Monthly Archives: June 2015

Vacation? How to Really Unplug From Work and Check Into Vacation Mode

phone-in-sand

In theory this sounds easy to do, but if you’re in sales or own your own business it can be almost impossible.  If you’re like me, you worry that if you check-out from work that nobody else in your company will be able to handle your clients with the same quality of care that you do.

This is especially so because I’m guilty of checking my work emails and messages from the moment I wake up at 5:30am until just before I go to sleep at 10pm. Whether it’s the evening, the weekend or I’m off stick, I can’t help but attend to all my work-related calls, emails and text messages.  By doing this, my clients have an expectation that I am available at all times.

The primary reason I opted to make myself so available is because I manage clients across Canada.  I am based out of the east coast and almost half of my clients are on the west coast.  This means that when my head office is closed at 4pm, it is still 1pm, the middle of the work day, for a substantial portion of my clients.  Needless to say, I made myself available to them to secure the business and it was an excellent move.

This is all great until I need to take a break and go on vacation.  How does one take time off when work is constantly beckoning you at your side?

Similar to the electronic devices we use on a daily basis, we too need to rest and recharge. It is essential to our mental and physical health.  Taking a well-deserved break will enable you to come back to work refreshed and better able to tackle all of the challenges in front of you.

How can you “separate” yourself from work and not feel guilty? 

Keep in mind that everyone (your clients included) can understand the need to take a break. As long as you can get away without  their service being completely interrupted in your absence, go for it!  We are all deserve some sort of vacation, so don’t cheat yourself of that.

Follow the following steps:

  1. Make a Contact List for Your Clients to Contact in Your Absence

Compile a list of the basic elements of your job and assign a person in your company to handle those tasks in your absence.  Make sure to get their permission and your supervisor’s permission to delegate your tasks before you leave, otherwise you might land in some hot water with your co-workers.

  1. Set an Out-of-Office Email Reply

This is quite standard practice.  Be sure to include the exact dates that you will be unavailable and all of the contact information of your colleagues who will be able to assist your customers in your absence.  Upon my return to the office, I will send an email to all of my clients who emailed me while I was away in order to assure that their inquiries were taken care of.  This is important because I have noticed that almost 50% of my clients will wait for me to come back because they prefer to deal with me directly.

  1. Change Your Voicemail

Compile a temporary voicemail message which will relay the same details as your out-of-office reply.

  1. Give Your Clients a Head’s Up

Email: This is very important if you have clients that have grown accustomed to emailing you and assuming you have everything taken care of and don’t check their inbox for a reply.  If a client places an order in the morning and doesn’t see your out-of-office reply until later that day or the next day, their order may be substantially delayed and they will not likely be very happy.  Send them a quick email before you leave stating exactly when and how long you will be away and who they are to contact in your absence. Your clients will really appreciate this.

Text: Since there is no automatic out-of-office text message reply, be sure to text your clients who regularly text you before you leave to let them know you will not be receiving your messages.  I have no idea why there isn’t an app for this in this day in age. Whoever invents this will be a millionaire!

  1. Turn Off Your Phone and Get Off the Internet!

Yes, that’s right! Disconnect!

  1. Enjoy Your Vacation!

Today I’m heading off on vacation for one week. I’ve finished scrambling to get everything done before I leave, which often is more stressful than the average work week and I’ve completed all of the steps above and plan to enjoy my time off guilt-free.  I hope you do the same.

Safe travels my friends and don’t forget to charge your batteries every once in a while too.

 

TSW

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How to Keep Fit While on the Road

road-trip-exercise-art

Are you a road warrior and struggle to keep up your fitness routine while en route?  Do you tell yourself “I just don’t have the time.”? Or “My hotel doesn’t have a gym so I can’t work out.”?

Well, it’s time you stop lying and making excuses to yourself.  The truth is you CAN make time for exercise and you CAN do a full workout without access to a gym.  The same goes for eating healthy on the road, as some of you might recall from my previous article on “How to Eat Healthy on the Road”.  It’s all possible.  You just have commit to it.   In this post, I will provide some helpful hints on how you can make time to keep fit and work out even if you do not have access to traditional exercise equipment.

