Author Segal LLP

Checklist for a Successful Sales Flight

thmb_transportation_jet_airplane__bzSuccessful sales transactions don’t happen by accident and they aren’t based on luck.

Top sales people are prepared for the expected and the unexpected, which means knowing what prospects are looking for and exceeding their expectations. Accomplishing that takes proper planning and a final examination of the factors involved in the sale.

So take a tip from pilots. Have a “pre-flight” checklist. Before every sales call, go though it completely. This proactive step reduces the chance of failure and increases the chance you’ll come back with a deal.

Take a look at our checklist to get started. You might want to add factors that specifically suit your product or service, industry, or your sales prospect.

Yes No  Checklist for a Successful Sales Call
Is the prospect qualified?

Notes:

Have you confirmed the appointment?

Notes:

If you are driving to meet the prospect, do you have the correct directions? Do you know how long it will take to arrive on time – or preferably, 10 or 15 minutes early?

Notes:

Have you organized the necessary materials, including brochures, business cards, sales aids and other information?

Notes:

Do you know the prospect’s culture and environment?

Notes:

Do you understand the prospect’s business structure and industry?

Notes:

Do you understand what drives the prospect’s business and competitive environment?

Notes:

Do you understand the dynamics behind the prospect’s buying decisions? Are you aware of economic and other factors that could create resistance to the sale?

Notes:

Are you aware of the internal and external factors that could affect the timing of the sale?

Notes:

Have you double-checked to see if any factors have changed since your initial contact, including final checks of the prospect’s website; news, business and economic reports, and internal sources at the prospect’s company who may have information about recent developments?

Notes:

Do you have a list of questions to ask the prospect that can help gauge how you can help the company with problems, challenges and growth opportunities?

Notes:

Have you taken a few moments to visualize your success? If the goal is to make the sale, that’s the image you want to see. Of course, not every sales call is aimed at completing a sale. If the goal is to make some headway toward clinching a sale, visualize yourself and your prospect coming to an understanding. Remember, mental preparation can be half the battle.

Notes:

Take a Stand and Get Valuable Publicity

thmb_tuxedo_suit_fashion_formal_clothes_MB“If You Want an Audience, Start a Fight.” Irish Proverb

The saying goes there’s no such thing as bad publicity. And one of the ways you can keep your company’s name in view is to take a controversial stand on a controversial topic and stick to it. The public will remember you and the best part is it’s free.

But controversy is just one form of publicity and cost is just one of its advantages. Public relations also:

How Not to Win Over an Editor

Here are five ways to likely be ignored:

1. Send an e-mail press release with a subject line that simply says “News Release.” Instead, use that line to explain what the release is about.

2. Complain that your competitors have been written about but you haven’t.

3. Insist the media outlet owes you coverage because your company spends a lot on advertising.

4. Send a press release without a contact name and telephone number.

5. Demand to read an article before it’s printed.

Helps overcome ad fatigue. Face it, consumers are becoming more cynical and don’t put a lot of faith in advertisements. They tend to tune out when they see hype.

Bolsters your credibility by getting a positive article written by an objective, third party observer. In other words, a publication is giving space to your story — you aren’t paying for it.

Places you in a public forum where people pay attention rather than trying to tune out, and

Provides opportunities to explain your side of the story in the event of a crisis, such as a product recall or a financial setback.

In a nutshell, publicity gets your company noticed and, by finding something newsworthy, helps you stand out from the crowd.

With that in mind, sit down with your managers and brainstorm ways you can generate newsworthy publicity. Here are ten suggestions to get you started:

1. How has your company handled a crisis, such as the threat of terrorism, the plight of the homeless, mad-cow disease or a sluggish economy?

2. What are your opinions on issues in the latest local or federal election? How do you feel about a tax proposal or proposed budget cuts? Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or trade journal elaborating on your opinions and work in some aspects of your company. Tell the reader, or the interviewer, why a candidate’s position on issues is important to your business or industry.

3. Make yourself an expert by contacting television and radio stations, as well as magazines, newspapers and trade journals, to let them know you are available to be interviewed on particular topics.

4. Take a poll or a survey of your industry and publish the results.

5. Write about a unique marketing approach your company successfully used.

6. Sponsor a local sports team, or offer your services to help raise money for a worthy cause you are interested in.

7. Give speeches on issues related to your business or industry, on a particular topic that is making headlines, or on an issue you feel strongly about.

8. Stage events such as seminars for the media or sponsor awards for media coverage of an industry or an issue, or offer your facilities as a site for TV programs, movies or commercials.

