6 Tips for Saving While on a Variable Income

How long could you survive on your savings account alone?

When a friend asked me this question, it changed my life.  I had never truly thought about it before. After carefully calculating my budget and analyzing my monthly earnings and spending, I felt so much more in control of my life.

Let’s face it, life is tough and is always throwing us punches.  No matter how stable and secure we may think we are, at any given moment everything can change at the drop of a hat.

Whether it’s an emergency home repair, health issue or job loss, everyone should have some sort of emergency savings to cover these unanticipated costly events.

In sales, most of us are on a highly variable income. We are typically compensated by a base salary plus commission which may be paid out monthly, quarterly or only annually.  Some sales positions are 100% commission.  My monthly income used to vary by as much as 500%. Being on a variable income makes it significantly more challenging to save, however if you follow these tips, you will find yourself getting ahead much faster than you may think.

1. Analyze Your Income and Identify the Month with Your Lowest Earnings (AFTER TAX)

A quick way to figure out this number, is to simply look at your base salary and ignore commissions.  If you make monthly commission, look at the previous year and identify your lowest month and use that as your figure.  If you are on 100% commission, identify your lowest month and if that is zero, look at the frequency of your sales and you may have to develop a quarterly budget.

2. Create a Budget Based on that Number

Identify ALL of your current spending to have an idea of where you are at.  Firstly, begin with your non-variable income (i.e. mortgage/rent, property tax, utilities, etc.) and then your variable income (everything else ranging from food, entertainment, travel, etc.). Don’t forget all the small stuff that adds up like subscriptions, gifts, clothing, gym membership etc.  Be sure to include absolutely everything you can possibly think of because this is where you will be able to make some cut-backs.  Add up all of your variable and non-variable income separately and combined.  Then compare it to your lowest earning month and deduct that figure from your expenses.  What kind of deficit are you running? Where can you cut back? Can you be shopping for basic necessities elsewhere to save money?

3. Pay off High Interest Debt First

With some high interest debt, you may actually end up spending more money paying off interest than your actual debt.  If you can obtain a line of credit from your bank, usually those rates are significantly lower than credit cards and other debtors and you can use those to pay off your higher interest debt in the interim and then work towards paying off the line of credit.

4. Upon Paying off Debt, Automatically Transfer the Same Amount into a Savings Account

This is where I was able to save most of my money.  I had a car loan that was $750 per month. As soon as I paid it off, I set up the exact same amount of money to be automatically transferred to my savings account each month.  After all, I was used to that amount being withdrawn from my bank account each month, so why stop now?

5. Set up a Tiered Savings Plan

I have a variety of savings accounts, all of which have a different purpose and I use them in this precise order

  1. Chequing account– A basic account I use to pay all of my bills
  2. Savings account (low interest)-First line of savings which I use for mostly home repairs or vacation.
  3. High Interest Savings Account-Backup- Only withdraw funds if regular savings account is low.
  4. TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account)-This is similar to an investment account. Only accessed in case of emergency.
  5. Mutual Funds– Investment only accessed if all other accounts are limited which would be an extreme emergency.
  6. Line of Credit-Absolute last resort.

When I was not working, I always kept a base amount of money in my chequing account. I transferred my monthly requirement to that chequing account from my regular savings first, then my high-interest savings account after my regular savings was used up. Fortunately, after 7 months of unemployment, I never had to dip into any of my investments.

6. Invest in RRSPs

Very commonly in sales positions where we may be taxed at the rate of our base salary and not at a higher rate once commissions are included, we may end up not paying enough taxes and owe taxes back. In this case or if you anticipate that you may be earning less money the next year, then you should consider investing in RRSP’s. This will reduce your overall taxable income. The only disadvantage is that once you invest in RRSP’s, this money is no longer liquid.  Therefore if you plan on needing access to this cash, it may be better to simply pay taxes and keep your money in savings.

The Take-Home Message:

The saying “The more money you make, the more you spend” is so true.  My spending over the years got out of control. I used to be an entitled brat who felt that every time I received a paycheque or a bonus that I “deserved” something in return.  I used to spend almost every penny I made and would deny myself nothing.  If I woke up and thought I wanted something, I’d go out and buy it.

It wasn’t until I was facing a situation where I was no longer able to work,  that I actually sat down and ironed out the differences between what I really needed to get by in life, vs. the “things” I thought I needed.

The fact of the matter is that nobody, I don’t care who you are or what you do “deserves” anything.  All of us owe it to ourselves and our families (where applicable) to be fiscally responsible and maintain a roof over our heads and be able to have food on our table.  It is only from there that we can build a foundation upon to live a happy, meaningful life.

So ask yourself, how long could you exist on your savings alone?

AND

If that time frame isn’t long enough, what are you going to do to change that?

Happy sales my friends and don’t forget to put those bonuses to good use.

Cheers

TSW

Cold Calling: How to Bypass the Gatekeeper

gatekeeperAn Approach that Will Guarantee You More Meetings with the Decision Makers!

It is typically in the salespersons best interest to befriend the gatekeeper and other staff in order to get to the decision maker.  But what if, as a salesperson, you need to get to the decision maker and their staff cannot know any details about your business venture? How do you access the decision maker without getting you butt kicked out the door by trying to go over the gatekeeper’s head?