HOW TO MAKE TIME TO EXERCISE:

  1. Wake Up Earlier in the Morning

Assuming you don’t have to hit the road really early (and by really early, I mean before 6am), in my opinion, this is the best time to work out.  Working out in the morning has several benefits including but not limited to:

  • Waking you up!
  • Increasing your energy level and metabolism throughout the day.
  • Give you a great excuse to have a full, healthy breakfast before you hit the road. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don’t skimp!
  • Forcing you to go to bed earlier which will reduce the amount of snacking and alcohol consumption you may otherwise do in the evenings.
  1. Fit in Workouts in Between Meetings

When you’re in and out of sales calls all day long, you spend the majority of your day sitting, be it in the car or a client’s office. If you have the time in between meetings, the best thing you can do is go for a walk! I say walk, not jog because you’ll be dressed in business attire and won’t want to break a sweat before that next meeting.

WHERE can you walk?

If it is nice outside, take a stroll in a park, side street or sidewalk in town.

If the weather is poor or too cold, find a shopping mall and take a long brisk walk (without stopping to shop of course!).

If you have more time (>1h), try to squeeze in one of my “Car Workouts” in this article.

  1. After Work: Skip the Snack and Workout Instead

This is another great option which you can do as soon as you get settled into your hotel and before you eat dinner.  Some benefits include:

  • Relieving stress from a hard day on the road
  • Curbing your appetite. Skip that sugary snack or drink upon your arrival to your hotel room, work out instead. Then afterwards so you can load up on a healthy, high protein dinner with lots of veggies.  This may also curb your temptation to snack late at night.
  • Providing that last burst of energy to get you through those daily reports and emails after dinner.
  • Improved sleep (as long as you exercise at least 3 hours before going to bed).

So now that you’ve figured out WHEN you can exercise, WHAT are you going to do for exercise and HOW?

HOW TO PLAN A WORKOUT IN ANY ENVIRONMENT

When you arrive at your hotel, take a few minutes to check out what facilities are available to you.  Typically you will either have access to a

  1. Full gym, equipped with cardio machines and weights
  2. Partial gym, equipped with cardio equipment only OR
  3. No gym

If you’re lucky, you will have access to a fully equipped gym and will be able to do your usual or scheduled workout routine.  Unfortunately, most hotels do not offer this, so you will likely have to do a bit of work to plan your workout.

When you visit the fitness facility in your hotel, bring a small piece of paper and a pen with you (or the notepad in your phone) and make an inventory of the equipment. Next to each piece of equipment make note of the different exercises that you can do.  If you have been working out regularly in the days prior, simply continue with your regular scheduled exercise regimen. On the other hand, if you have been off for a few days, try to do a full body workout and/or work out as many muscle groups as possible. When you’re ready to do your workout, take your note with you to the gym to keep you on track.

In the event that you don’t have access to any weights or exercise equipment, I would recommend trying one of the following workouts I’ve developed with the assistance of my personal trainer.

Tip: If you have access to a treadmill, try to squeeze in some cardio after your workout as this will reduce the amount of lactic acid (a compound that causes muscle cramping) in your bloodstream.

No treadmill? No problem! If you can get outside to walk or jog, great!  If not, most hotels have stairs so try going up and down a few flights to get your cardio in!

The Hotel Room Workout:

womanworkingoutinhotel-room1

Below is a list of suggestions for various exercises that you can do to target certain muscle groups.  All of these exercises can be done in a basic hotel room with no equipment:

Legs: Squats, Lunges, Step-ups (using a table or chair in your room)

Abs: Put a sheet or towel on the floor. Use the base of the bed frame or air conditioner to position your feet under to keep stable and crunch, crunch, crunch away! There are so many ab exercises you can do.  Try a plank position as well.

Chest: Push-ups (on the floor or against a desk, table or bed)

Triceps: Triceps dips on any window ledge, counter or solid surface.

