain and inspire any audience. Contact Pieter at pieter@pietercronje.com to enquire about consulting and speaking engagements.

What follows is a transcription of his brilliant speech. Read and enjoy!

John Lloyd

READY! FIRE! AIM! – My South African Story (a speech by Pieter Cronjé)

Good morning Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for the kind welcome to this morning’s seminar.

Between Forrest Gump’s “Life’s a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get” and John Lennon’s “Life is what happens to you while you’re planning something else” lies infinite variety.  The chocolate you pick and what happens to you make your story.  You do not know how it will touch someone until you tell it.

When you need to build a bridge, you find an engineer, when you need surgery, you look for a surgeon.  But we can all read, speak, and write, so what is the big deal about communication?   We should not complicate communication.  We need it every day.  We should also not underestimate it. It is a profession and a skill.

I was born in Bloemfontein in the Free State to two of the most amazing parents. I attended Grey College in Bloemfontein, a parallel medium school founded by Sir George Grey in 1855.  You know, of course, that the older a man gets, the further he had to walk to school!

I received mother tongue tuition, but everything else at the school was bilingual.  There were no black students at the time, but there were learners from different language, religious and cultural groups.  The school produced sporting heroes, leaders in business, government and other walks of life.  It also produced the likes of Robey Leibbrandt, a Nazi agent, and Bram Fischer, a communist icon.  This taught me my first lesson in diversity and tolerance.

One of the school’s critics once confronted a famous headmaster, Jock Murray Meiring.

“I see the accused in this prominent city court case is an Old Grey!” he said to Mr. Meiring.

“Indeed,” said Mr. Meiring, “and so is the judge on the bench.  You will find us in all walks of life!”

Reflecting on my school days, I realise how formative they were.

While doing my military service I successfully applied for a bursary from Bloemfontein’s local newspaper, Die Volksblad.  I started there as a rookie.  My colleagues were at least five years more senior.  I had the naïve audacity to ask the chief sub-editor whether I could write my reports instead of typing them.  “You’d better learn fast!” he thundered.  I was a marked man and was given a true baptism of fire with a series of daunting assignments.

Later my newspaper was embroiled in a fight with the Provincial Government of the Free State.  At a time when the national government had appealed to all to save, the Provincial Administration had paid large sums for a new and the extensive refurbishment of another official residence for two provincial ministers.

I was sent to interview the senior minister and the Provincial Secretary.  After posing three of my ten questions, I was shown the door.  Interview over.

I reported this to my editor, “Oom Bart” Zaaiman, a tall, distinguished, soft-spoken, courteous grey-haired man with a core of steel.  Together we wrote the lead story.  We gave the Administration’s response to the three questions, but also recorded the questions they were not prepared to answer.  “Oom Bart” wrote a scathing editorial opinion.

Mr. Marx the Provincial Secretary phoned.  “Please ask Mr. Zaaiman to back off.  We’ve had enough,” he said.  I conveyed the message.

Mr. Zaaiman leaned back in his chair and smiled.  “Tell Jan Marx that if he saddles a tiger, he should ride it.”

As I turned to leave, Mr. Zaaiman added: “And tell him if he does not know what a tiger looks like, I cannot help him.”

I was fortunate to find myself in the Press Gallery in Parliament at a young age.  I was in awe of the verbal gladiators in the House such John Vorster, Helen Suzman, Marais Steyn, Cas Greyling, Radclyffe Cadman, and Mike Mitchell.

We had our lighter moments.  My namesake, Pierre Cronjé, was a church minister and delivered speeches in sermon style.  The opposition raised a point of order.  “Mr. Speaker, is it proper for the House to sit while the Honourable Member is praying?”

The Opposition’s Prof. Nic Olivier, would gesticulate wildly during his speeches.  The Chief Whip of the National Party raised a point of order: “Mr. Speaker, is the Honourable Member allowed to play the concertina in the House?’

The ever-popular Agriculture Minister, Hendrik Schoeman, and I shared a love of speed and motorcycles.  He would always needle his bubbly colleague Dr. Piet Koornhof, minister of “black affairs” (by many names), education, mining and sport.

