Today’s blog is exceptionally in English in order to appreciate the hero of the story, Mr. Lucky, at Protea Hotel North Wharf, Cape Town SA.
As you might guess seeing the ingress of the story, I’m writing this post in my hotel room in South Africa. This is our (meaning me and my wife) first time in Africa but we arranged the trip quite the same way we have done our various trips to Far East: booked the flights and a few nights accommodation, and then looked in the destination where we would like to spend our holiday. Yes, I know, it’s a little tricky strategy if the destination is fully booked, but until now we have managed rather well.
But to the story.
We had a nice guesthouse accommodation for four nights but it missed one (for me) crucial quality: a good working area where I could spread my papers (for this is not just a holiday but a ThinkTime –trip as well). So, we took a look at the city bowl and chose three potential hotels to visit. And so we strolled around to have a look at them, asking to see the room. And here comes Mr. Lucky to the picture.
First contact with Mr. Lucky (yes, I was told this is his real name, Lucky Mbungwana) was nothing different from other places: a hearty welcome and “How can I help you, Sir?” South African courtesy, I suppose, maybe with a splash of upper-class British influence. Anyhow, the courtesy feels really good and it definitely is a thing we Finns should learn something about.
Please, notice that I used word “contact” in previous chapter.
The next thing – which made Lucky extraordinary – was making connection. And as you see, I determine contact and connection differently, the latter meaning a kind of shared feeling or a special kind of shared level of communication. After telling Mr. Lucky what we were looking for he did something one could call a hazardous leap. He offered to show us the suite but told immediately that it would cost us! Wow, isn’t that something? Offensive actually? Have you ever been told a thing like that?
My mind whizzed. Trying to figure out the logic in this offence the first thing I thought was the tire-kickers at car dealers. Maybe this was a strategy to select potential clients and kick off the tire-kickers? So I accepted the cost saying “Sure, no problem.” So we went to the elevators. On our way I asked about the exact price for showing the room. And got another jolt: “One night’s rate!” And that really stopped me. – And I bet it would have stopped you, too.
At that moment, after having got my fullest and definitely most undivided attention, this hearty man burst in happy laugh and said he was just kidding, being pleased to show us the room for nothing, of course. This was the turning point for all the business: I had been positively and wittily tricked, and now we shared a same kind of jest, a special sense of humor, which sure had been risky but worked out nicely. And the room proved to be exactly what we were looking for: an 84 qm’s suite with enough table space. So here we are, checked in yesterday.
Why I see this episode so instructive?
First of all, contact as itself seldom makes the sale, especially if we talk about something more than a commodity. There is an endless row of tire-kickers. Somehow you have to make connection, to tune with the client to start the real conversation.
Second, making a connection is more and more difficult when the clients are bombarded with all kinds of messages all of the time. You may have to take risks to stand out of the crowd. Now, I do not mean everyone should take the risk Mr. Lucky did for it could have turned the client away. For him it was a suitable risk. But what is the risk you are a little bit uncomfortable to take? Would that be the suitable level for you to distinguish yourself?
To boil it down: extraordinary courtesy, a hearty contact, and a distinguishing connection.
PS. One more thing to be told. Mr. Lucky was immediately ready (and authorized) to negotiate a deal with us. The other properties we visited told us to make our reservation via Internet to get better rates. Isn’t that strange? Why should you add hassle to your client? Isn’t your #1 priority to make buying as easy as possible – and even a little easier than that?
PPS. Will I recommend this hotel to my friends? Sure, absolutely yes. Smallish, friendly, effective, 4 stars. And as I am writing this after breakfast I will give a comment on that, too: excellent selection, even home-made (at least they felt like that) sausages, fresh-made smoothies and the stuff. I guess I will not get fed up to have the breakfast at this hotel during my whole stay – though it happens quite often with limited options we too often encounter in most hotels, as well for breakfasts as for lunches.