The majority of sales gurus these days will tell you that cold calling is dead, especially face-to-face cold calling. If that describes your situation, be sure to read my previous article on The Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling.  So, although this may be the case for a variety of industries, there are some that do in fact require employing this brut methodology in order to access the decision maker.

In my current role, I have been faced with this dilemma.  I have always been accustomed to being friendly and open with all staff and best utilize those relationships in order to ultimately reach the decision maker however, now my business is of an utmost confidential matter and it is crucial that I do not share the nature of my business with anyone but the decision maker.

After getting the door slammed on my ass on the way out of a business a handful of times, I decided that I needed to revamp my approach.

Empty ClinicOne prime example that stood out in my mind was when I went into a clinic that was clearly empty.  There were no cars out front, no patients in the waiting room and clearly no patients in the treatment area.  When I asked the receptionist if I could speak with the doctor for a minute, she hemmed and hawed and asked me if I had an appointment. When I told her no, she told me that he was VERY busy but she will check. She went out back and returned to inform me that he was so busy and doesn’t have any time this week.

This experience was akin to walking to an empty restaurant and the hostess asks you if you have a reservation.  In sales, having thick skin is a MUST!

So what did I decide to do?

The Strategy:

1. Write a handwritten note card in a sealed envelope addressed to the DM

Before my next round of cold calls, I picked up some blank note-cards and envelopes.  In each card I wrote a personal note:
“Dear ______

Sorry to have missed you today.  I was hoping to catch you to talk to you about a business opportunity. I will be in town (UNTIL DATE OR WILL BE BACK AT DATE) so you can call or email me anytime.  Talk soon. Sincerely,

TSW”

On the top flap of the card, I attached my business card with an adhesive  (double-sided sticky) so that the card can be easily removed.

The card is inserted into an envelope and the DM’s name is written on the front of the envelope.

2. Conduct cold call with envelope in hand and business card in back pocket

I show up at the clinic and approach the receptionist in a friendly manner and say “Hey I’m (NAME HERE). I have something for (DM NAME HERE).  Is he/she available for a quick minute? I have something for them”

If they check and the answer is YES (wohoo!):

I put the envelope away and ask to speak to the DM privately for a minute and then give them my business card that’s in my back pocket and try to arrange a private meeting.

If they check (or don’t ) and say NO:

Give them the sealed envelope and ask that they kindly pass it on to the DM addressed on your card and mention that you will be calling the DM soon to follow-up.

Since it is addressed to the DM personally and hand written, even if the receptionist does not know you. the way you presented yourself is as though the DM does.  For this reason, the receptionist or gatekeeper is highly unlikely to open the envelope or toss it out.  Furthermore, mentioning that you will be touching base with the DM  regarding what you have enclosed in this envelope will make it even more unlikely that it will be tampered with.

So far this approach has gotten me call-backs and appointments 75% of the time. 

Surely much more effective than a phone call or random email!

If you are in this type of sales, I would love for you to try this and let me know how it works out.

Also if you have any other tips, please share!

Happy sales my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

Pros and Cons of Carry-on vs. Checked Baggage

airportgroundtransportationFactors to Consider Before Packing for Your Next Flight

Most travellers I know aim to travel with just carry-on baggage but most often end up checking their bags because it takes far too much time and effort to pack smart and efficiently. Most of us pack far too many clothes than we will ever need because doing so requires much less thought when packing. Just throw everything in that suitcase and don’t worry about it right?

Although there may be several benefits to travelling with just carry-on, in my personal experience it may not always be the best choice.  In fact, it may end up causing you more headaches throughout your journey.  Before I divulge why it may be less convenient to not check a bag, lets explore some of the benefits to travelling with carry-on alone:

Pros of Travelling With Only Carry-On Baggage:

No extra baggage fees


The typical airline charges $25US per checked bag and up to well over $100 for bags that are overweight.  By keeping your personal articles to a minimum, you can save up to over $200 per return flight. Recently however, due to long TSA wait lines, some airlines are dropping baggage fees in order to expedite the security wait times.

Save Time by Avoiding Baggage Drop-off Lines and Waiting to Collect Your Baggage at Your Destination

Businesswoman walking with luggage in airport baggage claim area, rear view (tilt)If you are checking a bag, be prepared to add at least 1 hour minimum to your transit time.  Instead of simply printing off your boarding pass and proceeding through security, you will have to tag your bag and line up to drop off your bag. This process alone can take an hour so if you are planning on checking a bag, be sure to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights in order to ensure you have enough time to drop off your bag and go through security.

Furthermore, when you arrive at your destination, typically you will have to wait an additional 20-30 minutes for your bag to be available for pick-up at the baggage claim carousel. For international travellers, this wait may be even longer given that customs agents may be searching your bags prior to putting them on the carousel.  What better things could you be doing in those 20 minutes? Be at your hotel, sipping on a nice glass of chardonnay? Sign me up!

No Worrying About Lost Baggage

lost baggageI don’t know about you but every time I’m waiting at the baggage claim, I always fret over the fact that my bag might not make it.  I neurotically think of what time I checked-in for my flight and what order my bag should be in as it was loaded and unloaded on the plane.  Fortunately, I have not ever had one of my bags lost but one time I had to wait almost 3 hours after returning on a flight that arrived at midnight.  I was not a happy camper by the time I claimed my bag at 3am but nonetheless, I was pleased that I did get my bag!

