December 20, 2007

Three Communication Tips: Jokes, Length, Offense

In the days of my youth,
I was told what it means to be a man.
Now I've reached that age,
I've tried to do all those things the best I can.
--- Led Zeppelin, Good Times Bad Times
Now that I'm a man, I'm being told how to present better. Before a session this week, I got three tips:
  1. Skip the jokes: if you think it's funny, it isn't
  2. Keep it short: the brain can't absorb more than the seat can bear
  3. Avoid offending anyone: (examples given which I won't repeat)
The first two were easy. I only know banker's jokes (you know, the ones where only the tellers laugh?). As usual, I ended on time even though we started late. What about the third one?

Speak No Evil
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won’t be lost or misconstrued.
--- Paul Simon, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
Naturally, I mind my language but the mildest statements can be taken the wrong way. At 13 letters, "Merry Christmas" ties with "life insurance" as the longest four-letter word. How can that be?
Quick to judge. Quick to anger. Slow to understand.
Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand.
--- Rush, Witch Hunt
We don't know what's going on in the lives of others. You may innocently say "have a nice day" to someone who's going to work or "good evening" to someone who's going home to wrap presents or "enjoy the holidays" to someone with kids. It's so easy to cause offense ;)

Bland On The Run
When it comes to clients, if we're too careful we risk sounding bland and boring. Forgettable. Since communication is primarily nonverbal, how much do the words matter anyway? We can usually understand what was meant. Let's hope that others follow a universal principal of reciprocity.
My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?
--- Bob Hope
This is my last post in 2007.

All the best to you and yours during the holidays.
May your 2008 be really great!

December 12, 2007

HOW WOULD YOU SELL SOAP (2007 edition)?

I've heard it all before.
You're saying nothing new.
--- Supertramp, Child of Vision
What if what you offer looks like a commodity to your clients? This is a problem for wholesalers and advisors without a range of products. Distributors also suffer as firms and advisors can look like commodities too. If the client doesn't buy from you, they look elsewhere. No sale for you.

You cannot make me listen.
I cannot make you hear.
--- Supertramp, Child of Vision
How can you get clients to see --- and value --- the differences in what you offer?

What If You Sold Soap?

Wouldn't that be tougher than selling insurance and investments? Here's an interesting video with marketing ideas.



The Lesson
You need to convince a maven, centre of influence or decision-maker. Their endorsement is much more convincing than anything from you. You already know that. The video is a nice reminder.

Links

December 4, 2007

Gift Ideas For Your Business

The greatest gift that you can give yourself is a little bit of your own attention.
--- Anthony J D'Angelo


'Tis the season to give and get gifts. Is your business on your list?
Here are ideas to improve your business. The focus is on increasing your revenue in 2008 by saving you time and increasing your effectiveness.

Presentation Helpers
Here are some items to improve your presentations:
Productivity Helpers
The following items will help you work smarter instead of longer
  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking (voice recognition works remarkably well; used to compose this post)
  • wireless Bluetooth headset certified for voice recognition (also usable with your cell phone and Skype)
Travel Helpers
you can reduce stress and improve your journey with
  • GPS navigation (less stress, more safety)
  • Audiobooks (fiction or nonfiction)
  • Skype Unlimited Calling (call any phone in Canada or the US for 12 months for $29.95 US)
Don't despair if you don't receive business boosting gifts from Santa or his helpers. According to a Japanese proverb: It's cheaper to buy than to receive a gift.

November 28, 2007

The Two Tools PowerPoint Presenters Need


Teens make great slaves. At a recent open house, the high school guidance counselor leaned on a podium on stage throughout the requisite PowerPoint presentation while a student kneeled on the floor near a notebook computer and advanced the slides. Really! Only the student's hand was visible, which made me think of a horror film with a decapitated hand.

I felt like shouting two suggestions:
  1. raise the microphone to your height
  2. give that boy an A+ in Spacebar Pressing 101
but decided to write instead.

Where To Find A Teen
If slavery is banned in your part of the world, you can't use a teen. Why not use what they love? Technology. If you're using a PowerPoint presentation, you need two tools
  1. a wireless presenter mouse / remote control
  2. a wireless laser pointer
You can combine both features in one device for extra convenience.

Look, Ma! Ho Hands!

The presenter mouse lets you advance from slide to slide without touching your computer. Better models have extra buttons that let you move backwards and even to blank the screen.

A typical presenter mouse uses infrared (IR) signals, like your TV remote. That means two disadvantages: line of sight and short range. You have to point the remote at the receiver and make sure there are no obstacles like a podium the way to block the signal. You also need to be fairly close to the receiver. The result is restricted mobility.

Get a radio frequency (RF) mouse instead. The range is much larger --- 100 feet or more. Radio signals bounce around: obstacles are no longer obstacles. You can move around.

Laser Pointer
A laser pointer focus the audience's attention where you want on the screen. You can even use one if you're in the audience and in a playful mood.
Tips: Be sure you have steady hands. Be sure you have good aim. Be sure you don't accidentally point at the audience.
Spare Batteries
I bought some batteries, but they weren't included - so I had to buy them again. --- Stephen Wright
If your devices lacks an off switch, remember to remove the batteries when not in use. Otherwise, you may find that a button remains on when you cram your equipment in your travel case.
Tips: Be sure to reinstall the batteries. Be sure to use a well-lit spot to reduce the chances of inserting the batteries backwards.

November 18, 2007

Expectations Change Experiences: What Do You Call Yourself?

You meet a prospective manager for your money. You decide she seems smart. And so she is. --- Harry Beckwith, What Clients Love
Harry Beckwith writes about the placebo effect in What Clients Love, the followup to Selling The Invisible, his brilliant book about services.
We have the experiences we expect to have based on the perceptions we have before those experiences. Our perceptions create our expectations and those expectations so influence our experience that we can say this: Our expectations change our experiences. --- Harry Beckwith
Snap judgments stick, as confirmed in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. So we want to do what we can to create the right first impressions and overcome stereotypes. That involves how we look, dress, talk and move. No surprises there. What about how we label ourselves?

Pity Financial Planners
Beckwith observes that "financial" matters are private and sensitive. Similarly, "planning" sounds tedious and difficult, resulting in mandated steps that reduce freedom. Now combine "financial" and "planning". Who wants to see a financial planner? Let's be honest.

