Monthly Archives: October 2015

Is a Bad Premonition Just Cause for Cancelling a Trip?

womanlookingtofuture

Spooky? Or a case of being spooked?

Hallowe’en has always been my favorite holiday and it is just around the corner! What isn’t there to enjoy about the fall colours, visits to the orchard, haunted houses and scary movies on every channel?

This week I was originally planning on writing about some scary experiences that I have had while on the road however, something very unusual happened to me a few days ago which I feel is a much more suitable topic for the week of Halloween.

I had a premonition: A bad premonition and 3 warnings, so I decided to cancel my trip.

Before you think I’ve totally fallen off my rocker, let me tell you that I am a scientist by nature so I am naturally skeptical of such things but this has only ever happened to me twice before in my life.  The first time I was not able to avoid the situation and the second time I was able to avoid it.  These are my stories:

Premonition #1: Saved My Little Brother’s Life

My brother 8 and me 11.

My brother 8 and me 11.

When I was 11 years old, I had a premonition that the next day my mother, brother and I were going to be in a serious car accident and that my brother who was seated in the front seat of the vehicle was going to die.  When the next day came around, the entire morning felt like Deja-vu and the dreadful feeling intensified.  It was my brother’s turn to sit in the front seat that day so I begged him to sit in the back seat with me, in the middle which is the safest seat in the car.  As my premonition had it, we did get into a terrible car accident. My mother who was driving was not wearing a seat-belt ended up on the passenger side of the car with her head smashed through passenger side windshield.  If my little brother who was just 8 years old was seated in that seat, I am certain that he would have died that day.  Fortunately, we were all okay.

Premonition #2: “Don’t take the rock!”

ElvesAfter hiking my very first volcano in Iceland, I decided that I wanted to take home a souvenir. In spite of being warned by the locals (who believe in folklore-in particular about the “Hidden People”) to NEVER move or remove any rocks, I decided that I wanted to take one from the volcano.  As soon as I picked it up, this daunting, dreadful, feeling of impending doom came over me and it was as though I heard a voice in my head saying, “Don’t take the rock!”.  So I decided to listen and immediately put the rock back where I found it.  Nothing happened after but who knows what could have happened if I would have taken it?

So even if my premonition was only correct the first time, in my mind it means that when I have one there is at least a 50% chance that my premonition will turn out to be true.  Statistically speaking, that is quite significant.

So what happened this time?

Originally I was elated to go on this trip to Las Vegas but as I went to actually book it, I became completely overwhelmed with a terrible, daunting feeling as though something awful will happen to me there if go.

Am I afraid of travel?

Hell no! I’m the Travelling Saleswoman!  For the past 10 years I have travelled for up to 100 days a year in hotels and most of the time done so alone.

Am I afraid of travelling alone?

Hell no! I travel solo for both business and leisure over 90% of the time. Frankly, I prefer it!

What were these “warning” signs?

1. Failed Booking Attempt #1: On Sunday afternoon, as I submitted the payment details for my trip as I have always done using the Air Canada vacations booking site, this dreadful feeling took a hold of me and urged me not to press submit. I got a sudden rush of these very dark images in my mind-nothing specific but very dark. In spite of this, I pressed submit but received an error message saying that it was unable to book. I tried another 3 times and received the same message so I decided to call the Air Canada Call Center and they informed me that their system was down until further notice and that they were unable to book my trip, so I gave up for the time being.

2. My TV Froze on the film “Hostel III” which happens to take place in Vegas. After I got off the phone with Air Canada and made some lunch, I sat down and turn on the TV and Hostel III was on HBO.  I thought great! I hadn’t seen this one before (believe it or not!). For those of you who are unfamiliar with these films, the story goes something along the lines of rich psychopaths who are part of an elite killing club which kidnaps tourists and tortures them. Coincidentally, this film took place in Vegas, where I was planning on going and had the bad premonition about! After I realized that I had in fact seen this movie before (I forget movies all the time!), I tried to check the other channels to see what other movies were on but, I couldn’t change the channel because my PVR froze. Was this telling me something? Or am I just crazy?