“When Piet tells a joke, people think it’s policy.  When Piet announces policy, people think it’s a joke!”  Hendrik said.

During Prime Minister John Vorster’s détente travels in Africa, he, the Foreign Minister, Hilgard Muller, and Foreign Secretary, Brand Fourie, were sipping cocktails in the presidential garden of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny of the Cote d’Ivoire.  Uniformed guards were throwing chickens to the crocodiles in the presidential moat.

Vorster observed that he and his two colleagues were the only white people present.  He said to Fourie:  “Brand, this makes me think of Piet Retief and Dingaan.  I just hope these people have enough chickens!”

As London correspondent for Naspers from 1978 to 1981, it was quite strange to attend media conferences of the then banned liberation movements such as the ANC, PAC, Swapo and other anti-apartheid organisations during the day, and then to have cocktails with a visiting South African Cabinet minister at the South African Embassy that same evening.

I was there when Margaret Thatcher defeated Jim Callaghan and then took on the unions.  I witnessed ugly, violent strikes.  I indulged all my interests during those three years. I went to the Farnborough Air Show, Crufts Dog Show, did a Scottish whisky tour and was a member at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club where I saw jazz greats like Oscar Peterson and Buddy Rich perform live.

I was the first Afrikaans journalist to interview Robert Mugabe during the Lancaster House Independence talks in London.  It took long to arrange and it was a very secretive affair.

I still remember his response to my key question.  “If you win the election, will you be assisting the ANC and PAC in their struggle against the South African government?”

Mugabe said: “I have fought my liberation struggle.  South Africa must fight its own.”

When I covered the inauguration of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, BBC diplomatic correspondent, later editor, the late Brain Hanrahan, and I had to be taken back to our hotel under police escort after the ceremony.  The streets had erupted with violent protests staged by homeless people occupying empty homes.

I attended the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.  Did we play polo together?  No.  My bold (and truthful) motivation to the Foreign Press Association where all foreign journalists had to be accredited simply stated:  “I work for the largest Afrikaans newspaper group in the world.”

I was allocated a ringside seat on temporary stands erected on either side of the St Paul’s Cathedral altar.  I had a close-up, side-on view of the royal couple and faced the royal family.  It was a much better view than all the heads of state and other royals who could only see the couple’s back!  Although it all ended so tragically, my readers in South Africa simply could not get enough of this fairy tale and I sent reams of copy.

Back in South Africa in 1981 I covered developments in Southern Africa where I met presidents such as Nyerere, Kaunda, Machel, and now Mugabe.  I also wrote about the intense political activity outside Parliament.

I had been an avid SABC radio listener all my life.  When I started to work there it was a delight to meet the people behind the voice:  Eric Egan, Shirley Veale, Michael de Morgan, Nigel Kane, Paddy O’Byrne and many more.

I was Secretary of the SABC Board and spent four years working in a Cabinet task group to devise a new three-tier and regulatory broadcasting regime for South Africa.

One of my toughest assignments ever was to negotiate with then Chief Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, on the lead actor of an epic co-production on the life of Shaka Zulu.  Mr. Buthelezi was the “patron” of the production.

The SABC’s American partner, Harmony Gold, wanted an Afro-American to play the lead role.  They believed it would make the series more marketable internationally.  It was tough, but I closed the deal.  And then we found Henry Cele, authentic Zulu, superb physique, presence, deep, booming voice – Shaka personified!

In January 1994 an esteemed jurist and judge, Johann Kriegler, walked into my office in Sea Point.  He told me about his assignment to run the first ever democratic election in South Africa – in four months’ time.  It was a mountain-sized challenge: the election would be seven times bigger than any of the previous ones, there was a functional illiteracy rate of 50%, the expert department, Home Affairs, could not be used for reasons of political credibility (only a few hand-picked experts were permitted), political tension was high and a whole organisation had to be built in record time (from only Judge Kriegler in December 1993 to 350 000 by April 1994!)

He offered me the job as Communication Director and spokesperson.  I was flattered.  But there was a sting in the tail.  This was Friday. He wanted an answer right now and I had to start In Johannesburg on Monday!  I said yes and started packing.