(click to enlarge
Common Titles
Scanning through my database of contacts, here's a sampling of what advisors call themselves, alphabetically
  • agent
  • associate broker
  • consultant, insurance services
  • (corporate title, e.g., vice president)
  • estate and insurance planning specialist
  • estate planning advisor
  • estate planning specialist
  • financial advisor
  • financial broker
  • financial consultant
  • financial planner
  • financial planning advisor
  • insurance broker
  • insurance specialists
  • investment advisor
  • investment funds advisor
  • life insurance agent
  • life underwriter
  • (none)
  • regional insurance specialist
  • sales representative
How our clients perceive us is influenced by our title, along with our pen, briefcase, watch and hair.
"All those are on one side. Maybe some of them are unimportant. I won't argue about that. But look at the number of them." --- Humphrey Bogart, The Maltese Falcon
Links

November 6, 2007

How Can You Make Your Message Stick?

If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered. --- Edgar Allan Poe
Sitting through a day of presentations is mind numbing. It doesn't matter if you're in the audience presenting. An hour-long presentation can be just as bad. What to do? Let's assume the presenter is prepared and has good material. That's not enough. What do you remember the next day or the next month? Not much.

You can't overinvest in becoming your best. Most days, I listen to audiobooks while driving --- especially those related to self-development and thinking. I've noticed that the most engaging books use a conversational style, simple words, memorable stories, insights, summaries and repetition. And questions.

Questions Are The Answer
Sometimes questions are more important than answers. --- Nancy Willard
Presenters will sometimes ask the audience questions. Rarely will many hands go up even to simple queries. Do you have a dog? How many of you don't have a dog? Add up the number of hands and you'll get less than the number of attendees. Audiences don't like raising their hands. It's as if they resent the attempt to force their participation. So why ask questions?

Because we silently answer the questions in our heads. Are you a good driver? Why do you live where you do? What do you think of this topic? Have you seen a pink elephant? Even if we don't want to answer, we can't stop.

The questions can be rhetorical. Open-ended or closed. Asked of one person or a large group. It doesn't matter. When asked a question, we automatically reply. This interaction keeps us involved even without us realizing that we're being manipulated.

Have you noticed that I've been sprinkling questions in my writing? I've been focusing on this consciously. Similarly in meetings and presentations. People get more involved and feel better. What do you think?
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. --- Maya Angelou
Links

November 1, 2007

REFUTING MISTRUTHS ABOUT UNIVERSAL LIFE INSURANCE

I have often regretted my speech, but never my silence. --- Publius Syrius

A lie told often enough becomes the truth. --- Lenin
Forget Universal Life and other forms of permanent insurance. Instead, buy term and invest the difference. That's the consensus among the public. We as individuals and an industry say little and what we say is seen as biased. So misconceptions persist and grow. And find a permanent home on the Internet.

There isn't much positive information about permanent life insurance or the folks who sell it. Consumers lump all insurance together: home, auto, life, medical, dental, disability, extended warranties, etc. A bad experience with one type, company or advisor, taints the rest.

Even so, should we remain silent and only enlighten new prospects? After all, "insurance is sold, not bought" and there are so few of us. If only there were more credible supporters (read Does Warren Buffett "Buy Term and Invest The Difference"? on Riscario Insider).

Examples
We arrive at the truth, not by the reason only, but also by the heart. --- Blaise Pascal
"A quite mathematically detailed and negative critique" in Universal Life: The Answer or the Problem? shows how strong views can be. I'm more worried about attacks in places with larger readership such as Million Dollar Journey where a CFP, CMA slams UL and gets an astounding 46 comments (11 on part 1 and 35 on part 2).

Ellen Roseman of The Toronto Star has many readers. Here's what one writes about UL on her blog: "I find a major problem in this industry is salespeople who either unknowingly or willingly recommend bad or incorrect products to their clients." That's from an insurance advisor commenting on "Insuring your life and your health".

Blowing In The Wind
You can blow out a candle but you can't blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will take it higher. --- Peter Gabriel, Biko
There are many debates which no one can win. Passive vs active investing, for example. At least there's a debate. People know there are two sides, each with merits.

Do you know of nonpartisan information --- ideally online --- to help the public understand the value of universal life, other products and the advisors who sell them? Please share by leaving a comment below (even anonymously) or sending me an email. Thanks.

October 17, 2007

We See As We Are

We do not see things as they are, but as we are ourselves.
-- Henry M Tomlinson (1873-1958)

We don't see things as they are. We see them as we are.
-- Anais Nin (1903-1977)

We see things as we are, not as they are.
-- Leo Rosten (1908-1997)

We see things not as they are, but as we are.
-- Stephen Covey
In recent weeks, I was pondering Stephen Covey's words only to find today that he may not be the originator. That isn't my point, but maybe it is. I want to believe he's the source because that's what I thought for years. I actually prefer Leo Rosten's version. Or my reworking ;)

Here's a longer quote from Covey: "Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or as we are conditioned to see it."

Do you believe that? I do more deeply than ever. Here's why. I spend most of my time helping advisors and clients. I focus on communicating simply and honestly. Even when ideas are compelling, biases get in the way.

You can show clients how tax advantages make life insurance an excellent way --- even the best way --- to invest or pay estate taxes. You'll still get objections like
  • "I don't believe in insurance", as if we're talking about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny
  • "I buy term and invest the difference", forgetting that most term life insurance expires before death is likely and that investing outside exposes growth to tax
  • "I had a bad experience with an advisor years ago and won't trust another one."
Statements like these give deep insights about the speaker. The objections can sometimes be overcome over time. Sometimes the beliefs stick and the clients lose.

Or do they? Our biases get in the way too. We may not even notice.
  • does the client have the right amount of insurance?
  • does the client have the right type of insurance?
  • is the client open to a leveraging strategy?
We can inadvertently make the wrong recommendations or even suppress strategies because we know how the client thinks.

Indeed, we don't want to overwhelm clients with too many choices ("buyer beware"). But we can also filter so aggressively that few ideas get through to us and then to our clients ("buyer unaware"). Just because we see as we are.

October 9, 2007

Bonding With Nongolfers

They call it golf because all of the other four-letter words were taken --- Raymond Floyd

If you want to take long walks, take long walks. If you want to hit things with a stick, hit things with a stick. But there's no excuse for combining the two and putting the results on TV. Golf is not so much a sport as an insult to lawns. --- National Lampoon

Could you last a year without golf? I last played last October on a damp, cold, drizzly afternoon in Deerhurst. Two of the four golfers didn't show. As a host, I didn't have that option.