Save Money at Your Destination

suitcasefull It’s quite simple: if you have limited or no space in your bag to put anything else in it, you don’t have the option to buy things and bring them home, well unless you buy another bag!

 

 

Cons of Travelling with Only Carry-On Baggage:

Not All “Carry-on Approved” Bags Will Fit in Overhead Bins 

Can't fit much more than a laptop case in this bin!

Can’t fit much more than a laptop case in this bin!

Ever go to a luggage shop and see luggage labelled as “Carry-On Approved Luggage”?  Or even try out the airline’s “Carry-on Approved Luggage Sizes” bins at the airport?  Well sorry to disappoint, all that is meaningless and rather completely dependent on the type of aircraft you will be flying on.  Each aircraft has VERY different overhead bin storage space and there are some aircraft such as the dash series which won’t fit much more than a laptop case!

 

IMG_20160505_200803Travel Tip: I always travel with an extra small bag/purse within my larger carry-on which contains all of my electronic devices (cell phone, chargers, etc).  Note the small purse in the left of this photo which I store in my larger carry-on below.  This way if you are on a small aircraft where your bag won’t fit and you have to use the sky-check service, you can quickly remove any articles which cannot be checked (i.e. anything containing a lithium ion battery).

 

Additional Scrutiny at Customs Checkpoints

customs nothing to declare

As I mentioned previously, if you are just travelling with carry-on, you have limited space in which to place any additional articles which ultimately limits you in terms of what you can purchase throughout your travels.  Several times, well more often than not, I travel with only carry-on and do not purchase any items while abroad and therefore have nothing to declare at customs.  Apparently this must be some sort of red flag or perhaps a red flag only because I am a female and I should be bringing multiple bags and shopping everywhere I go? I have wound up in secondary screening almost every time I travel with carry-on only and have nothing to declare. Being subject to secondary screening is time consuming and anything but fun.  At minimum, it may add 1 hour to your journey and if you have been travelling for a long time, this is the last thing you want to have to go through! As a side note, if you are travelling internationally, ALWAYS DECLARE EVERYTHING HONESTLY and IF IN DOUBT, DECLARE IT! Not properly declaring items is a serious offense!

Limited Quantity of Items (Liquids and gels, clothing, shoes etc.) 

liquids and gels

This is probably the biggest challenge for most travellers; Being able to pack all of your necessities in such a way that it meets carry-on requirements.  Liquids and gels are limited to a maximum of 1L total comprising of bottles that contain a maximum of 100 ML each and that is very difficult to do, especially if travelling for more than a few days at a time.  Clothing can be packed minimally especially if your hotel has laundry facilities but shoes however cannot.  If you are planning on travelling with just carry-on, I recommend wearing all of your bulkiest items (boots, jacket, etc.) during transit.

In reading this, I hope that my points will better prepare you for your next trip.

Looking for tips on how to travel more efficiently? Contact me at thetravellingsaleswoman@gmail.com

Safe travels my friends!

TSW

 

The Top 5 Most Awkward Job Interview Questions I’ve Ever Been Asked

job interview… and My Equivocally Awkward Replies

In this modern day politically correct society, we can only expect that potential employers will ask us questions in the interview process that will be of utmost professionalism and they will never ask anything that may be in violation of the Human Rights code. Although this practice is expected, it is most certainly, not always practiced.  Throughout my career, I have been asked a variety of wild and awkward questions to which I had no choice but to reply in an equivocally awkward manner.  These are my top instances:

Q1: Are You a Vegetarian?

vegetarian or carnivoreA1: “No, I am a carnivore.  Well, more precisely, an omnivore.” This was in an interview for an animal health company which entailed selling products to veterinarians who catered to all species .  Although I feel that this question wasn’t particularly relevant to the position I was applying for,  it actually can be in some positions.  For example, one sales representative that I knew got a job at a large animal health company that sold vaccines for cattle and he was a vegan.  Needless to say, the company never asked him about his dietary preferences and the situation arose where his clients (cattle veterinarians) invited him to their dinner table and let’s just say that didn’t go over so well.  So that being said, In spite of this awkward question, one’s dietary habits may actually be quite relevant to the position.

Q2: “Are You Jewish?”

Star_of_David.svgA2: “Just because my last name is Goldman, it doesn’t mean that I am Jewish.  Why do you ask?”.  Apparently they asked because my interview was scheduled just before sunset on a Jewish holiday (Shabbat). When they told me that, I replied, “If I was Jewish, why would I schedule an interview minutes before I had to leave and be home before sundown? That isn’t professional is it?” They explained to me that they were asking me out of politeness because they knew a lot of Jewish people. Uhhh..ok??

Q3: “Is family important to you?”

womanhatekidsA3: “Yes, absolutely, but if you mean to ask if I want to have children, I do not.”  When they asked me that question, I knew precisely what they were REALLY asking and I knew if they asked me that question outright it would be illegal.  Regardless, I answered honestly and perhaps if I didn’t get the job, it may have been an issue. The primary reason I decided to answer this question is because I am of the belief that women often don’t make the same pay as their male counterparts and it is simply because they take years off at a time to raise children and I wanted to make it clear that I do not fall into that category and should be considered in the same light as a man for the position.