9. Describe a customer’s success story and your role in helping the person achieve goals. Just be sure you don’t sound too self-serving.

10. Create a list of tips related to accomplishing goals in your business.

The control issue: The one thing about publicity, however, is that you can’t really control it the way you can an advertisement and its placement and timing. What happens to your message once you’ve put it out depends a great deal on whether the media finds it newsworthy or whether war breaks out and your story is put on semi-permanent hold.

It is, however, free. And for both large and small companies, publicity is a solid way to communicate directly to a target audience and to complement your advertising efforts.

An Annual Conundrum: RRSP or TFSA

022616_Thinkstock_137234817_lores_KKAs the clocks stroked midnight on January 1, Canada ushered in a new year, got the ball rolling for its 150th anniversary and kicked off the 60-day RRSP season.

Until March 1, 2017, you can continue to contribute to your Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP) and deduct the money on your 2016 tax return. The current annual contribution limit is the lesser of 18% of your 2015 earned income, or $25,370.

Keep in mind that contributions to your employer’s pension plan reduce the amount you can invest in your RRSPs and unused contribution room (annual contribution limit minus contributions paid) can be carried forward. The exact amount of your contribution limit will be included in the “RRSP Deduction Limit Statement” section of the Notice of Assessment you’ll receive from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Qualified Investments

Of course, RRSPs aren’t the only vehicle where you can stash your retirement dollars. Every year during RRSP season, many Canadians wrestle with whether to add savings to their RRSPs or to Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs).

For the most part, whatever investments are allowed in an RRSP can go into a TFSA. That includes cash, mutual funds, securities listed on a designated stock exchange, guaranteed investment certificates and bonds. You can contribute foreign funds, but they’ll be converted to Canadian dollars, which can’t exceed your contribution room.

The lifetime contribution limit for a TFSA is $52,000 in 2017. That amount reflects an annual limit of $5,000 for each calendar year from 2009 through 2012 and $5,500 for 2013 and 2014. For 2015, the annual limit was raised to $10,000 and then trimmed back to $5,500 for 2016, where it remains for 2017. The limit is indexed to inflation. There is no deadline for TFSA contributions.

Carry-Forwards

Unused contribution room in your TFSA can be carried forward indefinitely while unused RRSP contribution room can be carried forward until you’re 71 years of age.

You can open accounts at a bank or credit union, investment dealer, discount broker, mutual fund company or life insurance company. While you can own more than one account, the overall limits still apply.

If you live abroad, you can contribute to either plan provided you have primary residential ties to Canada. If you become a nonresident, you can keep your current account, but contribution room will no longer accumulate. This is a complex issue; discuss it with your tax advisor.

If Flexibility Is Your Goal

Generally speaking, TFSAs are more flexible than the average RRSP. A TFSA is more accessible if ever money is needed. If you run into an emergency of some sort, you can withdraw money without any tax consequence, because contributions are made with after-tax money. Be wary of this advantage however. It may tempt you to raid your plan and fall behind in your savings strategy.

RRSP contributions, on the other hand, are made with pre-tax dollars. The savings are tax-deferred until you start making withdrawals. That money is then taxed. Early withdrawals are subject to withholding tax. Your financial institution will hold back the tax on the amount you take out and pay it directly to the government. The withholding tax rate is between 10% and 30%, depending on how much you take out of your RRSP. (In Quebec, the rate is between 5% and 15% and provincial tax is also withheld.)

The investment income — including capital gains — earned in a TFSA isn’t taxed, even when you withdraw it. And the full amount of your withdrawals can be redeposited in future years. If you decide to re-contribute all or some of the money you withdraw in the same year, you can do this only if you have available contribution room. Otherwise, you must wait until January 1 of the next year.

Overcontribution Penalties

If you overcontribute, the penalty is 1% of the highest excess in the month, for each month your account has an excess. It’s a good idea to make a TFSA withdrawal before the end of a year. That way you can pay it back the following year. Note that depositing large amounts in the same year that you make a withdrawal from your TFSA could mean that you’ll exceed your current year’s contribution limit and you’ll be subject to penalties.

There’s a special provision for RRSPs that allows an over-contribution of as much as $2,000 before penalties accrue. The penalties generally are 1% a month on the amount over $2,000.

TFSAs allow you additional room to invest if you’ve maxed out your RRSP contributions for the year. And unlike RRSPs, if you dip into your TFSA, the withdrawn amount is added back into your contribution room in the following year.