This year, I managed to miss every golf event. How can that be? Isn't golfing is critical for building relationships? Maybe, but what about nongolfers? You can bond with them while lounging in climate-controlled, UV-protected comfort. How civilized.

What's more, golfers are happy if you don't play if you're lousy. So being a nongolfer can help you bond with golfers too. Your branding doesn't suffer and you avoid three problems with golf:
  1. the clothing
  2. the counting
  3. the skill
The Clothing
Who would pay money to dress like a golfer? What if someone brought a camera?
Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps. --- Tiger Woods
Counting
We work with numbers every day. Why have a hobby that requires counting? Or miscounting?
Golf appeals to the idiot in us and the child. Just how childlike golf players become is proven by their frequent inability to count past five. --- John Updike
Golf is a game in which you yell Fore, shoot six, and write down five. -- Paul Harvey
Isn't it fun to go out on the course and lie in the sun? --- Bob Hope

The other day I broke 70. That's a lot of clubs. --- Henny Youngman

If you break 100, watch your golf. If you break 80, watch your business. --- Joey Adams
Skill
Yes, golf does require skill, which requires practice, which requires more golf. What a vicious cycle. I wonder how many invites I'll get next year.
The reason the pro tells you to keep your head down is so you can't see him laughing. --- Phyllis Diller

You can make a lot of money in this game. Just ask my ex-wives. Both of them are so rich that neither of their husbands work. --- Lee Publish PostTrevino

Golf was once a rich man's sport, but now it has millions of poor players. --- Unknown

October 2, 2007

THE FOUR HABITS OF HIGHLY REFERABLE PEOPLE

In sales, a referral is the key to the door of
resistance --- Bo Bennett
To get referrals, you need to be referrable. That means showing respect and appreciation. In turn, that requires that you:
  1. Show up on time
  2. Do what you say
  3. Finish what you start
  4. Say "please" and "thank you"
This list comes from How The Best Get Better by Dan Sullivan. It's memorable but seems too simplistic until you think --- or read this post.
Show Up On Time
This can be a challenge in a a gridlocked city like Toronto. You can easily arrive way too early or way too late. Naturally, earlier is better. Thanks to mobile phones or Blackberrys, you can use the extra time productively. Or you can just use the time to relax or think.

Eighty percent of success is showing up --- Woody Allen

Scheduling appointments during off-peak hours makes arrival times more predictable. Meetings close to home are good for mornings and close to work is good for afternoons. GPS makes a great navigator --- especially if you're detoured or make a wrong turn.
Do What You Say

It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises but only performance is reality --- Harold S. Geneen

We sell the intangible: our services. Keeping our promises --- however small --- builds trust. Without consistency, the trust vanishes. My dental office always phones to remind me of my appointment. Today they did not. What will happen next time?
Finish What You Start
Don't get me started ;)

We shall neither fail nor falter; we shall not weaken or
tire ... give us the tools and we will finish the job — Winston
Churchill

Say "Please" and "Thank You"

I wish to thank my parents for making it all possible ... and I wish to thank my children for making it necessary — Victor Borge

Courtesy stays in style. Advisors are generally good with this ... until the sale is made. As research from LIMRA and others shows, clients aren't thanked enough through ongoing post-sale monitoring.
The Problem With Smart, Talented and Charming
We all know people who are great in some areas but we wouldn't give them referrals. Sullivan notes that
  • smart people are arrogant
  • talented people are erratic
  • charming people are undependable
So the rest of us have a chance :)
Links

September 25, 2007

Business Card Etiquette

In recent weeks, I've met advisors in different provinces and noticed poor business card etiquette. Are you guilty? If not, you've got a competitive advantage over the rest.

Carry Your Business Cards
Opportunity lurks everywhere. So carry your business cards with you. They're not much good if they're back in your car or somewhere else. To keep them clean and flat, put them in a holder. A metal holder looks nice but the sharp corners aren't always pocket friendly. Thanks to the principle of reciprocity, you'll get cards when you give out yours. Most of the time. Chances are that you'll give out more cards than you receive. That means that your cards will start rattling in your pocket. This can be as annoying as coins jingling. A leather case may be a solution.
Tip: If you don't care about logos, you can probably get a free card holder from a wholesaler.
Hand Them Out
Business cards cost money, but they are a cheap way to market and show your professionalism. If you have a weird name or weird spelling, your card helps folks with the spelling. Some people want to see your designations.

Order Refills In Advance
Are you the sort who doesn't fill the gas tank until it's nearly empty or buy new bus tickets until you're on your last one? If so, you'll have trouble ordering refills in advance. So you'll run out or spend extra for express service.

Business cards take time to order (or cost more for rush delivery). The simple solution is to order refills before you run out. Otherwise, you become less willing to give out cards as your supply diminishes (the principle of scarcity).
You most need cards when you're starting a new job and meeting people. You'll probably need to wait weeks. For some reason, cards are rarely ordered in advance.
Give Out Extras
You're easier to refer if you hand out extra cards. I'll sometimes give out two or three. When you're at a reception desk, hand over a card to help the receptionist grasp your name. Chances are that you'll get your card back and can recycle by giving it to the person you're meeting.

Discard Cards With Errors
A business card with errors belongs in the recycling bin. Handwritten corrections show
  • you didn't proofread before printing
  • you selected a sloppy printer
  • you didn't plan for new cards early enough (e.g., if moving)
Did you just get promoted? Then it's okay if your cards haven't arrived.

When interviewing movers, one simply put a preprinted sticker on someone else's business card. Next, please.

The Ideal Business Card
The perfect business card has
  • sharp corners (not bent or folded)
  • distinctive look
  • professional email address (no gmail.com, hotmail.com, yahoo.com, rogers.com, ...)
  • cell phone number (unless you're never going to give it out)
  • photo (helps match a name with a face)

September 18, 2007

Dan Sullivan on Selling Your Wisdom

I think that the most successful financial advisors will be paid for their wisdom, in addition to any compensation they receive for product sales or assets under management. --- Dan Sullivan, Strategic Coach
The words above come from a new interview with Dan Sullivan who points out that most advisors don't think of being paid for their wisdom. This got me thinking (even though I'm currently on a golf/wine/gambling excursion in Niagara Falls). He's right.

Most advisors stay away from fee-based services. They give away their wisdom in anticipation of a sale. This is what Seth Godin might call the "free prize inside". Do your clients recognize and value what you give them for free?