Q4: “Wow! You were responsible for so many roles in your past job. Why don’t you go into business for yourself?”

wtfA4: “I have considered it but for various reasons, it is simply is not an option at this time.”  This interview got awkward very fast.  They knew I was a highly skilled individual who was accustomed to regularly undertaking multiple tasks within a small company vs. a very specific sales role within an massive corporation.  I ultimately left the interview prematurely upon realizing that this company did not want someone of my skill set but rather a cookie cutter sales person.

Q5: “We require 5 employer references at a minimum, but in your 10-year career you have only worked for two companies.  Are you able to provide this?”

divorcemiddlefingerA5:Since I am currently employed for one of the only two employers in my 10 year sales career, no, I cannot provide a reference from my current employer who is my only supervisor.” I couldn’t help but laugh inside thinking that it is a good thing that I have only worked for two companies in 10 years given that the average sales person changes jobs on average every two years but I suppose because of that precise statistic, the HR person specifically asked for one employer reference per two year period.  Can you say closed minded? Being on the receiving end of this question can be a potential death sentence especially if you are currently employed and your employer does not know you are looking and in my case, I worked for the same company for almost 9 years.  So I said, “If you ask any of your sales representatives across the country to ask any of their clients if they are using my products (since I was the only national sales representative), I am 99.9% certain they will inform your representatives that they are using my product. There is no better reference than that.”.  Unfortunately, my response rubbed these folks the wrong way and they told me that was in no way sufficient. As a result, I had zero interest in working for such a company.  As far as I am concerned, if you can’t judge a sales person on their results, but only on references because your company has such a rigorous “process”, then good luck finding a stellar sales representative and running a successful business.  Needless to say, I rescinded my application for this particular job.

All and all, in spite of how politically correct our society is supposed to be, when we are conducting business or involved in the interview process, sometimes things simply just slip.  As an interviewee, although it is great to be aware of what a potential employer legally can or cannot ask you,  if you are interviewing for a job you are at a disadvantage.  You are at the mercy of a potential employer and you want a job or perhaps a career.  All I can say is, keep in mind that you don’t have to take just ANY job.  Just like you don’t have to settle for an inferior romantic partner.  If you ever feel uncomfortable in an interview, stand up for yourself and say so, regardless of how awkward it may be.  Heck, even walk out of that interview if you feel that it is a waste of your time! I have done that many times.

Remember, you are looking for a job that suits your needs too, not just your potential employers.

Good luck out there my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

How and When to Effectively Leverage the Power of Guilt to Close a Sale

judge hammer

…or at least lunch!

Let’s face it, not all clients are easy to deal with.  Some can be outright d!@$’s and sometimes as a salesperson that means you’ve got to play hard ball in order to close that deal.

Like most sales reps, I have had my fair share of moments where a client completely ticked me off, however it is definitely not always appropriate to react.

In sales, rejection is part of the game.  We all need to deal with it and be able to handle it. By handling it, I mean brushing it off and persisting and hence why my motto is “Suck it up Princess!”

But what happens when your client or potential client abuses your working relationship or acts unprofessionally?

In extreme cases which I have previously discussed, it may be more appropriate to simply fire your client.

In other situations however, it may be more appropriate to bring the clients bad behavior to their attention and try to leverage that into a sale.  Below are some examples from my personal experience where I did just that. They are in no particular order.

Problem Clients and How I Managed Them: 

Problem Client #1: The “No Show”

My “Guilt Trip”: Call them and outright tell them that I don’t appreciate being stood up and that they owe me a good order, or at the very least that the next time that I’m in town, they can buy me a meal.  90% of the time, I got a really good order. The other 10% of the time I got a meal or at least a drink out of the ordeal.


Problem Client #2: The “I Want to Have My Cake and Eat it Too”.  Not giving me the majority of their business after years of effort they asked me to pull strings to get them a good Christmas gift.

My “Guilt Trip”:You’re making me look bad in front of my boss”, which I said with my boss present when we were delivering their Christmas gift.  After that visit I acquired 80% of their business.


Problem Client #3: Returning My Product in My Competitors Packaging

My “Guilt Trip”: I mailed the box back to them and included an order form and a hand written note stating that it was rude of them to do that and I think they owe me one *wink* *wink*.  They faxed in a really good order and ended up being a very loyal client. 


Problem Client #4: The User Abuser: Exploited me for my knowledge but only ever bought one product from me.

My “Guilt Trip”: I barely had to say anything since he was fully aware of what he was doing and had a good idea that this was likely our last meeting. He looked at me and blurted out, “I’m an ass*^** aren’t I?”. I nodded my head in agreement and informed him that all of the free bits of information end here and now unless he starts to buy more products from me. It worked. That move got me over 90% of their business after that and they ended up being a very loyal client.


Problem Client #5: The Stuck-In-the Habit Excuse: Competitor programmed into speed dial.

My “Guilt Trip”: I told him that it was a lousy excuse and asked him to hand me his phone. I programmed my business number in the slot where my competitor was and moved my competitors phone number to a different slot.  I did the same thing with his fax machine. 100% Effective.  I acquired all of his business after that.