It was to be the most challenging, yet rewarding highlight of my career.  We had close shaves in no-go areas and with light aircraft in severe thunderstorms.  I saw the Shell House shooting from an office window.  A top IEC delegation flew in to Mmabatho to plead with President Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana to join the election.  He refused.  Flying back, Commissioner Frank Chikane sat with me.  “Pieter, this would have been a joke if people weren’t going to die.” Twenty four hours later members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging were shot in cold blood when they invaded Bophuthatswana.

A defining media moment was when a hacker had adjusted voting totals on the Independent Electoral Commission’s computer systems.  This called into question the credibility of the entire election.  The country was on a knife edge.

Reuters phoned from London. ”Mr. Cronjé, we want to interview you about the hacking of the election results.  I am recording this interview and it is only fair to warn you that what you are about to say will affect the stock markets.”  No pressure!

I told my staff:  “Every day I walk into this office, the St Christopher around my neck flips over and says: “You’re on your own, buddy!’”

Johann Kriegler was a superb leader and gave me three of my most memorable quotes.

With all the odds stacked against a successful and above all peaceful election he said:  “This is an insurmountable opportunity.”

When the IEC faced the overwhelming challenge of a national democratic election in the most far-flung corners and without the aid of modern technology, the media became increasingly restless and agitated.  Late one night the judge and I left the office in search of a meal.  A British TV crew accosted him:  “Judge why is this election such a mess?”

Without blinking and eye, he simply said: “I must apologise to you for my failure to provide you with violence.”

He walked off.  We had a late dinner.

When I walked Commissioner Helen Suzman to her car after the announcement of the results, she said: “This is a dream result.  The ANC did not get a two-thirds majority, the National Party retained the Western Cape and Inkatha KwaZulu-Natal.”

Shortly thereafter Judge Kriegler confessed to a business forum: “Maybe we were too stupid to realise it was impossible!”

When I joined Shell after the 1994 election, it was almost as though the company was trying to provide some of the adrenaline rush that kept me going for eighteen-hour days at the IEC.  The Nigerian government had executed Ken Sara-Wiwo and fellow human rights activists.  Shell was producing oil in Ogoni land, in partnership with the Nigerian government.  Many demanded that Shell should disinvest.  Shell wanted to sink the Brent Spar oil rig in the ocean.  As a SCUBA instructor I could tell you that would have been a good choice.  It would have been teeming with marine life within a short while.

There were boycotts and protests.  Shell’s retail sales in Germany dropped by 34 percent.  Remarkably, its fuel was selling at a 7c per litre premium in South America because of its technical superiority.  This taught me an important lesson in brand management.  If something’s wrong with your brand:  fix it, don’t ditch it!  It was exciting to be a project team member for the introduction of unleaded fuel in South Africa – a sizeable undertaking!

The day I joined Sanlam, was Day One of its massive demutualisation project.  Marinus Daling, executive chairman of Sanlam, and Mike Levett, his counterpart at Old Mutual, had had a gentleman’s agreement to consult on imminent demutalisation and the listing of their organisations on the stock exchange.  Daling told me Levett had phoned him out of the blue to say his board had just approved demutualisation and that he was about to announce it at a media conference.

Daling decided to concede Old Mutual’s first-mover advantage, but announced: “I will do it first.” He completed the process within a year.  Old Mutual followed a year later.

When I was recruited as Director of Communication and Marketing at the City of Cape Town just after it had become a “Unicity” it was not so much about the status of being part of the top management team, but the opportunity to guide communication and marketing at the source of decision-making, instead of after the fact.

Communication and marketing represent the baking powder in the cake, not the icing you put on afterwards to “sell” a bad cake.

In eleven years of frequent political turbulence in local government I served under three City Managers and six Mayors.  My St Christopher quip at the IEC came back to haunt me.

I dealt with xenophobic violence that displaced 20 000 people, there were massive fires and flooding in informal settlements, strikes, violent protests and disruptive power failures.

In preparing for and learning from such incidents there was humor too!