Two Ways To Charge
Some advisors do charge for their services. There are two models:
  • car repair model: charge for each service (e.g., a financial plan costs $x)
  • furnace maintenance plan: charge an ongoing fee (e.g., based on assets or income)
There are variations. For example, a refund of charges for a financial plan if the plan is implemented.

Among the advisors I see, ongoing fees encourage clients to ask questions without pressure. Rather, the client receives education and an opportunity to buy. Trust seems higher and relationships longer term. So implementing product solutions becomes easier.

Your Value Proposition
Why should your clients pay you for services they can get for free from other advisors?
If you consider lawyers, accountants, clergies, psychiatrists, doctors or any of the helpers in our society, the financial advisor is the only one who combines two fundamental dimensions, the financial and the emotional. --- Dan Sullivan
Most professionals charge for their services and enjoy high credibility. Think of accountants, architects, doctors, engineers and lawyers. Most financial advisors won't and don't.

Links
To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. --- Marilyn vos Savant

September 10, 2007

How Does Anyone Know You're Any Good?

Question: Is this watch made in Switzerland?
Sales Clerk: It's made for Switzerland.
You're selling the invisible: financial services. How does a potential client know you're any good? Let's assume there's been no referral.

In Edmonton, my watch battery was running low. I got my watch in Switzerland years ago and the batteries only last 3-4 years. Last time, I went to a small "mom & pop" watch shop. The technician scratched the back titanium casing. So I didn't want to go just anywhere.

I went to West Edmonton Mall, which was nearby and looked for a countrywide chain in case the battery proved defective. Sears doesn't replace watch batteries. The Bay did, but my watch would need to be shipped to Vancouver so that special nonscratching tools could be used. Birks was next. They did not want to risk damage either and recommended a small watch shop nearby. There the technician changed the battery in 3 minutes without comment or damage. They were the best:
  • experienced
  • least damage (i.e., none)
  • fastest service
  • lowest price ($8.44 vs $11 in Toronto at the scratches-are-free jewelers)
If I didn't know that replacing the watch battery required skill and special tools, the Edmonton watch shop would have rated poorly because of three shortcomings:
  • date/time not reset
  • back casing not aligned "just right" before being locked into place
  • no warranty on the battery life (maybe the lower price arose from a poorer battery?)
The Connection With Financial Services
Since financial services are intangible, how can your clients gauge
  • your expertise
  • the quality of your service
  • the suitability of your recommendations
You could deliver the ideal solution without your clients discovering how good you are.

August 23, 2007

The Advocis Banff School Experience

The less you know, the more you study.
The more you study, the more you know.
The more you know, the more you forget.
So why study?
--- unknown
The Advocis Banff School is over for the 53rd year and enough time has passed for the sensory overload to pass away. The school is well run, well attended and well worth attending.

Well Run
Orchestrating a multiday event takes planning, attention to detail and volunteers. The results showed. The experience was positive. The wonderful location was a definite plus. There were some delays because of staff shortages at The Banff Centre for hotel registration, breakfast and lunch. Since I arrived two days early, I knew shortcuts and wasn't affected.

Well Attended
The school was filled to capacity. The main hall barely had empty seats even though sessions started at 7:30am on most days. Most other conferences don't start before 8:30am or have as many early birds.

Well Worth Attending
If you haven't attended, you're missing something special. A keynote presenter, Anthony Morris, was so moved by the experience that he registered for membership in Advocis and next year's conference on the spot. That's different.

There was plenty of useful content for increasing your revenue. I'll share more in the future.

August 19, 2007

The Inspiration of Choice (Banff School)

Two Canadians spot a battered body in a ditch. "My goodness," says one. "We must help the person who did this."
I'm posting live from the 53rd Advocis Banff School, which started earlier this evening with a speaker describing how she persevered through tremendous hardship. She started life as a heroin-addicted baby in a prison hospital in the 1940s. At age 5, her parents used her to smuggle drugs into Canada from Detroit. At 7, her mother deserted her even though her mother knew that the stepfather abused her.

There were many other shocking events that can't be communicated properly here. Luckily, life improved at age 12, thanks to new step-parents.

The point of the story was not the disturbing events that happened. The message was about choice --- improving one's life rather than blaming others for what happened.
Affirmations
In The Phoenix Seminar, Brian Tracy describes a technique to undo the effect of negative thoughts and events, regardless of cause: affirmations. An affirmation repeated with emotion goes to our subconscious which is nonjudgmental and believes what we tell it. A simple, multi-purpose affirmation is "I like myself".
Shortly before dying, her mother asked to meet her. Later her step-father did too. She had the strength to forgive them both for what they did. Forgiveness freed her.

The presentation gave details of a life that no child deserves. Horrible to imagine. Difficult to forget.

August 7, 2007

Emails Going Astray

If you negotiate the minefield in the drive
and beat the dogs
and cheat the cold electronic eyes
and if you make it past the shotgun in the hall.
Dial the combination.
Open the priest hole,
and if I'm in I'll tell you.
--- Pink Floyd, The Final Cut

I'm not that hard to reach. At least not on purpose.

Why You May Disagree
You won't visit this blog daily. You're busy and there's usually one article a week. The day of posting varies with my schedule (my target is Tuesday morning). So the best way to get to keep up to date is by subscribing for updates by email. When there's something new, you'll then get an email from a formerly-Australian company. The notifications use a real email address for an account. Some of you have been sending replies but I haven't been reading them because I don't monitor that account.

Advisors would say that I wasn't replying to their emails. I'd check my Blackberry and Microsoft Outlook and see no message. Must be transmission problem at their end, I figured. Wrong.

Here's an example of a series of messages I ignored
(1st email not received ... really)
(2nd email) still waiting: Hey Promod still awaiting your phone call. I have business to do and would appreciate your assistance please.
3rd time asking: call me please.
This case had a premium over $2.7 million spread over 3 years. The good news is that the advisor phoned and we spoke --- after several rounds of phone tag.

Lessons Learned
Ease of use increases usage. It's much easier to reply to an email than to look up an email address. How can you make it easier for your clients to reach you?

I'd tell you to send work-related email to my work email account but human behavior is difficult to change. So I have started monitoring the account in question.

So thanks for the emails. (Also, feel free to share your comments on this or any other post. You can do this anonymously.)