In reading my examples of when I thought it was appropriate to guilt trip a client and try to leverage that into a sale, I hope that you understand that this is by no means common practice. These client behaviors and my subsequent responses are rare and I would never suggest using guilt as a primary means to close your average deal. These situations are highly specific and apply when a qualified buyer has done something to blatantly disregard and waste your time and/or disrespect you.  As I  mentioned previously, rejection is integral to the sales process and by no means should you be putting a guilt trip on every potential client who refuses your product or service.

When you are a sales rep, your time is valuable too, so if you encounter someone who is blatantly wasting your time, perhaps you should move on or call them on it.

In the meantime, happy sales my friends and I hope you don’t encounter too many difficult clients.

Cheers,

TSW

 

 

My Top 10 Airline Travel Fails

woman_embarassedTravelling isn’t easy.  Even if you are a frequent traveller like myself, it is almost inevitable that at some point you will experience some sort of hiccup along the way.  It may be a delayed, a cancelled flight or something else totally ridiculous entirely.

Below is a list of my top “fails” when travelling by air.

10. First Time “Priority” Status, Last One to Board Plane

aircanadapriorityboardingThe first time I was granted priority status, I was so excited.  I would get on the plane first and relax knowing I wouldn’t have to struggle to find overhead space for my carry-on baggage, however that isn’t what happened at all.  I was flying to Toronto from Orlando and what I clearly didn’t consider the fact was that EVERYONE BUT ME was travelling with small children and at that time the airline’s policy was that individuals with disabilities and families with small children under the age of 6 board first.  So, being the only solo traveller, I ended up being last to board the plane.

9. Dropping Documents While Approaching Customs

womanholdingpassportdocsAs I was approaching the customs kiosk, I was fumbling with my documents trying to put my boarding pass and declaration sheet into the photo page of my passport when I dropped it all.  “Apparently” this makes you look suspicious and will pretty much guarantee you will end up in secondary screening. I obviously never did anything wrong besides accidentally drop my documents but from then on, whenever I have completed my customs declaration on the plane, I make sure to have everything organized together in my purse so that I don’t have to fumble with my documents last minute.

8. Driving the Wrong Way to Return my Rental Car

rentalcarreturnsIt was 4:30 or 5am and I was trying to return my rental car to the airport.  I missed the entrance to the rental car return area and drove into the next driveway which was barricaded and there was no exit other than to turn around and drive the wrong way. So, I did just that.  In order to get back to the main ring road I had to drive the wrong way and hope no other idiot like myself was making that very same mistake and would drive into me.  Fortunately, there was not another car in sight the entire time.  Pfewf!

7. “Buzzing” Carry-on Baggage

Baggage Screening_2.ashxUpon removing my liquids and gels from my carry-on baggage and placing it on the conveyor belt for X-Ray scanning at airport security, the TSA agents all gathered around the X-ray machine. I passed through the metal detector and they all gathered around my bag and asked me if it was mine.  When I saw it, I immediately knew what was drawing all of the attention- my bag was vibrating! And no, it’s not what you think! I had packed an electric toothbrush and it had accidentally been turned on as I put my bag on the conveyor belt.  Once they opened my bag, they all got a good laugh.  I think some of them were disappointed that it wasn’t something else.  Ever since then, I just pack a regular manual toothbrush!

6. Suitcase Goes on Wrong Plane

-While I was sitting at my gate, I was watching the baggage being loaded onto the plane at the neighboring gate and I noticed, that one of those bags was MY bag! I had a very unique bag so it was surely not to be confused with another and this plane was most definitely not my plane.  I ran up to the gate agent for that flight and alerted her immediately.  She initially assured me that it was fine but apparently second guessing herself, she made a call down to the baggage handlers and discovered that the wrong bags were in fact being loaded onto that plane! Fortunately, the ground crew was able to remove them in time and everyone on my flight all got their bags.

5. Broken Suitcase

stuckhandleNaturally, just as I approach the baggage drop kiosk, the handle on my suitcase refuses to go down. Talk about last minute stress! Since it is not possible to check a bag if the handle is locked in the open position, I had to get out of line and since I didn’t have the time to buy a new suitcase and figure out if all of my things would fit, I opted to take everything out of my suitcase, tear it apart and was able to locate the part that was jammed. Using a toothpick, I was able to temporarily fix the jam and lock the handle in the closed position so that the bag could be checked.  Throughout my trip, I didn’t mess with the handle but rather waited until I got home to purchase a new suitcase.  Dragging a 55lb suitcase with no handle in addition to a large briefcase and purse is no simple task!

4. Time for a “Quick” Cigarette Between Connections?

DEN security lineupWhen I was in DEN and had a 2-hour stop-over and I figured that this was more than sufficient time to go outside to have a cigarette, come back in through security and get to my gate but I was wrong! What I didn’t realize was that the ONLY way in and out of that airport is through a single entrance and that there are no exits in the individual terminals or concourses. It didn’t take me very long to exit the building, maybe 20 minutes or so but when I got back I realized there was ONLY ONE SECURITY CHECKPOINT for the entire airport and it was PACKED! I had my NEXUS pass but at that time the US airports only acknowledged that for international travel and I was travelling domestically.  Luckily, one of the agents let me into that line and I just made the last call to board my flight.