The Car Workout:

guy pullups insidecar

I will forewarn you that you must not be too shy or embarrass easily to do this one.  This workout is great if you have time between appointments and/or you find yourself “homeless” at some point in your travels. By “homeless” I’m referring to the time in between when you have to check out of a hotel and can check into your next hotel. I have categorized each exercise by target muscle groups.

What you will need:

  • Weights (optional): If you’re travelling in your own car, take them from home. If you’re away from home and have a rental, try buying some containers of cat litter that have a handle. They are heavy, cheap and could be used to assist you with traction in the event your vehicle gets stuck in snow, ice or mud. If you don’t have those, try the move in the image above (pull-ups using the coat hanger handles in the back seat of your car)
  • Running Shoes
  • Water

Warm-up: Try a 5 minute walk, jog (on the spot, around the car) or jumping jacks

Triceps: Open your trunk and face away from the car.  Do triceps dips on the lip of the trunk (making sure to keep the palms of your hands placed firmly on the lip of the trunk and fingers facing forward).

Chest: Push-ups either against the open car trunk lip or on the ground

Legs: Squats, Lunges (stationary or walking lunges around the vehicle), Step-ups onto the open trunk lip (only if you have good balance!)

Abs: Sitting on the open lip of the trunk and your hands placed firmly on both sides, fully extend your legs, hold them in place for as long as you can, then contract your legs and repeat.

Biceps: Bicep curls using the containers of cat litter OR if you’re really ambitious, inside your car position yourself in the middle of your car and do pull-ups using the coat hangers in your rear seats like in the above image which will work your chest as well.

Think you’re going to look ridiculous doing those things? All I’m going to say is “Suck it Up Princess! And Just Do it!”

People do Tai Chi in the park all the time. Do they look stupid?..

Ahem…no comment

I digress.

If you find yourself struggling with devising an exercise routine or keeping motivated while you’re on the road, and don’t have a personal trainer to assist you, you should look into companies such as Business Travel Life, which is founded by fitness enthusiast, consultant and former road warrior Kristina Portillo.  Business Travel Life can provide you with workouts customized to meet your unique fitness goals while accommodating your travel schedule.  They will even provide personal training via video conferencing which you can do from the comfort of your hotel room. It is an excellent service that I would highly recommend if you are the type of person that needs that extra “push” to stick to your fitness goals.

If you enjoyed these tips, you may aIso be interested in a guidebook I am currently working on, “A Road Warriors Guide to Eating Healthy and Keeping Fit on the Road” which I hope to have available in print within the next year.  Be sure to subscribe to my blog be notified when it becomes available, as well as for new travel and sales tips which are posted every Thursday.

In the meantime my fellow road warriors, “Keep fit and have fun!”.

TSW

p.s. I hope at least one person got that reference!

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Excuses I’ve Used to Try and Get Out of Traffic Tickets

Some are good, some are bad but most are just plain stupid!

A beautiful young woman sitting in the drivers seat of her car, holds up her hands and shrugs with hopelessness as a police officer stands outside her vehicle writing her a moving violation ticket.

If you drive a vehicle, surely you must have gotten at least one traffic ticket in your life.  If you’re a road warrior like me, you’ve most likely have had more than your fair share.  The odds are against us. After all, we make a living on the road and when we aren’t in meetings or in the office,  we are most likely to be driving around rushing to our next meeting , driving in unfamiliar areas and scrambling to find parking.  It’s only inevitable that we have slip-ups from time to time.

Traffic laws are in place for a reason.  Aside from the obvious safety risks of breaking those laws, if you have too many speeding or traffic tickets, you will end up paying an arm and a leg for insurance. If you’re really bad, you may even risk losing your driver’s license.  If you make a career out of being a road warrior and you lose your license, your career is over, unless you happen to be wealthy enough to hire a private driver!

I really make an honest effort to drive within the speed limit and park legally but sometimes, I slip up and make mistakes. Nobody is perfect and I am certainly no exception.  I’d like to make note that these excuses I have used to try and get out of traffic tickets are for entertainment purposes only. I do not condone or promote breaking any laws.

Below is a list of some of the best and worst excuses I’ve used to try and get out of traffic tickets.