August 1, 2007

Selling And The Simpsons

"I can't believe we're paying to watch something we could see on TV for free! If you ask me, everyone in this theater is a big sucker!"
--- Homer Simpson


The quote above is near the beginning of The Simpsons Movie, which grossed an unexpected $74 million in its first weekend. That's impressive until you consider the production cost was $1 million more at $75 million.

Here's the puzzle. Why would so many people pay to see characters they can see for free? Why do we pay for bottled water when tap water or even filtered water is much cheaper? Since a $20 watch can tell the time accurately, why will people pay $100, $1,000 or even more?

People aren't rational. Here's the real question. Why are we so concerned about price when deciding which insurance product to offer our clients? Our clients aren't that concerned with other purchases. They even buy mutual funds with unusually high MERs (see Mutual Funds are Sold Not Bought Globe & Mail).

So why are we so concerned about the price. The perception is that insurance products are commodities --- like table salt. Even table salts differ. Ours is flavoured, certified and from France. That was worth the premium price.

So why can’t there be a premium in the insurance premiums?

Mini Movie Review
Watching The Simpsons animated in 3D on a huge IMAX screen a few years ago was a treat. In contrast, The Simpsons Movie is entertaining but not amazing. If you watched it on your tv, you'd be hard-pressed to tell it apart from the tv show (except for the length).

July 24, 2007

Chemistry and Credentials

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
--- Pablo Picasso

Most of the advisors I meet are "old" (46+ this year, 47+ next year,...). It's a pleasure to meet younger advisors in their 20s and 30s. Such contagious energy and enthusiasm. Such promise.

How can younger advisors succeed in today's competitive world? Chemistry is certainly an important part of selling. So are credentials.

Which Ones?
Credentials are really brands. Here's what I've encountered among advisors: ASC, BA, BSc, CA, CFP, CGA, CMA, CH.FC, CIM, CLU, CMA, EPC, FCIA, FCSI , FLMI, FSA, LL.B., MA, MBA, MSc, PFP, RHU, TEP. That's quite a list. Some of designations are explained on the Advocis website and the Riscario wiki.

What are the most common designations? For advisors in the lower end market (annual premium under $10,000), the answer is "none" (no designation at all). In the affluent market, I see CFPs and CLUs. Is there a lesson here?

More important than the designation is what you become while earning it.

Best Path
Here's the best path for newer advisors, a CFP followed by a CLU.

The CFP (Certified Financial Planner) establishes credibility and looks like the entry level designation for serious new advisors. At Fanshawe College in my hometown of London, Ontario offers a program to prepare students for their CFP examination. Other colleges may too.

The CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter) builds and demonstrates your expertise.

For additional specialization and differentiation, there may be value in
  • RHU (Registered Health Underwriter): since Canadians are worried about critical illness, disability income and long term care
  • EPC (Elder Planning Counsellor): since Canadians are aging and those age 55+ have unique needs
At some point, stop. Business card have only so much space.
How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive? --- Homer Simpson
Why Now?
The best time to earn credentials is shortly after graduating from college or university, while you're working. You'll still have the discipline to study. Your employer may pay for your courses and pay you more upon completion.

There's an added bonus. When you're studying, you don't have time to spend. So you can build up a financial nest egg at the same time.

July 17, 2007

How Accountants Feel About Insured Tax Strategies

Americans like to make money; Canadians like to audit it. I know no other country where accountants have a higher social and moral status. --- Northrop Frye
In financial services, accountants are the most trusted financial advisors. In today's specialized world, few accountants understand the many creative ways that life insurance can be used to reduce the financial risks --- including overpaying taxes. So our proposals don't get endorsed. Our clients (and theirs) lose.

Here are thoughts from recent discussions with accountants.

What Accountants Say
At 13 letters, 'life insurance' is the longest 4-letter word. There are many negative connotations. Since advisors are paid on commission, there's automatic skepticism about the solutions. Whose best interest is being served?

Accountants see themselves as professionals. They worked hard to get their accreditation. They want to deal with other professionals. Advisors who lack credible designations (e.g., CFP or CLU) face tougher challenges.
His card says 'executive' but it mumbles 'just a salesman'.
--- Jane Siberry, Extra Executives
When the words 'tax' and 'insurance' are used in the same sentence, the client's turn to their accountants for advice.
My money goes to my agent, then to my accountant and from him to the tax man. --- Glenda Jackson (actress)
Clients want aggressive recommendations. Accountants acknowledge this. But they're busy and learning about insured tax strategies takes time.

As we know from Investing 101, with risk comes reward. When asked to endorse insurance strategies, accountants face risk but where is their reward? So what is their incentive for taking the risk?

The Result
For insurance tax strategies --- directly or indirectly --- accountants often find it's safer and easier to say "no". Which is what their clients probably expected.

July 9, 2007

FIVE PRESENTATION TIPS FROM STEVE JOBS


“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?” --- Steve Jobs
What can we learn about giving great client presentations from Steve Jobs of Apple? BusinessWeek shares five lessons.
  1. Build Tension
  2. Stick To One Theme Per Slide
  3. Add Pizzazz To Your Delivery
  4. Practice
  5. Be Honest and Show Enthusiasm
Yes, consumer products like the iPhone and iPod are different from insurance policies. And we're not Jobs. Let's look at a couple of the lessons in more detail.

One Theme Per Slide
Would you argue this suggestion? Yet this is rarely done. Many times
  • the fonts are too small to read from the back of the room
  • the fonts, colours and graphics don't project well under some lighting conditions
  • there's too much information crammed onto the slide
  • the content is bullet point after bullet point with no visual stimulation
  • there are columns of figures that are too small and it isn't clear what to focus on
Often, the slides have two conflicting goals. They are the speaker notes and the audience's handouts. As your notes, they can have more information than the audience needs to see and not enough for them to use for future reference.

There's a solution for presentations you're likely to repeat
  • use the overlooked PowerPoint presenter view so you see speaker notes and other controls on your screen and the audience sees only the presentation slides
  • design handouts which are different from the slides (useful for other situations too; shows attention to detail which helps set you apart)
Delivery
Many a presentation lacks passion. Maybe we think this makes us more professional than "salesy"? The delivery is usually competent but not very compelling. If selling is a transfer of enthusiasm, aren't we hurting ourselves by using less energy?

Links

July 4, 2007

My Second Anniversary In The Field

Now the years are rolling by me,
they are rockin' even me.
I am older than I once was,
and younger than I'll be.
That's not unusual. No, it isn't strange.
After changes upon changes,
we are more or less the same.
--- Simon and Garfunkel, The Boxer
It's my second anniversary of working in the field. That's after spending 21 years in "ivory towers" of various insurance and consulting companies.