3.Leaving Valuables on the Plane

ipadonplaneI hate to admit that I have done this not once but twice and both times I forgot my items in the seat pocket in in front of me. The first time was my driver’s license. I had it tucked into my boarding pass and as I was getting seated, I placed it in the seat pocket in front of me and simply forgot about it.  It wasn’t until a month later when I got carded that I realized I had misplaced it.  The second time I forgot my iPad on the plane.  I was travelling for almost 24 hours and same thing, placed it in the seat pocket in front of me, fell asleep and forgot about it when deplaning.

2. Broken Shoe

sandalsRushing to make my connection, my sandal decided that it was the best time to fall apart and I mean fall apart in pieces (worse than in this photo-all the straps broke at the same time) . That day luck was on my side as I happened to have an extra pair of sandals in my carry-on so at least I didn’t have to run through the airport barefoot!

 

1. Asleep at the Gate

ManSleepingAtAirportI have never done this but a friend of mine did and I think this deserves the #1 spot.  He fell asleep at the gate while listening to his headphones and well, needless to say, he missed his flight. Ooops! The same thing happened other day when I was flying home when I couldn’t help but notice that the passenger behind me was asleep at the gate snoring like a madman and would not budge.  Take this as a warning folks, save the nap for when you’re ON the plane and if you can’t do that, be sure to set an alarm on your phone to wake you up at the boarding time indicated on your boarding pass.

To date, these are my top airline travel blunders and I’m sure there will be many, many more to come.   I would love to hear your stories, so please comment and share!

Happy travels my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

Tips for Women Travelling Solo

WomanAloneAirportThis past Tuesday was International Women’s Day. Originally called International Working Women’s Day, this date was designated to celebrate and respect women for their achievements in economics, politics and social status.

In spite of women achieving near equality with our male counterparts here in North America, women must still exercise a significantly greater degree of caution when travelling alone.

Regardless of whether you are travelling for business or for pleasure, as a woman there are many precautions that you should take in order to ensure your personal safety throughout your journey.  Even though a certain locale may seem safe, as a precaution women should always have their guard up and be aware of their surroundings.

Some General Precautions for Women Travelling Solo:

 Keep an eye on your belongings and NEVER leave them unattended.womanwithbaggageatgate Leaving your belongings unattended not only puts you at risk for theft, but may make you a target for drug smuggling if you are travelling in a foreign country. For example, even if you left your baggage with a hotel concierge, be sure to rip your bag apart and inspect it thoroughly because you never know if someone could have put any sort of illegal substances in your bag. If you fail to do this and unknowingly bring illegal substances with you through an international border, customs will not sympathize with you as you are personally responsible for all of your belongings.  Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse.

Be aware of other people who may be staring at you and/or your belongings for prolonged periods of time. manStaringAtWomanFor example, if you are sitting in a restaurant and every time you glance over at a particular person, they are staring at you then I would strongly suggest that you move along to another safe highly public place.  If returning to your hotel room, approach the front desk and bring it to their attention and have someone from the hotel escort you to your room if necessary. Excessive gawking is not a compliment.

wtfBe wary of other travellers who express too much interest in your itinerary. It is one thing for fellow travellers to exchange basic information about where each other are going (generally speaking) and what kind of work you do, but if someone starts asking you details about your accommodations such as your hotel, room number or other highly specific information that should otherwise have no relevance to them, do not provide such details.  End the conversation and be on your way.


AirportApprovedTaxiOnly use transportation provided and approved by the airport and/or hotel or rent a car from a recognized company. 

There are many individuals who may be operating these vehicles illegally which can put you at risk of a variety of dangers ranging from being overcharged to risking physical harm in extreme cases.

 

Girl Jogging on a bridge

Do NOT listen to music using your headphones when walking, jogging or sitting in public places. Without your sense of hearing, you will be extremely vulnerable to attack or theft because you won’t even hear someone approach you.

 

 

NEVER leave your drink or food unattended. food drinkIt is now quite common for women to be drugged not only in their drink but also in their food.  If you have to go to the washroom, take all of your belongings with you and finish your food and drink before you go. You can always order a refreshment upon your return to the table.

 

Beware of “Female Friendly Networks” and “Meet-ups” aimed towards female solo travellers. Women-networking-onlineI recently became aware of a website which claims to be a networking site for solo female travellers. It recommends “Female Friendly Hotels” and offers an online network of female travellers which you can join and meet up with in your travels.  This is HIGHLY DANGEROUS! I don’t even have an account but I can go on this website and see which women by first and last name are travelling to specific cities on specific dates and very likely using one of the “Female Friendly Hotels” suggested on this website.  If I was a predator, this website makes it all to easy to target women travelling alone and not only that, women who are travelling alone and who are LONELY enough to reach out to strangers on the internet and clearly don’t have anyone else to meet up with at their destination. All it takes is going on this website, making a few phone calls to ask if the traveller is registered at any of those hotels during the dates they specified and boom! Might as well wear a target sign on your backs ladies!

woman on cell phoneAlways make sure at least one person knows where you are and check-in with others regularly. I’m not saying report your every move, but rather be sure to have someone whether it is a supervisor or a friend that you will communicate with at least once per day however briefly.  This way, if anything were to happen to you, at least someone would know.

 

To some, my list may seem paranoid but as far as I am concerned, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  It is still possible to have a great time when travelling solo and to always have your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings. If you travel often, these behaviors will all become second nature.

 

So, travel safe my friends and have fun!