My Most Successful Attempts:

BEST EXCUSE “I spilled hot coffee on my left leg.”

coffee-pants

Charge: Speeding 92km/hr in 50km/hr zone

Circumstance: He caught me right where the speed limit dropped from 80km/hr to 50km/hr.  I realized I didn’t slow down in time.  I was also studying withdrawal reflexes in my neuroscience class at the time and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d “spill” hot coffee on my left leg which would make me withdraw that leg and extend my right leg (on the gas pedal) as a reflex.  I was only a few minutes from a coffee shop, so it could have legitimately happened.  Not that I tend to stereotype, but I was certain that most police officers would have at least once spilled hot coffee on their lap and could sympathize.

Verdict: No ticket.  BUT I must point out that this  happened a few year years ago and I wouldn’t recommend using this excuse these days because you may end up with a careless driving charge!

BEST ATTEMPT: Officer: “How Fast Were You Going? TSW: “15km Over The Speed Limit” *wink wink*

80kmh sign

Charge: Speeding 117 in 80km/hr zone

Circumstance: I was driving home on a country road that I normally take home. I finished work early on a sunny Friday afternoon and was simply not paying attention to my speedometer.  When the officer asked me how fast I thought I was going, I realized what he probably clocked me at but I smiled and said “95km/hour?”.

Verdict: Reduced Ticket for 95km/hr in 80km/hr zone (no demerits). I’m confident this excuse only worked because my driving record for the past 6 years was completely clean, so I thought I had a chance.

WEAK ATTEMPT “I’m from Ontario (in Quebec)”

xcusssme licenseplate

Charge: Driving the wrong way on a one way street…twice.

Circumstance: I was in Quebec, the French only speaking province in Canada.  I couldn’t figure out how to get out of this network of streets except to turn around and go the wrong way.  I pleaded ignorance. He even caught me doing it a second time!

Verdict: No charge. Pfewf!

RISKY ATTEMPT: “But I Signaled (when I passed you and cut you off on the highway)” *BIG SMILE*

Turn_signals_5

Charge: Speeding 131km/hr in a 100km/hr zone

Circumstance: Passing an unmarked police cruiser on the highway and cut him off.  I had nothing to say except smile and say “I signaled!”

Verdict: Reduced to 115km/hr (no demerits). That was pure luck!

My Least Successful Attempts:

DISHONEST ATTEMPT: “Somebody Was Following Me”

carfollowing

Charge: Speeding 72km/h in a 50km/hr zone

Circumstance: I was driving faster but slammed on my brakes when I saw the police car. He was obviously aware of this.

Verdict: Guilty as charged.  The police officer screamed at me saying “What are you trying to do? Kill some kids??” I dind’t realize it was a school zone.  Bad, bad me!

DUMB BLONDE ATTEMPT:That’s the distance from my destination? I thought it was my speed. Oh, and can I borrow your flashlight officer?”

gps

Charge: Speeding 131km/hr in 100km/hr zone (4 demerits)

Circumstance: I was driving from Toronto to Montreal at night which is normally about a 6 hour drive.  There is a particular stretch near the town of Cornwall which is notorious for its speed traps. After I passed this town, I stopped paying attention to my speed and was focusing on how soon I’d be at my destination.  I must have been going about 135 km/hr when I realized I drove past a police cruiser (black SUV) parked in the middle of the dark highway.  He pulled out behind me but didn’t put his sirens on right away.  But eventually he caught up to me.  When he approached my vehicle and asked me how fast I was going, I said “My GPS says 115km/hr, oh wait, shoot that’s the distance from my destination!” I explained I was tired after working all day and it was late at night. He then questioned what time I left Toronto and wasn’t pleased with my answer. When he asked me for my insurance documents I couldn’t see in the dark with the flashing lights behind me, so I had to ask him to borrow his flashlight. When I handed over my documents, it turned out he was from the same town as me, so that was a nice coincidence.  When he asked what I did for a living, that  didn’t go over well.  Apparently telling the police you’re in sales, isn’t going to get you very far!