Actuary, Individual Insurance
National Life of Canada officially disappeared into Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services on June 30, 2005. I'd been at NL for 14 years. Goodbye to a corner office with a magnificent view north to Queen's Park. Goodbye to my 10 staff, the entire Marketing Actuarial department. Goodbye to product design, pricing, reinsurance, illustration systems, SaveTax websites, disaster recovery plans, Standards of Sound Business Practice, budgeting, performance appraisals. Goodbye.

Watching a company crumble is traumatic, especially as friends and colleagues were terminated. My cabinets were filled with files on the dozens of life and health products I'd created, marketed and supported since joining National Life in 1991. I threw nearly everything away. Those accomplishments meant nothing now. Processes died after years of kaizen (continuous improvement).

I used to be a key decision maker. I had tremendous authority. I had considerable leeway to experiment. I had many ideas. I had trust. I had influence.
If I am what I have and what I have is lost, who am I?
For 10 years, I'd reported directly to the Senior Vice President & Chief Actuary who reported to the President. Naturally, my aspirations were to continue climbing further up but the company disappeared. My ladder lead nowhere.

Change
I like change for the sake of change. I've been an agent of change. Even so, times were traumatic. Luckily time heals and memories fade.
He carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame, "I am leaving, I am leaving" but the fighter still remains. --- The Boxer
You may not be at the right place. You may not be at the right time. However, you can be the right person.

As my old world collapsed, a new opportunity emerged: a need for advanced marketing support in the field. I had no sales experience, but I had many portable skills, learned quickly and had deep knowledge of the high-end market from a head office perspective. Being an actuary was a definite advantage, a source of instant credibility.

Director of Advanced Marketing
On July 1, 2005, I became Director of Advanced Marketing, supporting National Accounts, Special Markets and later MGAs too. I'm glad. My life is much richer.

June 25, 2007

Revved Up For Ailing Pensions

The events we most desire do not happen; or, if they do, it is neither in the time nor in the circumstances when they would have given us extreme pleasure. --- Jean de la Bruyere
I attended the public unveiling of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries' Prescription for Canada's Ailing Pension System (CIAPFCAPS for short?), anticipating content for a terrific post. I wanted to get material you could share your clients.

Unfortunately, the recommendations are limited to defined benefit plans, which only cover 21% of Canada's private sector workers. Your small business owner clients won't be interested in retirement plans that cover primarily the public sector ... with our tax dollars.

I put a post on my consumer blog: Prescription for Canada's Ailing Pension System.

So I did try to get you some good stuff but as Jedi master Yoda says:
Try not.
Do, or do not.
There is no try
.

June 19, 2007

Universal Principle of Influence #2: Scarcity

The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.
--- Thomas Sowell
Professor Robert Cialdini identified six universal principles of influence: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Consensus and Liking. This time, we're looking at #2: Scarcity.

Scarcity

We want what more of what is less available. That's why we're motivated by offers which are today-only or limited quantities.
The Nintendo Wii game console is an example. As an experiment, I signed up at Console Watch which checks online retailers every 30 seconds and sends an email whenever the Wii (or Xbox 360 or PS3) are in stock. Usually, they'd be gone before I could click to the site. Except once. So I ended up buying the Wii in January for no particular reason. Fortunately, my 12 year old son was kind enough to make use of it.
You Yourself
You have a one-of-a-kind offering ... yourself.

Within reason, you can increase your value by being less available. For example, unless you're working for 911, answering the phone the moment it rings can have two drawbacks
  • putting urgent (the disruption) ahead of important (what you were working on)
  • reducing your perceived value
Loss Language
Loss is the ultimate form of scarcity. Use loss language: show your clients what they stand to lose, not their gain. For example, "you save $10/day with insulation" is less compelling than "you lose $10/day without insulation".

Loss language is especially effective when clients are uncertain. They become more risk averse because they don't want to lose. With insurance, are we better off focusing on tax savings or the losses from doing nothing?

Information
Our clients have a scarcity of attention. So how can our messages stand out?

Information is like bread --- best fresh and hot. You can give your clients new information: "I just learned..." or "You're one of the first people I'm telling ...".

This is especially effective with information that's exclusive or hard to get: "I just got this information today. It won't be released until next week but I wanted you to get an advance copy."

I'd write more, but I'm running out of time ;)

June 11, 2007

Universal Principle of Influence #1: Reciprocity

In order to influence a child, one must be careful not to be that child's parent or grandparent.
--- Don Marquis
I saw professor Robert Cialdini twice last year and learned his six universal principles of influence. I liked the way he described them and have been using them ever since. You may find them useful if they also make sense to you. Here they are
  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Consistency
  5. Consensus
  6. Liking
This time, we'll focus on #1.

Reciprocity
We want to follow the rule of "give and take". We must not take without giving in return the kind of benefit we received. What you give is what you get. This principle applies in all cultures and for all people except moochers, ingrates or teenagers :)

You have a moment of power just after a client says "Thank you". That's when you can say something like
  • "My pleasure. Who do you know who would benefit from this level of service and commitment?"
  • "I was glad to do it. If the situations were ever reversed, I know you'd do the same for me."
  • "Of course. We're glad to do it. It's what long term partners do for one another."
I was struggling with what gifts I could give. I'm not a big fan of handing out branded trinkets like pens, mugs or golf balls. Affordable items seemed inconsequential and manipulative. Cialdini said that a pen with your company's logo won't trigger reciprocation. Your gift needs to be
  • significant
  • personalized
  • unexpected
In our business, the ideal gift is information, tailored to the recipient and given fast.

This was a "WOW" moment. I hadn't thought of giving an intangible gift. I've been consciously sharing information ever since. And occasionally insight and wisdom ;)

You're limited in how many people you can see in a week. So sharing information in person or by phone isn't practical. Email can be used but we get so many messages, including spam. Finding an old message is a hassle. How do you have a meaningful discussion by email. The ideal is an online forum where content easily accessible, searchable, hyperlinked, archived and interactive. That's what blogging offers.

Links

June 5, 2007

How To Make A Client Meal Memorable

I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything
Anything at all
--- Peter Gabriel, I Don't Remember
Dining with your clients costs money. How can you make the experience one they'll remember and tell others about?