When the City had to demolish the Athlone Cooling Towers, because they had become structurally unsafe, it was to be a technical implosion.  We totally underestimated the public interest and sentiment!  We had to recreate a 2010 World Cup Soccer Fan Fest event with full transport, security, resident, media and contingency plans.

We had considered all the things that could go wrong.  Failed implosion, delayed implosion, partial implosion and more.

We had not contemplated a success rate in excess of 100 percent!

On D-day all still and video cameras were trained on the towers.  They were to come down at twelve noon exactly.

Mayor Dan Plato took up his position next to a giant (symbolic) switch a safe distance away.

Three minutes before twelve, an explosion ripped through the air and the towers came tumbling down in a pile of dust.  Some TV presenters suffered whiplash as they spun around to try and salvage the final seconds of the action.  Most blamed Mayor Plato.

Only then did we discover there was a “master blaster” safely ensconced in a steel shell quite close to the blast.  He had to run through a safety and readiness checklist of some 60 items, more than a jumbo pilot before take-off!  At three minutes to twelve the list was done, the perimeter was secure, the wind and rain were picking up.  It would have been risky to wait. He hit the button.

We could only take this one on the chin and explain it after the fact.  Three days later at a Council meeting and to his credit, Mayor Plato used the following speech I had drafted.  “Mr. Speaker, after what happened at the implosion of the Athlone Towers this weekend, I went for a medical check-up.  I have received the results.  I would like to assure Council and the residents of Cape Town that I do not, repeat do not suffer from premature detonation!”

All had a good laugh.  The story went away.

Highlights during my City years included my involvement with the World Design Capital 2014, leading the City’s campaign for Table Mountain’s successful election as one of the News Seven Wonders of Nature and being a core project team member for the 2010 FIFA World Cup for five years.

I visited the Cape Town Stadium construction site three or four times a week.  When I had to do on site media interviews over weekends, I sometimes took my family along to share in the excitement.  It also confirmed my alibi for my absence from home!

One of the many stars was Zoliswa Gila, a single, unemployed mother from Philippi.  Her dream was to become a pilot. She successfully applied to become a crane operator on the stadium site.  Sitting in a glass cockpit 80 metres above the ground was the closest thing to flying.  After the stadium was built, she became a tour guide there and then started her own meat business.  Someone is running that for her now, but she’s back doing what she loves, operating cranes.    We arranged for her to fly in a helicopter with the City’s photographer.  Her dream came true – albeit briefly. We still speak.

A Chinese media group visiting the stadium demonstrated how big the World Cup is  – four times bigger than the Olympic Games in terms of viewership!  Two young presenters told me 200 million people watched their travel show.  Someone with a text message news service boasted 400 million subscribers!

I did countless interviews with most of the major news networks – readiness, crime, transport, Bafana’s chances, allegations of a massive refugee camp to keep the unwanted street people out of the public eye!……The presenter of ESPN Brazil and I talked about my love for Brazil, its wildlife and its bossa nova music.  I still cannot believe he twisted my arm to sing something on camera.  They broadcast it.  The Brazilians did not come.

The Fan Walk, the star of the show with more than half a million people (many without tickets) soaking up the colours, languages, excitement and atmosphere of the World Cup, started as part of the transport plan!  The MyCiTi buses could transport 10 000 people per hour.  That meant six hours to fill and six hours to clear a 60 000 seater stadium.  The weather was kind.  The Fan Walk was a major boon and became a success story in its own right!

In 2012 FIFA invited me to Brazil to present a workshop in Cuiabá, central Brazil, for the twelve Brazilian Host cities for the World Cup in 2014.  It was like a pilgrimage.  I had read so much about the Amazon, its wildlife and had had a lifelong love affair with bossa nova music.  After work I went to explore the vast Pantanal wetlands where one could find jaguars, anacondas, piranhas and literally thousands of other flora and fauna species.

I explored the Pantanal on foot through the forest, on a bicycle, by truck, by boat and on horseback.  Riding waist deep through water, my horse threw me off without any warning and bolted.  I stood blinded in the muddy water.  When the leader reached me he led me away slowly from the submerged Cayman that had snapped at my horse.  It clearly had no interest in a South African meal!