Verdict: Guilty on a lesser charge: 123km/hr in 100km/hr (3 demerits)

ANOTHER DUMB BLONDE ATTEMPT: “I didnd’t know what “RES” did but it made my car speed up just as I passed you!”

cruise-control-honda-the-car-expert

Charge: Speeding 137km/hr in 80km/hr zone (If I did this now I would have lost my license on the spot!)

Circumstance: New car. New button. Apparently it was set really high? This was my first speeding ticket.

Verdict: Guilty on a lesser charge: 117km/hr in a 100km/hr zone.  I took this one to court and had it reduced to 95km/hr (no demerits). This only happened because it was my very first ticket.

LAME ATTEMPT: “I was just going with the flow of traffic.”

carsfast

Charge: Speeding 65km/hr in 50km/hr zone (no demerits)

Circumstance: This cop pulled 10 of us over at the same time.  He just waved us into a driveway and gave us all a ticket. When I asked to see the radar gun, he started to yell at me for not pulling over immediately and threatened to give me ticket for evading a police officer. I told him he pulled over too many of us and there was nowhere else to park. I wasn’t going to park in somebody’s driveway or in front of a fire hydrant, so I parked a little further away.

Verdict: Guilty.  He obviously had a quota to meet that day and since the ticket wasn’t even for demerits, I didn’t bother fighting it.

I CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO MAKE UP AN EXCUSE ATTEMPT: “I don’t know”

Talking-to-Police-Officer

Charge: Speeding

Circumstance: I’m ticked off that I got pulled over and don’t have the patience to bother making up an excuse.

Verdict: Variable ranging from being let off entirely to getting slapped with the full charge.

STUPID ATTEMPT THAT NEVER WORKS: “I’m late for work.”

man-pointing-at-watch-3-25-11

Charge: Speeding (don’t recall)

Circumstance: Obvious.

Verdict: Guilty every time! That’s a LOUSY excuse!

 

 

So there you go folks. Those are some of the excuses I’ve used over the years. I never said they were successful! Fortunately (and thanks to my good behavior), I haven’t had any run ins with the traffic police in a few years now.

Let the take home message be to drive safe my friends and follow the speed limit so you can stay on the road and sell, sell, sell!

Cheers,

TSW

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When To Fire A Client

Whether you’re in sales or own your own business, making the decision to fire a client may be one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make in your career.  After all, you’ve worked so hard to get the business, so why throw it away?

Well, in some cases, you may actually be losing revenue by continuing to service certain clients.  Whether it is the actual time or the energy that you invest into an account, it all adds up.  Your time and effort are worth money. If you find yourself calculating how much time you’ve invested in an account and don’t see a proportional financial return on your investment in that client, it may time to cut them loose!

The best clients are those who bring in the most revenue with minimal effort and not vice versa.  Sure there are always circumstances where you initially have to invest a lot of time and effort to get a client on board , however you have to make the call as to whether or not it is worthwhile for you to continuing to focus on that client or move on to a potentially more lucrative opportunity.

So how do you decide when to put your foot down and decide when enough is enough?

You may opt to fire your client if they:

  1. Don’t Pay their Bills

Ever heard the notorious “The cheque is in the mail”? It’s almost laughable.  Once a client’s account gets seriously behind, you have to cut them off. If they really need your product or service, they will come up with the money.

Solution: The best thing to do in this scenario is to put their account on hold and try to arrange a payment schedule. If you have to call on them in person to collect, do it.   When their account is paid in full, begin to service them again but require that pay upfront or at the time of their order. In very rare circumstances, clients may completely avoid you and in that case you have no choice but to send them to collections.

  1. Ask or Expect You to Cross any Professional or Ethical Boundaries

This could take on a variety of shapes and forms. For example, any client who asks you to do something illegal, break your company policy, lie, cheat, steal, provide sexual favours or anything else unethical in exchange for a sale.

Solution: DON’T DO IT! WALK AWAY IMMEDIATELY! Then report their behavior to your direct supervisor and explain why you will no longer have anything to do with that account. If you are a business owner, simply inform them that you do not conduct business in that manner and they will have to do business elsewhere.  If you give into these requests it may seriously harm your business, your reputation and your company’s reputation.