This is a challenge because many places serve good food. But are they memorable? I'm about to change a lunch reservation and I can't remember the restaurant's name. And I've been there at least six times. Maybe that's just my memory. Maybe that's how your clients feel too.

Spending more money isn't the answer. Being creative is. Here are ideas:
  • an uncommon place
  • a restricted place
Uncommon Places
There are places most wouldn't think of going. A fitness club may have a nice restaurant with healthy food. Osgoode Hall is interesting if you you'd like to see lawyers and judges.
Between visits and without warning, Osgoode Hall added six police officers and an airport-style luggage scanner. The small pen knife I got in Switzerland was deemed dangerous. Since they wouldn't safeguard it, I was told to throw it away or take it away. I took it back to my office, which was only two blocks away and returned for lunch. That was my last visit. So I don't know how security is now.
One advisor suggested eating at a grocery store deli. No joke. The food was surprisingly good. Your clients may not be keen on such a location.

By Invitation Only
Some advisors belong to members-only clubs such as a social club, sailing club or golfing club. Your guests can't visit without you. One company had a kitchen and served gourmet meals in their boardroom. You could even have the event at your home. The location needs to be convenient if you're meeting over lunch.

What do you think? You can leave even comments anonymously.

May 28, 2007

The Seven Components of Dynamic Personal Influence

“It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people's lives.”
--- Clint Eastwood
Wouldn't you like to move people on the basis of your personality alone?

I've been thinking about persuasion techniques recently --- soft skills which weren't part of my actuarial exams. As luck would have it, I came across a good list. The Law of Attraction works ;)

Dynamic Personal Influence
Here are Dan Kennedy's components of influence.
  1. Celebrity
    • being perceived as having celebrity status
  2. Credibility
    • being respected and trusted
  3. Expertise
    • having legitimate, extensive, superior knowledge
  4. Mastery of Emotional Triggers
    • hitting more of your client's emotional triggers
  5. Good Sense of Humour
  6. Independence
    • not needing constant reassurance and recognition of your competence by others
  7. Bias for Action
    • getting off your duff, out the door and into gear
What do you think of the list? Naturally, we can all improve.
“The secret of my influence has always been that it remained secret.”
--- Salvador Dali
While I don't think Celebrity should matter, we know it does. How can we achieve celebrity status? Here are four ways
  • presenting (e.g., to prospects, not peers)
  • writing (e.g., magazines, newspapers, blogs)
  • public recognition (e.g., media attention, awards)
  • advertising
More?
For more Dan Kennedy, visit sparkinsight.com (my self-development site). For my contrarian take on The Secret by Rhona Byrne, read The Unsecret.

Feel free to leave comments (which you can even do anonymously).

May 22, 2007

Creating a Memorable Seminar

A limp polluted flag
Flutters sadly in its death throes

While crippled trees in leg irons

Wearily haul themselves

Through another diluted acid day.
--- The Strawbs,
Impressions Of Southall From The Train

Today, could have been another a routine seminar on "10-8" leveraging. There were a couple of twists: travelling with a colleague for the first time and meeting at a winery.

Here's what made the seminar great:
  • a small, interactive group of the right advisors
  • discussing several actual cases as a group
  • having enough time (nearly 3 hours) for good discussions, including "off-topic" items
  • delicious lunch and interesting conversation on a patio
Here's what made the day remarkable ("worth remarking about" in the sense of The Big Moo an excellent book by 33 authors):
  • the hosts had visited my personal website (both flattering and embarrassing) and brought pages of printed content to quote some memorable passages
  • After the seminar, I got an initiation gift (a loud shirt) with a card in a gift bag
  • After the wine tasting (which followed lunch), I got a parting gift, a mug
Frankly, I don't expect gifts and am rarely disappointed. I don't give out what most would consider gifts either. I prefer to give the precious, personal, intangible gifts of knowledge, attention and time. I received those too.

From good to great to remarkable. A day to remember.

Sadly, my family is squabbling over the shirt. So I may not get to wear it ;)

May 15, 2007

The Prime Minister And The Producers

Well, the annual CALU meeting is over for another year. Next year's theme is "Share The Wisdom" --- this blog's goal. I'm amazed at how sharing CALU members are. That's motivated me to reciprocate.

The Prime Minister Returns
Prime Ministers don’t address many organizations. Stephen Harper was back again for his second time as PM. Liberal leader Stephane Dion also spoke. That alone tells you the political influence that CALU wields. The Department of Finance sends a representative every two years. The reception for Members of Parliament and Senators was well attended.

Meet The Producers
The conference ends with Meet The Producers, in which three noteworthy advisors share their wisdom. I especially valued Barry Pascal of Bell Pascal Financial Services, who gave insights from his 24 years of experience. He initially had a product focus, concentrating on contract wording, spreadsheets and technical analysis. He realized that while looking down at the pages of details, he wasn’t looking at the right place: into his client’s eyes. He wasn’t understanding their goals, where they wanted to be.

The technical skills were not wasted. When clients receive an insurance proposal, they often turn to their accountant or lawyer for advice. Barry helped those professionals by decoding the proposals free of charge. Sometimes he’d get referrals. By reviewing files and asking questions, he saw needs and opportunities. By working with professionals, he could build consensus on solutions before the client saw them. This team-based approach has proven very effective.

The competition is not other advisors. It’s the markets, land zoning, family issues, lack of time. Whatever's on the client's mind. Clients build what they know how to build. Understanding their priorities helps in building a plan of action for them. Clients want future security for what is most precious to them. Insurance can be a big part of the solution. It’s magical when a client says, “I’ve never told this to anyone before …”

Why did Barry’s message resonate so deeply with me? I didn’t understand until writing this post. It’s because my path has been so similar. Actuaries start as skilled technicians. I naively thought that what I did in head office mattered most to clients:

  • designing innovative products
  • drafting clear policy contracts
  • making accountable illustration systems

Spending the last two years in the field has shown how wrong I was. What really matters is sitting with the client, listening with your heart and creating proposals with your head.

The old man had a vision but it was hard for me to follow.
I do things my way and I pay a high price.
When I think back on the old man and the bus ride
Now that I’m older I can see he was right.
— John Mellencamp, Minutes to Memories

May 7, 2007

The Cost of Low Reinsurance Rates

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I'm miserable now
--- The Smiths


Satisfaction with reinsurers has dropped from 67% in 1995 to 15% in 2005.

Why? Underwriter Ross Morton of RGA and actuary John McKay of PPI provided answers at CALU XVI earlier today.