And thus the legend of Crocodile Cronjé was born.

For the past year I have been using these T-shirts in consulting on communication, marketing and business strategy.  My views are that communication and marketing should be fully integrated and should not be seen and used as two separate disciplines; that communication is too important to be left only to communicators – it is a leadership skill; that media skills and the ability to handle a hostile, live interview, will improve all your other communication skills in presentations, speeches and interaction; and that being prepared for bad things or disasters is exactly like medical aid – don’t wait until you are speeding to hospital before you buy it.

I share my advice to SCUBA pupils with clients: when you are in the water with sharks, do not show fear, do not make sudden movements and do not bleed!  It works – most of the time!

Appropriate humour is an essential part of the crisis toolkit and a coping mechanism.  Some of my favourite examples are:

Spike Milligan: The best cure for sea sickness is to sit under a tree.  And his award-winning epitaph reads:  I told you I was ill!

Jerry Seinfeld:  Dogs rule the planet.  When you observe two life forms, one of them is making a poop and the other one is carrying it for him.  Who would you assume is in charge?

Billy Connolly:  Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.  After that, who cares?  You’ve got his shoes and he’s a mile away!

Technological progress and innovation have had a major impact on communication – although some of the fundamentals will remain valid.  There is now seamless connectivity through cloud based data and mobile devices.  Hurricane Sandy in the United States produced 20 million Twitter posts and 25 percent of all Americans followed the Boston marathon bombings on the social media.

Here is a sobering post from a teenager on Tumblr: “I won’t be impressed with technology until I can download food from the Internet!”

Some of the lessons my career and life have taught me include:

  • Empowerment without alignment is chaos
  • The mind is like a parachute.  It works best when it is open.
  • You never get a second chance to make a first impression
  • Learn from positive AND negative
  • A fish really DOES rot from the head.

Former Minister Chris Heunis had some deep words about our country:  “People who are not confused by the situation in South Africa, are not well informed.”

So what was that success recipe that made us feel so good as South Africans with the World Cup in 2010.  Was it just a once-off dream?

Let us analyse it:

  • We had a powerful dream – to host the biggest sporting event in the world after years of isolation.
  • The prize for success was great – new and upgraded infrastructure and services, economic benefits and the biggest multi-year, global marketing platform imaginable.
  • The price of failure was too ghastly to contemplate – we would have been shamed if FIFA had moved the World Cup to the “plan B” country.
  • There was a valuable period when politicians continued to fight about everything else, except the World Cup.
  • There was a valuable window of opportunity when national, provincial and local government aligned their budgets, planning and the political will to get things done.  It was a powerful catalyst for the economy. The private sector followed government’s lead.
  • And above all, it was about the sense of pride and accomplishment we felt as South Africans.

Can we do it again?  Yes, the recipe is there, but it requires LEADERSHIP – not only at the top, but at all levels of government, business and society.

South Africa needs leadership badly.

There are so many definitions: Leaders must be able to laugh, cry and stand alone.  They must choose to be either competent or popular.

Traditional apprenticeships and mentorship helped to shape leadership within companies and organisations.  This is no longer common practice.  People do not stay long, structures change.

My own, very subjective definition of leadership is “applied intellect, integrity and courage”.  I have had the privilege of working with many leaders, but would like to single out three leaders in this vein:  Johann Kriegler, Constitutional Court Judge and Chairman of the IEC, Marinus Daling, executive chairman of Sanlam, Robert Maydon, Chief Executive of Edgars and City Manager of Cape Town.

Individuals have shaped the course of history.  Think about Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa, Wang Weilin (the Tiananmen tank man who stopped a tank column armed with just two shopping bags), Oseola McCarthy, (the poor Southern washerwoman who started a bursary scheme with her savings).

I once talked to an official in the so-called homelands.  They were falling far behind with job creation targets.  “I consider myself a sculptor looking at a block of granite.  If I can chisel out a foot, my successor can continue with the leg.  If I give up and walk away, this will stay a rock.” A moving metaphor.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a hunger for your knowledge, expertise and wisdom.  If you find where it is needed, it would be greatly valued.