 

Cheers,

TSW

To Email, to Call or to Text: That is the Question

Shakespeare_ComputerAre you sending emails to schedule simple phone calls? If so, you are wasting your time!

Do you often email your customers or prospects in order to set up a time to have a phone conversation? Have you sat down and calculated the efficiency of this approach?

I find myself increasingly frustrated with the number of people who instead of picking up the phone, will send an email to schedule a time for something that would be a very quick conversation. This commonly results in several back and forth email messages with alternate times and then ultimately one party may cease to respond.  Days if not entire weeks may pass and to no avail. All of this could have been avoided by simply picking up the phone and having a 1-2 minute phone conversation or the message could be relayed in the form of a text message.

Why Email is Ineffective?

study conducted by the Radicati Group in 2015, illustrated that the average business user sends and receives an average of 122 emails per day, a number that is expected to increase to 126 messages by the end of 2019.  As no surprise, the average email only has a 20% open rate and a shockingly low response rate of only 6%.  This means that for every 100 emails you send, only 20% (20 emails) are being opened and of those 20 emails, only 6% (1 email) are being replied to.  That works out to 1 email reply for every 100 emails sent, so essentially a response rate of 1.2%.

Alternatives: Phone Call or Text Message?

According to a study by eWeek, 80% of people are currently using texting for business however, studies have shown that only 2531%  of people prefer text messages to phone calls.

The most preferred business activities conducted by text messaging according to the Harris Poll are:

  1. Checking order status (38%)
  2. Scheduling or changing appointments (32%)
  3. Make or confirm reservations (31%)

It must be noted that all of the above imply that there is an existing or soon to be existing business relationship.

In the sales process, texting can lead to conversion gains in excess of 100% however texting a prospect prior to establishing contact with them can not only adversely effect contact and conversion rates, it may also be illegal depending on the state or province you reside in.

That being said, how do you know when the most effective means of communication is to call, text or send an email?

When to Send a Text Message:

  • You have an existing relationship with your client
  • Your client has directly provided you with their cell phone number
  • Your message is brief, uncomplicated and only requires 1 or 2 basic single-sentence responses (i.e. setting up, changing or confirming a meeting time, following up on an order, etc)

When to Make a Phone Call:

  • You do not have an existing relationship with a prospect
  • The prospect or client did not give you their cell phone number directly. If you received their cell phone number from a 3rd party, they likely have no idea who you are so call them and speak with them first.  If you simply do not have their cell phone number, call their office number.
  • The subject matter you would like to discuss is more involved than and exchange of 1 or 2 sentences

When to Send an Email:

  • You have had a conversation on the phone or via text message and the recipient has requested additional information and/or details in the form of an email. Although the response rate for email is still low, if the prospect or client has requested it and knows to look out for your email, your response rate will increase. Sending unsolicited email is illegal in Canada and can result in fines of up to $1M for individuals and up to $10M for corporations.

In this day and age, it is all too easy to hide behind a computer screen.  As a result we, are all constantly bombarding each other with online messages and emails and in my opinion, they have simply lost their effectiveness as a communication tool.

So let the take home message be, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make a call.  Since most people don’t do that anymore period, that act alone will make you stand out among your competition.  We are all human beings and require some sort of true human interaction and relationships whether they are personal or business in nature, require that interaction in order to grow and flourish.

Happy sales my friends and the next time you’re tempted to hide behind your computer screen and send an email, remember that there is only a 1% chance it will even be replied to, so suck it up Princess and pick up that phone!

Cheers,

TSW

Single this Valentine’s Day? Give this Ultimate Gift to Yourself

Gift-to-selfLove Yourself and Give Yourself the Gift of a Solo Vacation this Valentine’s Day! 

Most of us have become somewhat complacent and dependent on other people for companionship, acceptance, validation or cling to others simply out of a fear of loneliness among a multitude of other possible reasons.  As such, very few people are truly independent.  Unfortunately in our society, those who have the strength and courage to be truly independent are socially stigmatized,  especially on lovely Hallmark holidays such as Valentine’s Day.

For this reason, most people find the thought of being alone, never-mind travelling alone on vacation completely and utterly daunting.

I bring this up because the most common objection to solo travel that I hear is that people don’t want to be alone. But why?

Nobody to talk to? Afraid of getting lost in one’s own thoughts? Fear of being in a dangerous situation and unable to help oneself?

The fact of the matter is that in this day and age, people don’t even really TALK to each other anymore.  I mean, everyone just texts or instant messages and nobody actually picks up the phone and actually calls each other anymore.  Last week my younger brother stayed at my place and when my phone rang, he handed it to me and said, “Wow, your friends actually call you?”.

Heck, these days even if you sit in a coffee shop alone and aren’t scrolling through your smart phone or reading a book people will look at you like you’re a psychopath.

psychopath

What I’m trying to get at here, is that although we are so “connected to everyone” we are not truly physically or directly interacting with people in person.  This type of communication (texting, IM, emails, social media even real phone calls! etc. ) can all be done while abroad and while travelling solo. So what is everyone so afraid of?

I digress.  Now that that’s out of the way, lets explore how taking a solo vacation can benefit you and why it is the best gift you can give yourself!