Financial Circumstances

Among the considerations when choosing between an RRSP and a TFSA are the specifics of your financial circumstances.

For example, TFSA payouts aren’t considered income by the federal government, so they don’t:

  • Trigger the Old Age Security (OAS) or Guaranteed Income Supplement claw-backs,
  • Reduce bonus payments for children of low-income families, or
  • Affect income-tested student aid, pharmacare or other subsidies.

Another consideration is age. December 31 of the year you turn 71 years old is the last day that you can contribute to your RRSP. After that, you must convert the plan to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) or an annuity. If you convert to an RRIF, you must withdraw a minimum amount each year. In contrast, you can own a TFSA for the rest of your life.

Two Special Plans

RRSPs offer two plans that don’t come with TFSAs:

  1. The Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) that lets you make withdrawals to finance full-time training or education for you, your spouse or your common-law partner. You must repay 1/10 of the total amount you withdrew until the full amount is repaid.
  2. The Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) that allows you to withdraw as much as $25,000 in a calendar year to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or a related person with a disability. Generally, you have up to 15 years to repay the money.

You can make “in-kind” transfers to both RRSPs and TFSAs from a non-registered account. But if you’re contributing a security with an accrued capital gain, a disposition is triggered and you’ll pay a capital gains tax in the year of the transfer. If you contribute an asset with an accrued loss, the CRA will deny the loss.

Investment Decisions

Both RRSPs and TFSAs can hold a variety of investments, but you’ll want to discuss the possibilities with your advisor. For example, you may want to avoid speculative investments. You won’t get any benefit from a loss if the investment’s value drops. Also, be cautious when contributing GICs. If you make less than 1% on a GIC, there isn’t much benefit from the tax sheltering aspect of the account.

If a stock pays foreign dividends, you could find yourself subject to a withholding tax. In a non-registered account you get a foreign tax credit for the amount of foreign taxes withheld, but if the dividends are paid to your TFSA, that credit isn’t available. (There’s an exemption from withholding tax under Canada’s tax treaty with the United States, but it doesn’t apply to dividends paid to a TFSA.)

When You Might Avoid TFSA Contributions

If you are considering putting money into a TFSA, there are four situations where you might want to consult your advisor with the idea of placing your money elsewhere:

  1. You’re in a high tax bracket and have RRSP room available. Contributing to the RRSP will help you lower your tax bill.
  2. You’re in a group savings plan at work and want to take full advantage of a company matching contribution.
  3. You have high-interest consumer debt such as credit cards or unsecured lines of credit. If you pay down the debt, you’ll have more to save in the long run.
  4. You plan to finance your children’s education but haven’t maxed out all the available contribution room for their Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) contributions ($50,000 max for each account).

Consult with your accountant for guidance on which account best suits your situation.

Take Inventory of Your Personal Financial Assets

120816_Thinkstock_510695912_lores_KWNow that the holiday bustle has wound down, try to take some time to compile or update your personal financial statement and lists of important documents and other data.

This inventory can serve as a snapshot of your financial situation and help simplify your life when it comes to performing such standard financial tasks as preparing your tax return, planning your estate, calculating your net worth and applying for a loan.

What to include in your list depends on your personal situation, but here’s a list of some common items to consider:

ASSETS

Investments. Include stocks, Treasury bills, municipal or commercial bonds, and mutual funds. List the current market values, the purchase price, number of units held, dividends and maturity dates.

Insurance policies. Include life and medical insurance, annuitants, pension plans and coverage for your home, automobiles, and any policies held for other property.

Real estate. List the current value of all the property you own, including principal residence, vacation homes, undeveloped land, rental property or commercial buildings you may have an interest in. Indicate where the deeds and title insurance policies can be found. If you’re involved in partnerships, include the names and addresses of your partners.

Accounts. Savings, chequing and other bank accounts, as well as savings bonds and Guaranteed Investment Certificates. List the bank, the account number, balance and any yield or maturity dates.

Vehicles. Automobiles, boats, recreational vehicles, campers and motorcycles.

Other personal property. These items include valuable jewelry, gems, precious metals, antiques and collectibles.

Other assets. Include long-term royalties due to you, partnership interests, trusts and interests in a closely held business.

LIABILITIES

Short-term liabilities. Include the amounts owed on credit cards and installment loans. List the accounts, numbers and balances.

Long-term liabilities. List the amounts owed on mortgages and loans for college, cars, home improvement and other purposes.

Unpaid taxes.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Safe deposit box. List the bank, the number of the box and the location of the key.