As we express our concerns and fears about our country and its future, we sometimes quote from the book “Cry the Beloved Country.”

I invite you all to become co-authors of a new book: “LEAD THE BELOVED COUNTRY!”

What is the most powerful word in marketing?

Decide is the most powerful word in marketing.

Decide who you are.

Decide who your prospects are.

Decide to do your best work.

Decide to be different, unique and advantageous in the eyes of your clients.

Decide to pursue a niche market with absolute clarity.

Decide to fall in love with your clients’ products and services, not yours.

Decide to remarry all of your current and old clients.

Decide to place your clients under your protection.

Decide on your marketing strategy.

Decide on 12 marketing tactics. It’s smarter to do 12 things 1000 times, rather than 40 things 300 times.

Decide to market more consistently.

Decide to use education-based marketing as your primary tool.

Decide to leverage, optimise, maximise, magnify and multiply every asset and opportunity.

Decide to dream bigger.

Decide to act faster. It’s no longer the big that beats the small; it’s the fast that beats the slow.

Decide that expertise is only as good as the actions you take with it. Take massive action.

Decide to arm yourself.

Decide to defend your territory.

Decide to conquer your market.

AND YOU WILL.

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free newsletter.

Do you need a speaker who will educate and inspire at your next industry conference or a trusted advisor who will increase profits, multiply sales and magnify marketplace positioning?                                                      

Contact John today – john@brandstorm.co.za

What is the most underleveraged piece of marketing information you own?

What is the most underleveraged piece of marketing information you have on your clients?

It is the amount of years that you have retained your loyal customers. Think about it! Why would you know and store this information and not use it for your benefit. Use this fact to remind your customers how you appreciate their years of patronage.

Clients are delighted when companies personally thank them for their consecutive years of loyalty. I assure you that this recognition cements your relationship with your customers and highlights that you care.

The more years of consecutive association, the more profitable the client is. Yet many companies spend more time and money chasing after new customers than recognising and revering the loyalty of long-term clients.

Have you called and written to every long-term client to express your gratitude lately?

‘The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated.’ – William James

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free newsletter.

Do you need a speaker who will educate and inspire at your next industry conference or a trusted advisor who will increase profits, multiply sales and magnify marketplace positioning?                                                      

Contact John today – john@brandstorm.co.za

Are group-buying discount deals good for your business?

Group-buying deals. Local deals. Daily deals. Discount deals. Call them what you want, but they’re all the same thing, a very expensive form of marketing that can seriously hurt your business if not used correctly.

Why? Because not only are you giving a very big discount on your product or service, but you’re sharing up to 50% of the proceeds with these companies.

Many businesses buy into these programmes because they anticipate an instant surge of loyal, repeat business. But, this seldom happens as the consumers that these deals attract are mostly discount driven and are only there for the ‘deal’. These consumers never want to pay a fair full price and will soon move on to the next discount offered.

How do you get the most from a group-buying discount deal?

  • Negotiate hard. These discount deals will always want 50% of the proceeds. This is not a deal in your favour as you need to provide the product or service in your 50% of the deal. All they need to do is advertise the deal to their large email lists. You carry all the risk. Negotiate a fairer deal or don’t do the deal.
  • Get your staff onside. I’ve bought two restaurant deals, a car wash and a wine farm picnic basket on these group discount schemes. Without exception, the staff at these establishments definitely gave me the ‘group discount sub-standard deal and service’. In fact, in every case I was received with “oh no, not another group discount deal” . The one benefit of these group discount deals is that you get a new customer to sample your product and service, so don’t blow the opportunity.
  • Take control of the future relationship with direct offers. When someone uses a deal to purchase your product or service, follow up directly with your next offer. This way, you can manage the size of the next discount and keep 100% of the profit. If you are going to do these deals then it is essential that you get the contact details of these new customers and commence your own relationship with them. Restaurants could include a discount voucher with the bill. Retailers could email a discount coupon for future purchases. You must start a relationship or the sampling exercise was a waste of time.