5 Reasons Why Everyone Should take a Solo Vacation at Least Once in Their Lifetime:

1. You Will Make New Friends

group of smiling friends traveling by tour busWhen travelling alone, you will have to interact with others whether you like it or not. Some interactions may be brief and superficial however you will very likely meet other travellers that you otherwise never would have met or engaged with if you were in the company of your travel companion(s). Chances are you will also meet other solo travellers and if you meet someone you like, make plans to do something together even if it’s just to sit at a beach for a day, share a taxi or grab a coffee.  Don’t be afraid to reach out.

2. Your Self-Confidence Will Improve as You Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

comfort zoneWithout anyone to depend on but yourself, you have no choice but to take care of all of the planning and preparation for your trip. If you find this potentially daunting, all you have to do is write out a list of your plans and everything you need for your trip and cross them off as you’ve completed each component of your itinerary. Upon returning from your adventure, you will not only be proud of yourself for all of the organization you put into the trip but also all of the amazing experiences you had as a result.  It was all you! This will no doubt boost your self-confidence immensely.

3. You will become more introspective and in-tune with your surroundings

mountain-climbingWithout the distraction of another person, you may notice and think of things you otherwise never would have noticed which can enrich your thought process and enlighten you as a human being.

 

 

 

4. You Get to do Exactly What You Want When You Want.

Me-TimeYou are in complete control of your vacation from start to finish. You can plan your itinerary just as quickly as you can ditch it and devise a new plan and not have to worry about upsetting anyone else. Want to sleep in? Do it and have nothing to feel guilty about as after all, it’s your vacation.  Want to wake up early the next day and go for a run or a head start on a road trip? No problem, just go! Tired and want to go home? Go home!  Hungry? Well, go get something to eat, whatever YOU are in the mood for and take as long as YOU like.

5. You Create your Budget and Control it.

150914_RTW_MillennialMillionaireWhen travelling alone, you spend what you want to spend and not get guilt tripped into paying to do some expensive excursion that you never wanted to do in the first place.

As you can see, there are a multitude of benefits to taking a solo vacation but there are some potential setbacks.  For example, if you are embarking on an all-inclusive vacation, most resorts have a singles surcharge which can be as high as $1000 or more.  Even worse, some resorts such as Sandals, ban single travellers all together as though singles are some outcasts in society (But don’t take it personally because these same resorts also ban gay couples so why anyone in their right mind would support such a bigoted organization is beyond me!).   Furthermore, if you are travelling solo, you must exert extra caution to ensure your personal safety especially if you are female.

Prior to booking and shorty before you leave for your trip regardless of where in the world it may be, be sure to check out your country’s government travel advisory page. If the region or the country you will be visiting becomes subject to a travel advisory, your travel health insurance or your trip cancellation insurance may be affected.

So what are you waiting for? Suck it up Princess, and go book yourself your dream solo vacation! You’ll be so proud you had that experience and have memories you will never forget!

Bon voyage!

TSW

Damage Control in Business: A VW Scandal Update

sorry heart

VW Says “We’re Sorry” With Gift Package Valued at Over $1000.

Business is part of life, and with that comes ups and downs.  At the end of the day, we are all human beings and by nature, imperfect and make mistakes.  In business, a simple mistake or poor decision can affect hundreds, thousands or potentially millions of people.  Minimizing damage control can be an extremely difficult undertaking, especially if you or your company was unable to proactively prevent the transmission of and correct the mistake or poor decision to employees, clients or even worse, the media.

A perfect example of this is the VW Recall, later known as the “VW Scandal”.  The former CEO of VW Martin Winterkorn, had approved the decision to install software on over 480,000 “clean” diesel vehicles in the US between 2009-2015. This software only activated the cars’ pollution controls during emissions testing (while on a hoist) which prompted a world-wide recall of nearly 11 million vehicles. This was obviously a fraudulent means to pass the rigorous EPA standards in the US and will end up costing VW up to $18 billion.

Unfortunately for the sales force at VW, they had no idea this was happening behind the scenes until they literally heard it on the news before they came in to work that day.  For the full story of the immediate impact on the sales force, read my interview with Aaron Hansen, Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen, “How Poor CEO Decisions Impact Sales Reps: The VW Recall”.

VWGiftCard

So now, 4 months later in an attempt to say “We are sorry”, VW has provided all affected TDI owners such as myself with a compensation package.  This includes a $500 credit at a VW dealership, a $500 MasterCard gift cart and 3 years of free road side assistance. Furthermore, the recall on my vehicle will be fixed at no charge or inconvenience to me.

As a loyal VW owner, I think this more than compensates for any wrong doings on their part.  As I have mentioned previously, I never bought my car so that I could drink water out of my tail pipe.  I bought my Passat TDI for comfort, safety and fuel economy among other reasons.

Do I accept VW’s apology?

I most certainly do.  And I must say, the timing couldn’t be better, being just after Christmas and before Valentine’s day.

Will I remain a loyal VW/Audi customer?

Absolutely.

Overall, although VW should have given their sales force a head’s up about all the negative press they were going to receive in the media and prepare them with how to handle customer inquiries and complaints, they made up for it after the fact.

In speaking with the reps at my local VW dealership, sales are back to normal.

Just goes to show that regardless of the severity of the “damage” a business succumbs to or has brought onto themselves, it is possible to recover with the implementation an aggressive damage control program.

If your business is in a similar situation, you should consult a PR expert and ideally one who specializes in your field of work.