More Reinsurance Fewer Reinsurers
The amount of risk reinsured has grown from 0.4% to 80%. The number of major reinsurers has dropped in Canada from 11 to 3.5 (RGA, Munich Re, Swiss Re, and the smaller Optimum Re). Guess what happened to YRT reinsurance rates? Let's look at males.
  • 1975: $4.00 (per $1,000)
  • 1981: $2.32
  • 2001: $0.72
  • 2007: $0.37
These rate drops were not as jarring when Ross presented them during his keynote at the Canadian Reinsurance Conference in April 2006. He spoke just after lunch but maybe wine was served first :)
Consequences
The reinsurers have been in a price war, spurred by . There are consequences from low prices:
  • less service
  • less flexibility (e.g., for foreign travel, avocations, market capacity)
  • more audit of insurer underwriting practices (as of 2002, an estimated $3 trillion of risk was in the wrong classes in North America)
  • less profitability for reinsurers
  • less training for underwriters
  • loss of expert underwriters
The last major sale of a reinsurer took place in 2004. ING Re, the fastest growing US reinsurer, was sold for ($800) million: Scottish Re was paid $800 million to take the business.

Maybe our clients are better served with (slightly) higher reinsurance rates and more service?

May 6, 2007

Advisor Succession Planning

The annual CALU meeting is underway in Ottawa. Today's topic was advisor succession planning. Business owners aren't the greatest at planning for who will take over their businesses or how the buyer will pay (e.g., if selling to employees). Well, advisors aren't either.

The presenter was Mark Tibergien of accounting firm Moss Adams.

The median age of an advisor is 50. Among CALU's 400 members, that's 53. Clients are typically about the same age or older. What about successors? The age gap between an advisor and a potential successor is often 20-30 years. The owner probably considers that person too young to take over. Besides, how could be as good as you?

That's the problem. If your business is dependent on an expert --- you --- then what is it worth to a buyer? A business that's built to last is a business that's built to sell. If there's uncertainty in the consistency and predictability of future cash flows, the value of the business drops. You need systems, the capacity to grow and a profitable client base.

Wonder To Plunder
A business goes through four phases
  1. Wonder (startup): enthusiasm and inexperience; no profits or cash to speak of (same for clients)
  2. Blunder (growth): long hours, high stress; profits but reinvested back in the business
  3. Thunder (maturity): success at last! nice clothes, nice home, nice car; well-regarded
  4. Plunder (renewal or decline): short hours, have wisdom but fear obsolescence, death, loss of esteem
Businesses are typically sold in the Thunder or Plunder phases.

If most of your business comes from referrals, watch out. Your marketing muscle is starting to atrophy. You need to continue developing the business.

Keeping Clients
Do you understand what your clients want and need? Annual client surveys can tell you (e.g., survey half your clients each year). They're best conducted by outside professionals. Unless your clients are very satisfied, you risk losing them. A typical survey shows that 29% of clients could be lost. What if they're the clients you most want to keep?

Naturally, there's much more to this topic. The key takeaway? Build your business to last and you've built your business to sell.

May 3, 2007

Mobile Broadband

Do you need Internet access in your hotel room while traveling on business in Canada?

Different hotels have different instructions for connecting. Sometimes you need to setup an account with a third party provider. The speed of the connections isn't consistent and sometimes the service doesn't work. Older hotels may not have proper wiring. If you call the help numbers, you're asked to unplug all the phones in your room, stand on your head, reboot and try again. If your hotel offers wireless access, does your room receive a strong signal?

In short, Internet access in your hotel may not be reliable enough for work --- even if you pay $10-$15 per night. Wouldn't you love to have portable Internet access?

Enter Mobile Broadband
There is a solution if you travel to major cities in Canada. Rogers calls it Portable Internet and Bell calls it Sympatico Unplugged. It's really the same, a form of Wi-Max. Fido was building the network when Rogers bought them. Rogers decided to share the service with Bell.

I've had the service from Rogers since mid-December. It works very well. It's simple to use. You buy a $100 modem, which is about the size of a paperback. You plug in the modem and then connect it to your computer via an Ethernet cable (supplied). Done. The connection is fast, perhaps in part because there are so few users. There are five lights on top of the modem to show signal strength. Being close to a window helps

The service costs $50 per month for downloads up to 1.5 Mbps, 25x the speed of dialup. National roaming is included as is 30 GB of data. Be sure to check if cities you visit are among the 50 with this service.

Other Uses
What if you don't travel much? If you live alone, you could use mobile broadband as your only Internet service. If you have a family and find Internet access slow in the evenings, you now have a backup. If you do presentations, you now have the option to use the Internet. You can even connect a wireless travel router to create your own hotspot to share access with others.

Not Perfect
Mobile broadband is more sensitive to signal strength than a cell phone. The modem is relatively large, though not ugly. Having mobile broadband built right into your notebook computer is more convenient but much more expensive. Dell charges $180 for the modem and Telus charges $67/month for only 30 MB of data, then $6 per MB. The most expensive plan cost $382/month for only 1 GB of data. Ouch!

I'm heading to Ottawa for the annual CALU conference this weekend with my Internet service.

April 25, 2007

What's Better? Ultimate or Pure?


Hesitating, I remain caught 'twixt will and will not in my thoughts.
-- Dante
How can clients make decisions about intangibles like life insurance when it's so difficult to decide on common, physical products like computers?

Take a look at a recent Dell ad. Ignore the spelling (which is discussed on my Spark Insight blog). Instead, look at the two notebook computers. They're the same price. So which is better:
  • ultimate business notebook, or
  • pure business power
"Ultimate" sounds like the best. Microsoft calls their $499 ($299 upgrade) version of Windows Vista "Ultimate". But "pure" sounds natural.

How do you decide? The Latitude D620 has a smaller screen, which suggests that it's lighter. So it's probably easier to lug around. The Latitude D820 may be more of a "desktop replacement". Maybe it has a bigger keyboard or better graphics. It's hard to tell

Other Comparisons
Comparing here should be easy:
  • products from the same manufacturer (Dell, not vs HP/Compaq or Toshiba or Lenovo)
  • the same line (Latitude business grade, not vs Inspiron for consumers or XPS for gamers or Precision for specialized needs)
In contrast, financial products like life insurance are compared among companies. How do we decide on one product over another? How do we help our clients understand the advantages? So they aren't caught 'twixt will and will not in their decision to buy.