Participate in these deals if you require a discounted lead generation campaign, especially if you are new in the marketplace. It is essential that you take over the relationship with these prospective new customers directly with future promotional offers in mind. If you don’t take over the relationship with the new customer, there is only one winner, and that is the group-discount company. The deal must work for you!

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free newsletter.

Do you need a speaker who will educate and inspire at your next industry conference or a trusted advisor who will increase profits, multiply sales and magnify marketplace positioning?                                                      

Contact John today – john@brandstorm.co.za

Become a Doctor of Selling

Very often salespeople fail to think of their time with a prospect as an interview to find out whether the prospect qualifies to do business with their company. Instead of asking the critical questions that will determine whether it’s possible to move the prospect to the level of customer, salespeople often find themselves hoping, wishing and even begging for the opportunity to ‘please just let me show you my goods’ and maybe make a sale.

Consider the approach that a doctor takes. A physician examines the patient thoroughly before making a recommendation, using various instruments to conduct the examination. In selling, questions are the instruments to conduct a qualifying examination of the prospect.

How you ask your questions, what you hear, what you look for and what you uncover can provide you with all the clues you need to close that important sale. Use this approach from prospecting to qualifying and from presenting to closing.

This approach is guaranteed to grow your sales. Go for it! 

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.” – William Clement Stone

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free newsletter.

Do you need a speaker who will educate and inspire at your next industry conference or a trusted advisor who will increase profits, multiply sales and magnify marketplace positioning?                                                      

Contact John today – john@brandstorm.co.za

The Art of Follow-up Marketing

There is a practice in marketing that says that you need an average of at least seven contacts with a potential customer before you get a sale.

Marketing folklore says that this varies from business to business, but for a typical business selling a mid-price product or service, it will often take an average of seven contacts before the customer buys.

I don’t subscribe to this old-school thinking.
Why? We are living in the ‘attention age’. We are bombarded with so much advertising and marketing that we ignore four out of five of the communications we see. We ignore much of our email and certainly most of the advertising that we see.

So if four out of five messages don’t really get through effectively, we need to multiply our seven steps by four to ensure that we are hitting the target. This changes the recommended seven step approach to a twenty eight step method.

The simple lesson is this – YOU MUST FOLLOW UP WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS AND PROSPECTS MORE THAN EVER BEFORE.

You need a communications plan of call – letter – call – presentation – email – call – letter – call – email – call – you get the idea!

Now some of you are probably thinking that this approach is overkill. It’s not!

You have to remember that most people have a great deal of ‘stuff’ going on in their lives. So if buying your product or service is not their number one priority at this precise moment in time – it may have absolutely nothing to do with you and a great deal to do with the fact that they have other priorities to deal with.

That’s why communicating to them over time works so wonderfully. Peoples’ circumstances change. The person who won’t even take your call today may be totally responsive next month and far more open to your contact – so keep in touch and keep following up. I’d rather over-communicate and succeed, than under-communicate and fail. 

It’s not just following up with potential new customers that is essential for your business success. Many businesses lose out on considerable profits by not following up with their existing customers.

Your existing customers are a potential goldmine. Our existing clients know us, have tested our product and service and hopefully now like and trust us. They are far more likely to do business with you again than a ‘cold’ prospect, someone who you have no relationship with.

You must have a follow-up system for your existing customers, offering them new and additional products and services, up-sells and cross-sells, as well as ensuring that they are satisfied with what you are currently offering them.

Again, the best approach is normally a combination of email, mailings and direct communication by telephone or in person. It depends on what you are offering and your prices so test various combinations. There will always be a few people who don’t want to hear from you again. They will express this clearly. Don’t take this personally. Move on!

For everyone else – keep in touch, again and again and again. Your patience, persistence and enthusiasm will pay off. The potential rewards are significant – more business for you and you will grab market share from your competitors.

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

Visit John at www.brandstorm.co.za and subscribe to his free newsletter.

Do you need a speaker who will educate and inspire at your next industry conference or a trusted advisor who will increase profits, multiply sales and magnify marketplace positioning?                                                      

Contact John today – john@brandstorm.co.za