  1. Complain Incessantly

Every one of you reading this has encountered this sort. No matter how perfect your product or service is, they will find something wrong with it and repeatedly so.  Sure everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but when there are no mistakes made and clients routinely fuss about every little thing time and time again, it may just not be worth the aggravation in dealing with these people.  They will never be happy.

Solution: If you’re totally fed up with them, you can try referring them to your competition however in my experience that doesn’t usually work.  In spite of how apparently disappointed they are with your product or service, they’d prefer to stick around and annoy you.  If that’s the case, just ignore their fussing. Don’t feed the monster.

  1. Use You

These type of clients will drain you of all of your knowledge and resources and push you to your limit because they know you want to make the sale.  It is difficult to identify these types of clients in the early stages because quite often a client will “test you” before they decide to do business with you.  This is perfectly normal and acceptable.  If someone is serious about engaging in a long term business relationship with you and your company, they should do their due diligence and see what you and your company are all about and what kind of service you can provide.  What is not acceptable is if this “testing” behavior persists over many sales calls and they don’t give you the business.

Solution: I call them on it and say outright “Every time I see you, I provide you with a wealth of product and industry knowledge but I know you still buy mostly from my competitor.”. They usually agree and then wonder why they do so. At that point I give them an ultimatum, “If you want the knowledge and you want me to keep coming back, you have to give me the business.  Otherwise, I’m never calling on you again because I will be focusing on other clients who will actually do business with me (who happen to be your competitors). Going forward you can ask my competitor to help you with your questions.” That usually solidifies the business 99% of the time. If it doesn’t, walk away.

  1. Take Advantage of Loopholes and Con You

Ever had a client buy a promo only to return part of it so that they can get a lower volume of product at the promo price and your company didn’t figure out how to deal with that loophole?  Or buy enough product to get free shipping only to return what they didn’t actually need but rather tacked on to their order so they don’t pay freight? Or try to get credit for the same item repeatedly? There are a million examples!

Solution: Since these types usually think they are quite clever, you have to call them on it and not allow them to get away with it again.  You’ll typically be greeted with a smirk and an “I’m better than you“ attitude.  Whatever it is they conned you out of, make sure you find a way to put it on their next invoice.  If they refuse to pay, refuse to offer them product or service. Some people you just have to play hardball with.

  1. Are in Bed With the Competition

Unbeknownst to you, you may end up meeting with a client who has very close ties with your competition.  By close ties I mean a business associate, investor, family member or perhaps someone who literally does share a bed with them, not simply someone who is loyal to a company.

Solution: Once you discover this STAY AWAY!  They will funnel all of your information directly to your competitor and give them an edge on you.  They won’t buy from you and if they do, it’s only to give your product to the competition.

  1. Waste Your Time

Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between someone who has a very extensive decision making process  and who is legitimately interested in purchasing compared to someone who has nothing better to do and just wants to play games with you. Some people will even fake a deadline for when they have to purchase when they don’t have any intention of purchasing period.

Solution: Give them a deadline to purchase.  Let them know that after that date, you will be moving on and changing your focus to another product, service or clientele.  This will usually force the client to be upfront about their true intentions.

  1. Disrespect You

You may encounter a client who never listens to you because they know better. They may think they are superior to you in every way and do not respect you or your time.  These types of clients are likely to be a no-show for your meetings, repeatedly.

Solution: If this type of client behaves this way consistently and does not give you any business, move on.  I usually give it 5 attempts then move on to other prospects.  Why so many? You have to give people the benefit of the doubt.  They may be legitimately busy or preoccupied and you might not be calling on them at the best of times.  I will usually try again after 1 year. Sometimes if you wait a while and call on a business at a later time, you might get lucky and they have a new decision maker who might be easier to work with or they may have had a bad experience with your competitor and are more open to change.

I am fortunate that in my business, 99.9% of my customers are awesome to deal with!  I sincerely hope that you don’t face any of these scenarios in your professional career but if you do, make sure to stand your ground because, the customer is NOT always right.

Happy sales my friends and don’t ever do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.

Cheers,

TSW

 

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