3. Failed Booking Attempt #2 and 3: Ignoring the previous bad gut feeling, failed booking attempt and timely exposure to Hostel III, the following day I decided to try and book my trip once again. This time I simultaneously tried booking on Air Canada’s site AND Expedia BUT BOTH SITES FAILED! Even with different airlines. For some unknown reason, both sites kept timing out and wouldn’t let me book. It wasn’t an issue with my internet connection since I have the fastest connection available and was able to operate all other websites without issue.  I took this as a final warning sign and decided not to go on this trip.

As I mentioned previously, I rarely get any sort of premonition but based on my personal experience, I do not take these lightly. Call it what you may, “woman’s instinct”, “gut feeling” or whatever but the bottom line is, when my gut or whatever it may be gives me such a powerful feeling, I won’t ignore it.

Is it a coincidence that over 350 passengers originally scheduled on the hijacked 9/11 flights either cancelled or didn’t board last minute? Maybe or maybe not.

The truth of the matter is that in spite of how much science can explain, there is much more to life out there that we cannot yet explain and perhaps never will.

In reading this, do you think that having a bad premonition is just cause for cancelling a trip?

Have you ever had a similar experience? Or known someone who has?

I would love to hear your stories.

In the meantime, travel safe my friends and listen to your gut.

Cheers,

TSW

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Travelling to the US? Now is the Time to Cash in Your Travel Rewards

Rewards

Are you a Canadian who is planning on travelling to the US over the holidays to visit friends and family?

If you are, now is the time to book because the closer you get to the holiday season, the prices of flights increase dramatically and the availability also decreases as these flights book up.  Typically flight prices are the lowest 60-90 days prior to departure.

When pricing out flights to the US, most airlines will charge you in USD.  As most of you are aware, our Canadian dollar is at an all time low.  So that $500 USD return flight that used to cost you close to $500 CAD when our dollar was at par, will now cost you closer to $675.  Same goes for that hotel stay that used to cost you $200 per night and will now cost more along the lines of $270!

What can you do to avoid this?

Cash in on your travel rewards!

Currently, the rewards required for any particular route are in line with prices of when our dollar was at par and therefore the same number of points, will get you the same trip as before so essentially at the same price without being gauged by the poor exchange rate.

For example, if the $500USD flight was 35,000 air miles last year, it is still 35,000 air miles now.  Therefore if you use those points you will save the $150-175 that you would have lost to the exchange.

Don’t have enough points to fly?

No problem. Most rewards programs allow you to use those points towards hotels and car rentals as well. So even if you have to purchase your flight, be sure to use up those points on your hotel and/or rental car.

If you have collected points at a hotel chain, inquire to see how many you have acquired because you may be surprised to find that you actually have accrued enough points for at least one night hotel stay.

If you haven’t collected enough points at a hotel chain, some travel rewards programs like Aeroplan will allow you to convert points from your hotel stays into travel rewards.  This way even if you have a relatively low number of points at a few hotel chains, if you convert them and add them to your existing rewards you many have enough points to cover your flight. Contact your primary provider and see if they are able to do this for you.

Don’t have a clue how to manage your travel rewards?

Be sure to read my previous article on How to Maximize Your Travel Rewards Benefits.

So, bon voyage my friends! I hope you are able to use these tips and save yourself some hard earned dollars.

Cheers,

TSW

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When Your Product Demo Goes Horribly Wrong:

Epic-Fail-newspaper-stack

My Epic Failures Selling Capital Equipment

Back in the day, I used to sell medical devices and I have to admit that I hated it.   The only thing I liked about it was the hefty commission but even that was just a one time deal.

For those of you who have ever sold capital equipment, you know how exciting it is to finally get the opportunity to do a product demonstration because if your demonstration is a success, it is highly likely you will be able to close on the spot.

If you’re like me and slightly neurotic (ok maybe highly neurotic), the night before you spend countless time testing the heck out of your equipment to make sure it is working properly so that your demonstration goes smoothly the following day.  But even if you do that, there is always a chance that something can go wrong and not only ruin your potential to make that sale, but possibly to even be welcomed back down the road.

Product demonstration day is a make it or break it day.

When I was selling blood analyzers, I had to look professional and carry the following into a clinic in a single trip:

  • Analyzer #1 (50lbs) which was on wheels and 2ftx2ftx2ft in dimension. I secretly referred to this as “The Big Prick” although I never shared that with anyone of course
  • Analyzer #2 and #3 (35lbs in total) in a bag that went over my shoulder
  • A detail binder

Most of the time, nobody helped me with the door either. I tell you, it surely wasn’t easy to get all of that in the door on your own and try not to break a sweat or the equipment (if it gets jammed in the door as you enter)!.