Military service documents. These papers generally enable the collection of veterans’ benefits. Where are they located?

Advisors. List the names and phone numbers of your accountant, attorney, securities broker and insurance agent.

Tax returns. Indicate where you keep copies of past tax returns.

Estate planning essentials. List the location of the original of your will and any additions to it, where copies can be found and the names of your executors or trustees. Also include information about any power of attorney document.

As well as this information, consider making an inventory of such personal information as:

Social Insurance Card number, name on the card and its location

Health Card number, name and location

Passport

Your email address

Computer and laptop passwords

Social media accounts, user IDs and passwords

Your spouse or other members of your family may need to be able to access the companies that provide the following services, as well as the account numbers:

Home phone

Mobile phone

Cable and Internet

Hydro

Water

Home alarm (and security code)

Other critical documents may include:

Adoption papers

Prenuptial agreement

Marriage certificate

Separation agreement

Divorce papers

Custody papers

Citizenship papers

Remember: Once the list is complete, store it safely. Lost or stolen information may be used for identity or financial theft. If the document is lost or stolen, take immediate steps to protect yourself by informing relevant authorities, including your bank, credit card company and insurer.

Update the list when necessary. Discuss it with your advisors and be sure your loved ones know where to find it.

Know the Red Flags of Investment Scams – Your Health Depends on It

lores_sepia_security_lock_padlock_bzIt seems that if you are going to fall victim to a fraud, it may in one way or another stem from a relationship with a family member, co-worker, friend or neighbour and you may very likely live in British Columbia or on the Prairies.

That’s the profile that resulted from a survey for the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) that also indicated nearly five per cent of the adult population has lost money in an investment fraud. About half were introduced to the fraud through someone they knew. Making the situation worse, fewer than 24 per cent of victims report the fraud either because they are embarrassed, lacked proof or didn’t lose much money.

Attempted fraud also scored high, with nearly three in 10 respondents saying they were approached within the past three years. About one-third of those approaches were through e-mail spam. Yet only 17 per cent of those approached reported the attempt.

Half of victims also feel law enforcement authorities don’t take financial fraud as seriously as other crimes, and 70 per cent believe crooks tend to get away with fraud or, if caught, receive light sentences at most.

Three quarters of fraud victims said they did not recover any of their investment in the most recent scam they were involved in.

But victims aren’t hurt just financially. More than 90 per cent of respondents said they believe investment fraud is as serious as such violent crimes as robbery and assault when it comes to emotional, mental and physical health.

Among the effects of fraud are a decline in the ability to trust people, wariness about future investments, stress, anger, depression, feelings of extreme loss or isolation, significant weight loss or gain, increased vulnerability to illness, and panic or anxiety attacks.

The CSA, which represents the country’s 13 provincial and territorial securities commissions, recommends that all investors educate themselves about the warning signs of fraud and remain objective when it comes to controlling their money.

Here are 10 tips to help you avoid falling victim to an investment fraud and suffering both the financial and emotional damages that can result:

1. Know what you are buying. Never make an investment you don’t understand. Ask questions and make sure you get answers. Always discuss potential investments with your accountant for a second opinion and to discuss how the investment might fit into your long-range financial goals.

2. Ask for documentation. Fraudsters do not like to leave a paper trail. If there is no documentation or the documents are hard to understand, question the investment. Never accept a verbal contract and never sign anything you haven’t read or don’t understand. Have your accountant go over everything with you.

3. Check registrations. Make certain the security is qualified for sale and has been properly registered with a regulatory body. Also be sure you’re dealing with a registered broker.

4. Spread your risk. Diversify the investments in your portfolio. Putting all your money in one major investment is widely considered a road to disaster.

5. Take notes. Every time an investment salesperson approaches you, write down the name, the date and the time. Never assume that a salesperson is an “expert.”

6. Be wary of extravagant promises of high-return and low-risk; excessive use of technical or financial jargon, and offers of free seminars, workshops or other perks.

7. Don’t be taken in by high-pressure sales tactics; heavy emphasis on a company’s track record, or strong promotions of tax savings or tax shelters, particularly during the annual Registered Retirement Savings Plan season in January and February.

8. Avoid thinly traded or little-known securities that can be vulnerable to price manipulation.

9. Don’t believe claims from “insiders” with “special” information.

10. Contact your province’s securities regulator if you have doubts about an investment or the seller of an investment.

Bottom Line: Common sense, information, awareness, skepticism and advice from your accountant all play a role in protecting yourself from investment scams.