I always envied the pharmaceutical reps who sat in the clinic waiting room beside me who held a simple piece of paper or detail binder alone.  Lucky bastards, I thought.  This was a huge reason I decided to go into pharmaceutical sales! Then at least I could go back to wearing heels. You just can’t wear high heels when you’re carrying that much gear. I digress.

After sitting in the waiting room comes the second most nerve wracking part, setting up the equipmentYou have to do it fast to make sure it doesn’t look to complicated and correctly on the first go.  This may take a lot of practice.

Then comes the most nerve wracking part, the actual demonstration!

My Epic Failures in Product Demonstration:

Epic Fail #1:

cbc analyzerOne time I had set up all 3 pieces of equipment and “The Big Prick” decided to leak all over the place!!! (Pun not intended but realized post-script) And I’m not talking about a small drip, the fluids (reagent solution) were just flowing out of the bottom of the machine as soon as I turned it on to prime it Of course this was the precise moment when my client and all of her staff walked into the room and saw everything!  I tried to explain that a small tube must have gotten loose during transport, so I opened the machine up to try and identify the location of the leak and well, my client saw how many tiny little tubes were inside this device and decided that it was all too easy for something to go wrong and regardless of what I said, they were no longer interested.  I packed up and left. Next!

Epic Fail #2

BLOOD WORK RESULTSOn another occasion where I had set up the equipment correctly, the client wanted to run some test samples on the device.  Although it was calibrated beforehand, for some reason the results on my machine were all completely out of range.  They even ran the same sample using two other testing methods (outside lab and their existing equipment) and those matched. But unfortunately, my equipment was off.  Way off. Since our main selling feature was the accuracy of the machine, I lost that sale and was not welcomed back.

 

 

Epic Fail #3

dental sprayI also used to sell dental equipment, which included electrical scalers and compression-powered polishers. At a dental seminar we were sponsoring, another rep and I set up all of the devices on a side table and while the speaker was presenting, one of the machines suddenly would not stop spraying water out of the tip!  We tried to maintain our cool (mostly trying not to burst into laughter!) and avoid attracting any attention so we had to take turns holding this leaking piece behind our backs during the presentation and during breaks when the attendees were visiting our station to view our equipment.  Fortunately nobody noticed!  Sweat, sweat, sweat!

Those are just a few examples but these types of things happened on a regular basis. Although I must say that in defense of the equipment, I’m sure I wasn’t always handling it in the most delicate manner at all times which didn’t help *ahem* *ahem* but what rep does???

I struggled with the fact that even though I may have been a good salesperson, if the equipment you are selling doesn’t do what it is supposed to and align with your sales presentation then the odds of you making the sale are slim to nil. I’m sure there is room to be creative and try to win the buyer back but if I test drove a new car that was malfunctioning, I most certainly wouldn’t buy it.

In the end, I decided that capital equipment sales were not for me, but it sure was a learning experience!

If you have sold capital equipment, I would love to hear your product demonstration failure stories and what you did to overcome it.

Happy Sales!

Cheers,

TSW

 

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6 Important Factors to Consider When Negotiating Your Next Sales Job

handshakeFinding that ‘perfect’ sales job is no easy task.  Most jobs have a straight forward description, offer a clearly defined salary and occasionally benefits.  Sales jobs on the other hand are complicated to negotiate. Even if you have an approximate dollar figure in mind that you need or want in terms of an overall dollar figure, it isn’t always so easy to calculate and get to that figure. This because in addition to base salary, there are multiple other areas of compensation and factors to consider including but not limited to:

  1. Sales Territory

LocationMapAside from monetary factors, the territory is probably the most important factor to consider and should be broken down as follows:

  • Geographic Location

You must be OK with the location of your territory.  For instance, I was fine with covering all of Canada but because my clients were not concentrated in major cities.  My job had involved a significant amount of travel by air and on country back roads and I loved that. If I had to just focus on accounts in Toronto, there is no way I’d be even remotely interested.  You have to decide where you are willing to travel to and how often and if that fits with the position you are considering.

  • Number of Accounts

This can be highly variable.  Some companies require that you manage only 30-50 accounts. I had 600 in my previous territory.  Depending on your time management skills, you may not be able to handle one or the other end of those extremes.

  • Previous Rep History***

This is SO important!! I cannot emphasize this enough.   Be sure to ask your future employer WHY the previous rep left this position and after how long.  Were they liked? Did they do a good job?  Believe it or not, the LAST thing you want to hear was how awesome that rep was and they were in the territory for over a decade! Why? Because you will have an uphill battle the entire time.  Good luck filling those shoes. Not only will your employer have much higher expectations of you, the clients will likely hate you at first because you’re not the old rep that they knew and loved forever.

On the other hand, if the previous rep did a lousy job then you have enormous potential to repair all of those relationships and grow your sales immensely.

If you have a chance, try to get in contact with the previous rep and ask them for their version of why they left.  They might give you some sort of insight into your potential future employer that may be a deal breaker!  Do your homework.

2. Commission Rate and Frequency Paid (i.e. monthly, quarterly, annually)

percent-signTypically commission rates are higher for junior sales positions and/or at start-ups and are usually offered in conjunction with a lower base salary.  The idea being that the rep is more focused on acquiring new accounts.  The more senior sales roles will offer a more hefty base salary and lower commission rate because those territories have been better established and require more nurturing of existing accounts compared to hunting down new accounts.  If you were used to receiving your commission on a monthly basis and the new company only pays it out at year end, you will have to re-do your monthly budget and determine if you will be able to live off of your base salary alone for an entire year. If not, then you can try to negotiate the frequency at which your commission is paid or try to negotiate a higher base salary with a compensatory decrease in commission.

3. Bonus

piggybankNot all companies offer bonuses for commissioned employees however some will offer a year-end bonus for teams who over achieve.  If this is an option, don’t include it in your budget because there is no guarantee that you will receive this.  Consider it icing on the cake.

4. Car Allowance or Company Vehicle

CompanyCarsEven if all of the numbers sound great in your offer, if you just bought a new vehicle and the new company only permits the use of a company vehicle you will have no choice but to sell your car or keep it and suck up the cost.  If you own your own vehicle and the company offers a car allowance, some companies have a policy which requires you to own a vehicle that is less than 2 years old. So even if you get a car allowance, you still may need to purchase a new car.  Car allowance rates are also highly variable.  I have never had one that fully covered my car payments and insurance.  This must also be factored into your monthly budget.

5. Expenses- What is Covered and How will it be Reimbursed?

credit cardsYet another highly available point.  It must be clearly defined what you will be able to expense.  Will it cover just meals? Or all travel costs including fuel?  Some companies insist their reps use a company credit card to cover all business expenses which is great because that means no expense reports! On the other hand, some companies will allow their reps to use their own personal credit cards and require the submission of monthly expense reports.  I always preferred the latter so that I could collect travel rewards and use them towards a personal vacation.  Once again, this is not usually negotiable.

6. Manager Style

badmanagerYou might say, “TSW How am I supposed to know this before I start?” The answer is quite simple and one you should remember every time you go through the job interview process:

The way your future boss treats you in the interview process is how they will treat you as an employee.

Never forget that.

So if you’re completely aggravated by the interview process, you will be just as aggravated if not more as an employee.   

If you are out there interviewing for that next sales position, don’t sell yourself short. It’s better to wait for that perfect position than to just jump into the first job offer that you get.

Happy Sales!

Cheers,

TSW

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Tips for Sales Reps: How to Find the Best Hotels for Your Next Road Trip

BusinessHotel

The majority of sales reps have a territory which is sufficiently large and requires some overnight travel.  If you are new to your territory, it can take some time to find that perfect hotel in each city.  In this article, I will provide some general tips on how to find the best hotels to suit your needs.

As some of you know, in my most recent position, my territory encompassed the entire country of Canada.  When I first started, 99% of the territory was unfamiliar to me and I made SEVERAL bad hotel choices on my first few trips.  I previously summarized some of my worst hotel experiences in my article discussing Why You Shouldn’t Always Trust Hotel Websites.  Based on my experience, I have devised a list of suggestions for selecting the best hotel for business accommodations, if you are in sales or will be on the road at some point in your travels.

Factors to Consider when Selecting your Accommodations:

1. Location

LocationMap

  • Proximity to Meetings: Ideally you should select a hotel that is located close to your first meeting of the day or has easy highway access in order to reduce your commuting time. However, in my experience I often sacrifice this luxury and will stay up to even an hour away from my first meeting in order to stay at a better hotel.
  • Neighborhood: If you don’t know the area, chances are you don’t know the neighburhood. I have stayed at highly reputable hotel chains that are located in such sketchy areas where I felt concerned for my safety getting in and out of my vehicle. You can try to read trip reviews prior to booking in order to ascertain the type of neighborhood a hotel is located in because usually if it’s really bad, people will indicate that in their reviews.
  • Traffic Flow: If I am staying I a major city, I will often stay somewhere where my first meeting is against the regular traffic flow.   Most people commute into the city in the morning and out of the city in the afternoon.  If I stay in the city, I will book my first appointment the furthest west and my last appointment closest to the city such that I am never caught in the bulk of rush hour traffic.

2. Parking

Parking sign.

  • Location: Not all hotels have on-site parking! Heck, some city hotels don’t even have an area to pull up and park while you check –in during rush hour. One hotel I stayed at only had parking in a lot that was 1km away and there was no unloading area during rush hour. Not very convenient when you’re carrying over 100lbs of luggage!  Be sure to call the hotel in advance if the parking accommodations are not clearly described on the hotel website.
  • Cost: Factor this into the cost of your total hotel stay. In the city, parking rates can be outrageous.  If that is the case, consider staying further out of town.
  • Valet: Sometimes hotels only offer valet parking which is not only costly, but inconvenient during the morning rush when EVERYONE wants their car! It’s also inconvenient if you have to get your car at 5am (typical for me) and the valet guy hasn’t shown up for work yet or doesn’t start until later. Avoid this if you can, unless you’re not in a rush.

 3. Amenities

HotelGym

  • Free wi-fi: Believe it or not, some hotels still have the nerve to charge for wi-fi. If you will be staying at a hotel for several days, make sure this is included in the price.
  • Gym: It is extremely important to incorporate fitness into your schedule. It is so easy to fall off track and out of your regular workout routine when you travel, so do your best to find a hotel with a gym and make an honest effort to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your day.  For more detailed tips, read my previous article on How to Keep Fit While on the Road.
  • Kitchen: I prefer to stay at suite hotels with full kitchens because that way I can prepare all of my own meals, eat healthier and make myself feel more at home (which can be quite nice if you are travelling for extended periods of time). For tips on all the meals you can prepare in a hotel room, be sure to read my article How to Eat Healthy While on the Road.

4. Reviews

Reviews

It is possible to spend countless hours on the web reading an endless sea of reviews for any hotel! I have to admit that I secretly find this entertaining and will waste a lot of time doing this solely for my own amusement. I mean who doesn’t find it amusing to hear people bitch it out over the pettiest little things???   However if you need to get down to business and  find a highly reputable place to stay ASAP, there is a new business travel app available called CinchTravel which amalgamates hotel reviews from multiple websites and provides the best suggestion for the particular area you search.  This app also gives you the ability to store your preferences such that when you type in the next city in which you are searching for accommodations, the app will give you the best flights and hotels based on that location, history and preferences.  Unfortunately this only currently available for iPhone and I have a BlackBerry, so I will have to do my searches the old fashioned way for now.

5. Rewards/Membership Programs

Rewards

Most major hotel chains offer some sort of rewards or membership program.  These programs are free and can provide you with a variety of perks including free early/late check-in, free wi-fi, free upgrades and points which you can use as credit towards future hotel stays.  The more you stay at hotel chains associated with the same rewards program, the quicker you will be eligible for free hotel stays which you can use for your own personal vacation.

6. Cost

cost

This is quite obvious but worth a mention and hence why I have listed it last.  Often if you can stay a bit further from downtown, you can get a much better deal.  After all, if you have your own vehicle, it doesn’t really matter because you can drive wherever you want.

I realize this may seem like a lot of factors to consider when selecting accommodations but all I can say is, it pays off to do your homework.

 

Travel safe my friends.

Cheers,

 

TSW

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